The swimsuit indicator says buy stocks

What does everybody's favourite indicator tell us about stocks?

With the economic backdrop so unclear, investors can be forgiven for clutching at any piece of information that might give them a steer as to what will happen next. That's why Alan Abelson, in US financial newspaper Barron's, urges his readers to buy the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which as always, has a cover sporting a model wearing "a bit of a bikini".

What's the significance? This year, the model in question is American. According to Bespoke Investment Group, since 1978, when an American model has "graced the cover" of the swimsuit issue, the key US stock index the S&P 500 ended the year higher 88.2% of the time, and made an average annual return of 14.3%. When a foreign model was pictured, the average return was 10.8% and the index rose just 76.5% of the time.

The most obvious investment takeaway I get from those statistics is that you could have stuck your cash in American stocks in most years since 1978, and you'd probably have made money. And I suspect many of the dud years fell in the past decade.

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But for the sceptics out there, another quirky indicator that involves women's clothing is looking bullish too. The financial journalists at Business Insider spent New York Fashion Week looking at skirts. Having checked more than 2,000 images from 25 designers, it seems that the hemline indicator' is looking bullish.

Apparently conceived by University of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor George Taylor in the 1920s, the idea is that the shorter skirts get, the more positive the economic outlook the implication being that shorter skirts are evidence of the more confident, extroverted social mood that goes with an improving economy.

By now you could be forgiven for thinking that all these indicators are just excuses for male economists to ogle women. But you'd be wrong. The favourite indicator of Alan Greenspan, head of the US Federal Reserve, during the bubble years, was to look at sales of men's underpants.

The way Greenspan sees it, men's underwear is not a luxury item. So sales of said garments should be pretty steady, except in a severe recession: if the economy declines to the point where men are even delaying replacing their tattered old pants, times must be hard. The good news is that, according to a December article by Adam Davidson in The New York Times, sales of men's underwear are up.

If you need further proof, the Cadogan Hotel in Knightsbridge clearly thinks things are looking up. On Valentine's Day, it introduced its champagne bath menu: should you be so inclined, you and a partner can relax in a bath filled with 120 bottles of champagne. Prices start at £4,000, reports The Mail on Sunday, rising to £25,000 for a bathful of 2002 Dom Perignon. Strikes me as a waste of good champagne but perhaps I'm just not getting into the spirit of the rally.

Tabloid money the return of soup kitchens to Britain

The plight of Glasgow Rangers should serve as a warning to all football clubs, says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. "For too long those in charge thought they could get away with business practices that would be unacceptable in any other organisation." They squeezed their supporters "until their pips squeaked" so they could pay ridiculous wages to top players.

Now they are in administration, it is not just supporters who will suffer. "What will happen to the money owed to those individuals and small businesses who rely heavily on the cash they earned at Ibrox in order to survive themselves?" The only hope is that this serves as a "wake-up call... The insane amounts being paid to players simply has to stop."

The spread of food banks in Britain is a national disgrace, says the Sunday Mirror. Recent figures show that a new food bank opens every four days. That's bad, but "things are going to get worse" when the government makes changes to tax and benefits in April.

Campaigners reckon half a million more Britons will need help when the "tough welfare cuts come in". The government's only response is to keep cutting "because it must reduce the national debt". But that debt was caused by feckless bankers, not the people using the food banks. We know the Tories don't want to deviate from Plan A. "But surely any government's first Plan A is to make sure all its people are fed and cared for without relying on food handouts?"

"Solving youth unemployment is one of Britain's most daunting challenges," says The Sun. That's why it's frustrating that so many jobs go to immigrants. "Last year 208,000 Brits lost their jobs as 212,000 people came from abroad to work here." At least a quarter of these are unskilled jobs that any young person could do. "Studies show those who don't work by the age of 25 are likely to be doomed to a life on benefits or even worse, crime." We have to solve this problem now.