Patience: Outlast This Bear Market
Principles of the Stock Market

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Have You Seen This?

 

Richard Schwartz's

PRINCIPLES OF THE STOCK MARKET

A learning, teaching, always evolving stock market letter and advisory service

Eighteenth Consecutive Year of Publication; Letter #1; September 18th, 1990

 

 

Post Office Box 1236 · New Paltz, New York 12561 - U.S. A. · (845) 255-6894

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Monday, December 1st, 2008:  Since Lucy’s birthday was a Round Number & fell on Thanksgiving, everyone surprised her & came back Friday for tea.  At the Tea House in the village, a reconverted barn on a hill with a great view of the mountain, a view I hadn’t seen before.  Almost everywhere in town has a mountain view which makes me feel like I live in Lake Placid, another charming mountain town.  Love it!

 

PS.  I caught a bug which I’m working through today but possibly no letter tomorrow if I feel worse.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

 

I spent Thanksgiving evening discussing the past, present and future with my son Brian.  In essence he asked me for a simple explanation of what caused the stock market to drop so much, what terms like deregulation, re-regulation, privatization, etc. mean & what the big picture looks like.  Here’s my answer:

 

Let’s start with the two classical economic theories of thought.  One, let free markets operate on their own, the old Austrian school of economics as promulgated in the early and mid 1900s by Friedrich Hayek versus two, getting government involved in the economy as advocated during the same time period by John Maynard Keynes.  Both gentlemen lived through both world wars, the Great Depression and for decades beyond and their influence ebbed and flowed.  Both economic theories had their time to shine, alternating roughly 30 year periods.  The last totally free market cycle began its ascendancy when President Ronald Regan was elected to office in 1980.  Since then union’s power has declined dramatically, corporate statesmen who shared equitably corporate wealth have became obsolete and bottom line profit became the only goal which caused stock price to rule business actions.  During this long run in a totally free market direction whereby prosperity grew larger and larger spreading out to millions worldwide, normal prudence, probity and recognition of investment risk ultimately got lost.  Greed took over completely when Wall Street came up with its latest round of newfangled, supposedly sophisticated investments, especially those incorporating securitization.  Securitization just meaning turning all types of debt into securities which could be sold while spinning off huge commission style profits to everyone involved in the process or food chain.  This, along with the 30-year trend to more and more deregulation, allowed commercial banks into previously banned investment areas, using heretofore unheard of leverage which caused capitalism to finally go off the deep end.  By this I mean a 20% correction in our overheated, overdone, overblown US residential housing boom led to a bust after one bank woke up one day last summer to huge paper losses which soon showed everyone else was stuck with similar losses.  This blow off following by an implosion and meltdown are the types of culminating events which cause these 30-year cycles to start swinging in the other direction.  I now believe we’re just started a new long term swing away from free market economics as advocated by Mr. Hayek and towards a government role in economics as advocated by Mr. Keynes.

Summing up, we’ve just gone through that part of the long cycle which allows capitalism to run unfettered and thus grows the pie for everyone.  The downside is that the gap between the rich and poor grows ever larger when we practice laissez-faire capitalism, essentially letting the marketplace alone which leads to the strongest doing best.  But cycles are cycles and all eventually go to extremes and then swing the other way.  Again, as I see it, we’ve just gone to one extreme and are now just beginning to cycle the other way, down the path whereby government steps in and applies regulations to the latest, most egregious ways of gaming the system.  Which interferes with the magic of letting the free marketplace find its own proper price levels between consumers and producer providers and thus drags down the overall efficiency of the market.  The rationale is that something has to be done to avoid another rare but normal breakdown by capitalism.  Net, net our free market capitalistic system normally goes from one extreme to another, that deregulation goes so far it causes problems, then re-regulation sets in.  With privatization or the selling off of previously government run businesses or business sectors being one form or aspect of deregulation.  Thus, the last year’s breakdown and implosion in our financial system didn’t really show free market capitalism doesn’t work anymore, it just shows we’ve come to the end of the normal continuing pendulum swing out to one extreme and are now starting the long journey back to a middle ground and then out to the other extreme.

 

THE ECONOMY

 

Not much to comment about on the economy today..  We’re in that middle time period of this bear market and at the start of an economic downturn.  Thus I expect the economic data, corporate earning reports and most other news to be pretty consistently bad for some time to come yet.  One rule we do know about how the stock market operates and how it relates to the economy is that stocks turn up a few months before the economy does (with exceptions).  So finding a bear market bottom will incorporate more than just watching the data.  Waiting for the economic data to turn positive will make most investors months late in reentering the stock market.  Schwartz View:  Thus, myself, I watch the charts and believe in what I’ve espoused for many years, that charts tell you when to buy and then the fundamentals confirm down the road.

 

THE STOCK MARKET

 

Mr. Stock Market keeps trying its best to rally now.  Last week the economic data was just plain awful and stocks rallied anyway.  I wrote previously that stocks refusing to go down on bad news would be a good clue that the market has gone down enough, at least for the moment.  Still, some remaining problems are:  (1) I don’t see a proper base to support a big rally, unless I’m getting tricked by the undercutting of that possible base built from October 10th through November 19th, (2) I don’t see any improved fundamentals and still expect lots more bad news to become known next year and (3) history shows after financial glitches and consumer confidence losses of this magnitude bear markets and recessions following lead to once-in-a-generation market declines which don’t get over in just one year, roughly the time period we’ve seen this bear market last for so far.  Yes, big bad bear markets generally last at least a year and a half to two years to even three years.  Also this bounce reminds me very much of numerous temporary previous V-bottoms and short lasting rallies we’ve seen over the last few months.  But a rally is a rally is a rally.  And we have to play them.  Eventually one rally will morph into the next bull market.  Thus the key is to always keep sight of the Big Picture.  Today the big picture perspective shows we’re firmly entrenched in a big bad bear market.  So, in general strategy should be to sell and sell short rallies instead of buying dips.  But when rallies periodically begin, we should modestly go along with them,, go with the flow, one toe in the water.  That way if any rally proves to have legs we’ll start profiting immediately and know about it right away.  But not to jump in with both feet because primary bear markets, just like primary bull markets, do reassert themselves, and until proven differently, it’s a whole lot easier to profit swimming with any tide or trend than swimming into it.  Schwartz View:  I’m trying to find a technical reason, say a good looking chart pattern at least, to buy a particular sector, but so far no luck.  The one bullish trend which I see today is in the US dollar.  Strength began back in mid-July and thus when strength continued past the three month normal max time frame identifying a bear market rally, or past mid-October in this case, and kept on going, I termed the strength as a new bull market.  Otherwise everything else looks like iffy trends.

 

PORTFOLIO STRATEGY

 

Strategy remains one of outlasting this bear market.  Of proving you have more patience than Mr. Bear Market does.  This is a difficult job which will test your discipline again and again if the past is any guide (which I believe it is).  Over time you’ll be tempted to buy back in again and again whether you see a believable bear market bottom or not.  Especially if you’re one who really watch stocks, the whole Wall Street show, daily.  So continue to do any irresistible buying and or investing in a much smaller, subdued manner.  Keep just enough money in the stock market to keep you interested and not so much that future declines can put you out of the game and out of business.  And stay tuned here to find the real bottom.

 

Have a good week!

 





Posted 12-01-2008 8:19 AM by Richard Schwartz
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