What the experts say

Tech’s best shot for growth is abroad; Paying your doc with plastic; The ‘It Bag’ indicator

Tech’s best shot for growth is abroad

Rattled technology investors could face more trouble ahead, said Olga Kharif in BusinessWeek. Forecasts indicate that spending on technology will grow only 3 percent to 4 percent this year, about half of the 2007 increase. Fortunately, “spending abroad remains relatively healthy,” and companies with exposure outside U.S. borders will likely hold up better than those that do most of their business at home. “IBM is among the most diversified abroad, with just 39 percent of its revenues coming from inside the country.” Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems have significant foreign exposure, for instance, while AT&T and Yahoo! derive most of their revenues at home. “Of course, geography isn’t necessarily destiny.” Google and Apple both do a lot of business in the States but are, nevertheless, expected to see sales grow this year.

Paying your doc with plastic

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For some patients, credit cards are offering surprising relief from the pain of skyrocketing health-care costs, said Kelli B. Grant in SmartMoney. Niche cards from the likes of Bank of America, Citibank, and even Target let consumers earn rebates for health-savings accounts and score discounts on everything from prescription drugs to dental care. Assuming you pay off your balance every month, “these cards can offer decent savings for cardholders.” Those savings, however, will quickly disappear if you turn to these cards as a way to finance your medical bills. “Generally speaking, you’re going to be paying more interest on these than you could be elsewhere,” says Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com. A better bet: Negotiate a payoff plan directly with your health-care provider. Many have low-interest and no-interest plans to help patients pay.

The ‘It Bag’ indicator

While most investors are sweating over the gyrations in financial markets, some are fretting over their handbag holdings, said Anne Kates Smith in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “Ladies with portfolios—er, closets—full of the latter have come to view them as storehouses of value, much the same way an old masters collector looks at a Rembrandt.” Given the “obscene” price tags of these accessories, the comparison isn’t that far off. But sales of handbags and other luxury goods are beginning to suffer, typically an indicator that bad news may be ahead for the wider economy. “Historically, luxury goods bubble at the end of a long advance in the stock market,” says Paul Montgomery of Virginia-based Montgomery Capital Management. In other words, “when interest wanes in the signature item of an era, it’s time for circumspection in the stock market, too.”

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