Association for Investor Awareness - Week of 04/30/2009

In This Issue:

Signs Of A Better Economy? (Or At Least Not As Bad?)
Stocks For A Weak Recovery
The Bottom Line This Week

Last month investors received another booster shot from Wall Street as the Dow and the Nasdaq rose an additional 1.2% and 5.5% respectively. The gains left stocks up 26% from the rally's jumping off point. With any luck, and a few encouraging numbers from the economy, the rally could continue for another few weeks.

Lest anyone think the bear is finished, however, we must remind you that the market never moves in a straight line very long. Even if this is the start of a new bull market, we must expect to get some nasty shocks along the way. After such a strong rally, the first correction may be close at hand.

Signs Of A Better Economy? (Or At Least Not As Bad?)

Analysts are all over the map when it comes to predicting the future of the economy. Some see improvements, others think the most we have is a slower decline. A few super bears believe the worst hits are still to come, and they are fastening their safety belts.

Because the economic outlook is the most important issue that investors must deal with right now, we will review the three main arguments for each outlook. Of course, we will finish up by giving you our own sterling opinion.

1) The Economy Is Improving:

The strongest indication that economic relief is on the way is the rising stock market. Although many investors are not particularly well informed about economic matters, it's just the opposite with big spenders – and they are buying stocks. Since the market tends to look ahead from six to nine months, economic relief is probably about that far away.

Consumers are also showing greater confidence in the future by traipsing off to the mall a little more often than they did a few months ago. Since consumers are two thirds of the economy, their improving outlook can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Spending is still very low, but at least the trend appears to be changing.

Business spending is also on the floor, and it will probably remain there for several months. But with consumers beginning to buy goods again, businesses will need to replace them. Inventories are already low for many products. As with consumers, however, a business turnaround is likely to be modest.

Housing remains weak in most markets, but there are signs of life in others. That's not surprising since home affordability, an established measure of housing trends, is higher than it has been in over five years. Many hopeful homebuyers know that prices could go lower, but they also know they might start to go back up again. As a result, many people who can afford to buy at today's prices are deciding to take the plunge. Lower interest rates are another incentive to buy.

Credit for every type of loan is still tight but the situation isn't as bad as the news stories might have you believe. Throughout America, hundreds of regional banks that didn't follow the subprime path to ruin have money for worthy clients. Lending standards are higher than they were during the boom, but that's a good thing. Only an idiot would want to go back to the loosey goosey standards that brought ruin to our country. The bottom line is, people with good credit histories and a respectable down payment can get mortgages. The same is true for business loans, new car financing, and so on.

Oil prices are remaining low, which is probably doing more for the economy than Washington's bailout program. The drop from almost $150 a barrel to under $50 had the same impact as a huge tax cut. Natural gas prices are also on the floor.

Lastly, the bailouts are helping to stimulate several industries, not just banking. Although we are very concerned about the colossal size of the federal debt, the money is a plus right now.

2) No It Isn't:

Naysayers believe the economy is not improving at all, it is just not dropping as quickly. Although the slowdown may be a technical victory, the bears say there is no way to make "less bad" look like "good."

Pessimists also say that the downward trend could continue and take the economy to the same low place it would have reached at the faster pace. This is known as the "we're dead either way" argument.

Other analysts say that even if the economy stops dropping, that doesn't mean a rebound is anywhere in sight. They point to the Great Depression when growth remained at very low levels for several years. During that time the unemployment rate hit 24% and businesses continued to fail.

3) A Disaster Is On The Way:

The toughest crowd are analysts who are certain that a full-blown depression is coming. They call the new calamity the "Greater Depression" to distinguish it from the not-so-bad Great Depression. Arsenic anyone?

The Armageddon crowd believes that the bailout program won't save the banks because they have been too badly damaged to recover. Instead, the depressionists say, the stimulus money will just put off the inevitable for a few months, and make the collapse all the worse.

The super bears also say the huge federal giveaways are putting so much money into the economy that a period of high inflation –and perhaps hyperinflation- is unavoidable. Therefore, the argument goes, even if the economy starts to pick itself up off the floor, inflation will slam it back down again. The result would be super stagflation, a situation where unemployment remains high at the same time prices soar. It's not a pleasant prospect.

As long-time readers know, we place much more faith on what we actually see happening in the world than what statistics and ivory tower number crunchers say. It's a practice that has kept us in the chips on many occasions when most investors were selling.

For example, we remained bullish on energy efficient industries when oil prices were soaring and most analysts thought modern life was ending. We were of the opinion that railroads, inland shipping companies and other fuel misers would actually benefit from more expensive energy because it would hurt the competition. It turned out that we were right, and our recommendations did well.

Of course, past performance does not guarantee future results, and all that. But for what it is worth, we think the first economic outlook is correct, and the economy is more likely to continue to claw its way out of the hole than it is to begin sinking again. Although a typical recovery seems unlikely, growth should be above the zero mark by the end of the year or by early 2010. If we are correct, many top-quality stocks remain oversold.

Stocks For A Weak Recovery

We hate to repeat ourselves in this newsletter, but on the other hand we never get tired of making money. As a result, we are continuing to recommend the boring multinational stocks that have been doing so well of late. We think their biggest moves are yet to come.

If you only want to make a single blue chip investment, an excellent choice would be the iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index (DVY), one of our favorite EFTs. The index has been performing very well of late. On March 9, DVY closed at $25.91. By April 28, the fund was up to $34.98, a 35% gain. We take back what we said about boring stocks.

We think investors who prefer to buy individual issues should look at three growth companies that should be headed higher.

The first of the three is Alcoa (AA), the giant aluminum producer. Demand for the lightweight metal dropped sharply when the economy fell out of bed and industrial production hit the floor. But even with a small increase in the economy, demand for aluminum should jump smartly.

Deere Company (DE) is another probable winner in an improving economy. The biggest potential for Deere isn't its farm machinery, although sales should improve this year. Instead, demand for the company's construction equipment should begin to rebound as President Obama's infrastructure programs ramp up.

General Electric (GE) should do well as the company continues to get its troubled financial unit back on track. GE's worldwide sales of everything from locomotives to jet engines should also increase. We think this global powerhouse will be a very big long-term winner. A few years from now many investors will wonder how they could have ever thought that GE might not make it through the recession.

Last month we wrote that Ford has an excellent "chance for a profitable recovery" and "a small position appears to make sense at today's low price."

That proved to be something of an understatement. When that issue was sent out on March 26, Ford was $2.94. Today Ford closed at $5.45, an 85.4% gain. The worse things get for GM and Chrysler, the better the outlook will be for Ford, the only one of the formerly "big three" automakers that didn't need a bailout. Henry would be pleased.

The Bottom Line This Week

The outlook is improving by inches, but we are a long way from being out of danger. It would not take a very big shock to send the economy and the stock market down again. As a result, we think the best strategy for investors is to use the positive trend we have now and buy blue chip stocks with good outlooks – but protect all your positions with stop-loss orders.


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Posted 04-30-2009 9:20 AM by Research & Editorial Staff