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One of the biggest dilemmas in the investment community is when to get into the market, and when to get out. To be precise, you can know, in retrospect, when it doesn't matter any more. The fat lady has sung and left the building. That's one of the reasons for the consensus among market advisers that when you get into the stock market, do so for the long run.

But the behavior of the TA-75 index over the last 10 years proves that even that adage doesn't necessarily hold water, and the TA-75 isn't just another index, it's the yardstick of the Israeli economy. It's the heart of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Published from 1999, the TA-75 tracks the 75 shares with the highest market capitalizations that aren't included in the TA-25 index.

It includes finance-sector heavyweights such as Clal Insurance, Menorah, Phoenix Assurance, Direct Insurance and DS Apex. Moving on to retail we find Super-Sol and Blue Square. High tech is present in the form of Matrix, Retalix, Aladdin Knowledge Systems, Elron, NetVision and Internet Gold.

Then there's real estate, a list that boasts Housing & Construction, Amot, Leo Noe's British Israel, Kardan, Property & Building, Africa Israel Properties, Alony Hetz, Jerusalem Economic Corporation, Airport City and Azorim. There is the industrial and commerce crowd: Scope, Maytronics, Frutarom, Golf, Plasson, and American-Israeli Paper Mills (Niyar Hadera), and let's not forget Mivtach Shamir and El Al.

If you bought a basket of these 35 stocks 10 years ago (and the other 40 as well), you have earned nothing.

In January 2000, the TA-75 index stood at 560 points. Today it's at 620 points. Your returns are a measly 10%. Now, if you consider that inflation has run 15% during that time, your real returns (adjusted for inflation) are less than zero. You have lost money.

Yes, if you had the golden touch and got into the market in October 2002, when the TA-75 index was at 290 points, and got out at the peak in July 2007, you're up 300%. That's terrific. But not many people have luck like that.

The terrible returns of the TA-75 index over 10 years are all the more astounding when you compare it with its big brother, the TA-25 index. From January 2000 it has returned 110%, which translates into 100% in real terms (adjusted for inflation). If we count from the eruption of the Second Lebanon War two years ago, we get much the same outcome. The TA-75 index is down 25% and the TA-25 index is up 25%. Same stock exchange, mirror image.

In fact, most of the leading indexes on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have done rather poorly. The MidCap-120 index has risen by a mere 70% since its launch, which was during the bust at the start of 2002. The Real Estate-15 index was inaugurated three years ago and has returned 27% in that time. The MidCap-50 index has lost about 40% since its launch at the start of 2005.

Investing in stocks for the long run may be the right way to go. But what's sure is that the saying on the market, that the TASE has been a terrific generator of value and that the retreat of the last year is merely a correction, isn't backed by the facts.