Market panic may have some silver linings

MARKET corrections have sent panic waves among investors, with advisers working hard to reassure clients and decide what's best for their portfolio.

It all started on Tuesday when the US Dow Jones index plummeted by more than 400 points and London's FTSE 100 index also posted sharp losses.

The sell-off was sparked by a near-9 per cent slide on the Shanghai Composite index, as investors worried that China may pass laws to limit demand for stocks.

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Since then it's been a turbulent week, with most commentators unwilling, or unable, to predict the outcome.

But what does this mean for you?

The message you'll receive from reading what our experts have to say in Smart Money is to "hold your nerve".

The same is true for people with money they had planned to invest in an individual savings account (ISA).

The 2007 ISA season should be in full swing and you have just over a month to make the most of the tax benefits it offers.

As you'll know, ISAs are tax-free savings accounts which means you don't have to declare any income or capital gains they receive to the taxman.

But you only have until 5 April to make sure you don't lose out on this year's allowance.

The fear is people will put off investing in an ISA this season because of the cloud of uncertainty hanging over markets.

But, rather than lose out, you' d be better to choose your ISA carefully. Instead of automatically choosing a cash ISA over a stocks and shares (equities) version, do some research on how you can balance your risk.

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And, remember, because of this week's events this could be a good time to invest as prices may be cheaper than usual.

But, now would also be a good time to think about your entire investment portfolio. Despite talk of the buy-to-let market slowing, there are still good returns to be made and commercial property is another option.

New research issued today by Alliance & Leicester revealed buy-to-let is to grow by more than 40 per cent over the next ten years.

This is largely down to demand remaining high because of people wanting to remain footloose and fancy free for as long as possible before committing themselves to a mortgage.

While this week's market turbulence is unwelcome, don't let it put you off investing - just do your research first.

SOME welcome news on fees this week. Mortgage lenders were forced to back down on 28 February - the Financial Services Authority's deadline for exit fees to be reduced to a reasonable level.

But watch out for lenders increasing charges in other areas, such as administration or arrangement fees to make up for this lost revenue.

Always find out what the true cost of your mortgage will be rather than just going for the best headline rate.

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FINALLY, it seems ladies who lunch in Edinburgh are living up to their reputation of having expensive tastes.

Women in the capital spend more than 141 million a year on fashion and grooming.

But over in the west, women are even quicker to flash their cash, says, a price comparison site.

While women in Glasgow spend an average of 1,394 each year on fashion, their sisters in the east only part with 1,005 to look good.

Having been at a very glam do at Harvey Nicks on Wednesday night, I can vouch for the fact there are some very stylish Edinburgh ladies about.

But at least we were getting dressed up for a good cause - the posh bingo night at the Forth Floor restaurant was all for charity.

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