The Boston Globe

Say you bought some shares in data storage company EMC
back in February, at $59, when you thought it was a
bargain at nearly half off its yearly high. Now it's
scraping bottom at about $11.

Or say you purchased fiber-optics firm JDS Uniphase at
$43 instead, thinking it was a great buy back then at
more than two- thirds off its record peak. Now the
stock trades at about $7.

What are the chances you'll get back to even, never
mind making a profit?

Human nature being what it is, chances are that some
investors in that kind of situation will hold on,
hoping to break even. Perhaps they don't realize how
much the odds may be against them, at least in the
short run.

Now there's an online software program - the Price
Acceptability Tester - that promises to help investors
figure out those odds.

Created by RiskMetrics Group, a New York financial
analytics and technology company, PAT uses historic
return and volatility data to figure out the chances
of a stock hitting a certain price over the next three
months, six months, or a year. The program is
available for free for investors for a limited time at

So what are the chances that EMC will go back to its
February level of $59, according to PAT? In three
months, a 0 percent chance. In six months, a 1 percent
chance. And in one year, a 7 percent chance. But
there's a 91 percent chance that the data storage
company will hit its 52-week low again of $10.25 over
the 12 months.

And what does PAT say about JDS Uniphase? There's no
chance that it'll see $43 again over the next three or
six months, according to the program, and only a 5
percent chance over the next year. But the company has
an 80 percent chance of dipping down to its 52-week
low of $5.12 in the next 12 months.

These numbers come with a disclaimer. While PAT "will
give you an unbiased second opinion on a price target
for a stock," it "should be used in conjunction with
company fundamental analysis, practical investment
experience, and a healthy dose of common sense," the
Web site says.

But human nature being the way it is, there will
probably be some people who will keep holding on,
despite the odds, and despite what common sense may be
telling them.

Sticking to it

The volatile stock market of the last couple of years
hasn't scared Americans out of starting individual
retirement accounts or investing in mutual funds.

In fact, the percentage of US households owning any
kind of an IRA or investing in mutual funds has
reached record levels, according to two new surveys by
the Investment Company Institute, a Washington mutual
fund industry group.

For the first time, more than half of American
households now own mutual funds - 52 percent, up from
49 percent last year - according to one institute
survey released on Wednesday.

"Investors recognize the benefits of professional
management, diversification, strict regulation, and
affordability that mutual funds offer," said Matthew
P. Fink, president of the institute, in a statement
accompanying the release of the survey. "Mutual funds
help investors achieve significant financial goals,
including financing education and retirement."

The second institute survey, also released last week,
found that the percentage of US households owning any
kind of IRA hit 42 percent this year, up from 41
percent last year and 34 percent in 1999.

More than 44 million households now own some kind of
IRA, whether it be a traditional deductible IRA, a
Roth IRA, an IRA created for small employers, or a
rollover IRA with money transferred from a 401(k) or
other employer-sponsored retirement plan, the industry
group estimates.