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(from Dan Solin’s Huffington Post blog, 8/30/2011 – click here for the original post)

You wouldn’t think Apple and Indonesia have much in common. On the surface, they don’t, but they can still teach you a lot about investing. Let’s start with Apple.

Apple made the news recently with two major events. It is locked in a battle with Exxon over which is the most valuable company by market capitalization — a remarkable turnaround. Apple has a market value of over $344 billion. Then Steve Jobs announced his resignation at Chief Operating Officer for health related reasons.

According to a thoughtful blog by Weston Wellington of Dimensional Fund Advisors (not available online), it was not so long ago that the financial media was trashing Apple. In February 14, 2005, Robert Barker, in an article in BusinessWeek stated “…Apple doesn’t tempt me…” I wonder what did. Maybe Lehman or Bear Stearns!

Steven Gandel weighed in with an article in Money on March 24, 2004. He quoted Transamerica portfolio manager Chris Bonavico who opined that Apple stock is “…crap from an investor standpoint.”

Many analysts credit the remarkable sales of its Apples Stores as the key to Apple’s success. In a quote attributed to David Goldstein, Channel Marketing Corp, which appeared in an article in BusinessWeek on May 21, 2001, Mr. Goldstein gave Apple “two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.”

What can you learn from these comments about Apple stock? Read the financial media if you find it entertaining. It’s useless (and potentially harmful) as a source of reliable financial advice.

What about Indonesia?

The financial media was preoccupied with the downgrade by Standard & Poor’s of the credit rating of the U.S, which lowered its rating from AAA status to AA plus. The new rating places the U.S. below the United Kingdom, Canada and even the Isle of Man.

Many investors viewed the lower rating with alarm and considered it a precursor of low stock returns for decades to come. The data tells a much different story, and may indicate there is no better time to invest in U.S. stocks and bonds.

In another blog, Wellington notes that Standard & Poor’s rated the credit of Indonesia a “B” in July, 2001, which placed it in the “junk” category. Over the past decade, its credit rating has never risen to investment grade.

Investors in the Jakarta Composite have earned a total return of a whopping 29% per year over the last decade, ending June 30, 2011. According to Wellington, “If the Dow Jones Average had kept pace with Indonesian stocks over the past decade, it would be over 104,000 today.”

Here’s the lesson to be learned from Indonesia: A low (or reduced) credit rating on sovereign debt does not necessarily correlate to lower stock market returns. This is the opposite of what many investors and financial talking heads believe.

Most investors get their financial information from the financial media or brokers. As Dr. Phil would say: How is that working for you?

Dan Solin is a Senior Vice President of Index Funds Advisors (ifa.com). He is the author of the New York Times best sellers The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read, The Smartest 401(k) Book You’ll Ever Read, and The Smartest Retirement Book You’ll Ever Read. His new book, The Smartest Portfolio You’ll Ever Own, will be released in September, 2011. The views set forth in this blog are the opinions of the author alone and may not represent the views of any firm or entity with whom he is affiliated. The data, information, and content on this blog are for information, education, and non-commercial purposes only. Returns from index funds do not represent the performance of any investment advisory firm. The information on this blog does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice and is limited to the dissemination of opinions on investing. No reader should construe these opinions as an offer of advisory services. Readers who require investment advice should retain the services of a competent investment professional. The information on this blog is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell any securities or class of securities mentioned herein. Furthermore, the information on this blog should not be construed as an offer of advisory services. Please note that the author does not recommend specific securities nor is he responsible for comments made by persons posting on this blog.