Last week's question and answer
Born in 1846 and based in Dayton, Ohio, I'm a real back-to-school company, with $4.4 billion in annual sales of coated paper, coated paperboard, packaging, consumer and office products. I produce nearly 2 million tons of paper each year and sell fancy stationery under the Gilbert name. My other consumer brands include First Gear, Time Line, Day Minder and Ready Reference. You'll see my own name on items in many students' backpacks. I make some people think of fermented honey-and-yeast drinks, and I recently agreed to merge with my rival, Westvaco. Who am I? (Answer: Mead)
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Buying up banks
In 1995 I became aware that a lot of smaller banks were being bought out by larger banks. I was not a wealthy person or a gambler, but after discussing the observation with my wife, we decided to invest the minimum investment, $2,500, in Fidelity's Select Regional Banks Fund. That was one of the smartest investments that I have ever made. In 1999 I decided that most of the buying out was done and sold the shares for $12,800. Dick Francies, Englewood, Fla.
The Fool Responds: Spotting trends and taking advantage of them before the rest of the investing world catches on is a terrific way to profit. Good for you, acting on your observation and not assuming that you had to be wealthy to invest. We advocate buying stock in solid, promising companies and aiming to hang on as long as they remain promising ideally for decades. But that doesn't mean that you can't take advantage of short-term opportunities when you spot them.