In the halcyon days of the late 1990s, the old joke that a dart-throwing monkey could pick stocks as well as the highest-paid portfolio managers on Wall Street was probably not far from being true. Five years after the tech-bubble burst, the investing environment has gotten a lot murkier. But we can again turn to our distant cousins on the evolutionary scale for some tips. Scientists have recently observed gorillas in Congo for the first time using "sticks to test the depth of muddy water and to cross swampy areas," according to BBC News. And at the outset of the fourth quarter, the investing environment outlook seems very much like those muddy waters in Congo. S&P 500 such as Alcoa ( AA), FedEx ( FDX) and Union Pacific ( UP) have already lowered their guidance. In the coming weeks, other firms may declare special charges in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; such charges don't impact operating earnings but can still weigh on share prices. In addition, many companies may guide fourth-quarter earnings lower due to higher energy and commodity costs and a murkier economic outlook. "It's going to be hard for the market to separate the truth between the real impact from Hurricane Katrina and whether the economy is really slowing," says Owen Fitzpatrick, head of U.S. equities at Deutsche Bank. "How that will unfold, and especially any 2006 outlook, will be more of a factor for investors than actual third-quarter earnings and fourth-quarter outlooks." Still, strategists such as Fitzpatrick are already sticking their necks out to come up with some forecasts. It might be worthwhile to listen, just to put things in perspective. Bulls hope that up to $200 billion of governmental spending to rebuild southeastern states hit by Katrina and Rita will jumpstart the economy and profits next year. While the extent of the fiscal stimulus remains debatable, the huge projected injection of government money is also fueling further inflation concerns.