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Markets

Watch for the Upturn

When three of our indicators show steady improvement, an economic recovery is imminent.

In our April issue, I wrote that when it comes to investing, you can't ignore the confidence factor -- which at the time was in scarce supply.

Since then, President Obama has emerged as the country's top "confidence man." As senior associate editor Andrew Tanzer writes in our midyear economic outlook, Obama's popularity and public appearances have "helped a shaken population start to regain faith in the economy."

Of course, there's also been government intervention on a massive scale. And once in, getting out will be tough. As the President said in a recent interview, he hopes that steps to stabilize the financial system "will help speed the day that the government can get out of the way and let the private sector do what it does best: innovate, create jobs and grow the economy."

This month we introduce a new feature that will help you spot that day when it comes. With our sister publication, The Kiplinger Letter, we've assembled what we consider six prescient economic indicators. A one-month blip in any of them doesn't mean much. But improvement over several months equals a trend. And when three of our indicators show steady improvement, an economic recovery is imminent. We predict that will happen before the year is out. And remember that the stock market tends to turn up before the economy does, so our cover story will tell you how to get a head start.

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We also answer a question that's vexing our readers: How long will it take to recoup my losses through a combination of new investments and positive annual returns? (We're sticking with our prediction in January that despite head-spinning gyrations, the market will be up 5% to 8% for the year.) See When Will I Get My Money Back, and then crunch your personal numbers with our exclusive online calculator.

All a-twitter

Those new features are just two of the ways we're integrating our coverage in the magazine and on the Web to give you the tools you need to manage your money. And now we offer the ultimate in up-to-the-minute interaction: You can follow us in real time via Twitter, the latest phenomenon in social networking.

Twitter's premise is simple. You open a free account at www.twitter.com and post real-time updates -- in 140 characters or less -- that answer one simple question: "What are you doing?" Your message goes out to your "followers" -- users who sign up to receive your updates (or tweets) -- and you can follow other people's doings.

The basic idea is to give your fans regular snapshots of how you spend your day. Personally, I can't imagine that anyone cares what I'm having for lunch. But my 20-year-old son thinks it is a perfect platform to "tell people about the awesome stories you have in your magazine."

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And he has a point. So a number of us here are tweeting. At www.twitter.com/kiplingermedia, you can get regular updates about top stories on our Web site. For market junkies, associate editor Elizabeth Ody is tweeting about stocks at www.twitter.com/eody. And I hope to keep you informed and entertained with updates on awesome stories, timely financial advice and behind-the-scenes peeks at Kiplinger's (and, once in a while, maybe even what I had for lunch). Follow me at www.twitter.com/janetbodnar. Soon I hope to be a Twitter veteran. Or maybe a veteran twit.