Could it be…?
April 22, 2003
Could it be that I am about to write the investing/financial missive I thought I would not be writing for a LONG time to come? Could it be that I am declaring a buying opportunity as stocks look strong, rather than as they look exceptionally weak?! Well, yes and no.
I subtly tried to prepare you for this heart-stopping moment in my last missive when I suggested that the bears and bulls are now locked in a tense stand-off featuring some poor fundamental economic indicators against some good technical indicators in the financial markets. Perhaps you couldn't see the bullish undertones because I hid it behind the camouflage of yet another bearish article. But this time is for real. I will only couch these bullish comments with my OWN bearish caveats. :)
As I read stories and watched Iraqis looting the remnants of a hapless dictator, I couldn't help but draw immediate parallels to our own homeland. Perhaps the Iraqis had read their American history and saw how great a democracy we built after first doing our own looting and plundering. Well, OK, if that's not it, certainly Wall St. provided a stellar example of how to build financial security. Amazingly, we could be on the verge of some kind of bull market right after discovering record-busting plundering and looting of numerous financial assets. The latest lurid tale comes from those folks every trader loves to hate: the stock specialists - those special breed of people trusted to keep the trading of individual stocks tidy and orderly. What is ironic is that in all my readings and studying of the market, the lore of how the specialist runs this system to their own financial benefit is talked about as just the cost of doing business. I had forgotten that this kind of thing is technically illegal! Only time will tell whether this latest thievery our pocketbooks leads to a crisis in confidence similar to the one we saw climax last July. What makes this instance MORE serious is that here institutional investors, yep, the big guys and gals, are the primary and largest victims...so you can bet there are some serious scores to settle out there.
But I digress! I am supposed to be spreading the good news about the bull itching to run amuck. Last week, you folks gave these looters, uh, I mean trusted holders of America's capital, almost $6 BILLION BUCKS for sinking into equities. Sort of a post-war victory dance no doubt. Here are the stats, quoted from Barron's this weekend:
"There are other hints that hope is welling up in the stock market. The week ended Wednesday saw the greatest net inflow into stock mutual funds -- $5.8 billion -- in exactly a year. It would seem the snap-back rally that began March 11 finally drew in some retail investors. That intake by equity funds, concentrated in international, aggressive-growth and tech funds, was the greatest since $7.9 billion flowed into in the week ended April 17, 2002. Note that retail investors, as is typical, showed no great prescience a year ago, when the S&P was at 1126, 20% above today's level."
Now while typically contrarians would raise up in alarm at this sudden change in heart by retail investors, the guardians of American capital have seen fit to quickly put this money to work. In what could become a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle, their ability to goose up the markets with this new money could invite more money. And that money will beget new money, and that money will beget more money. You get the picture. Sooner than later you can get a rally of Biblical proportions.
Now, you might be asking, even chiding, "what happened to that great post-war fake-out, Duru? The biggest one yet of this bear market?" Well, as things go, the script is not being written quite as expected. Back when I made that chilling prediction, I figured a quick end of the war would lead to a grand buying spree. Instead, we had a sell-off and then a gradual creeping back up. While I envisioned a quick and swift fake-out, this one could turn out to be long and drawn out. I would not be surprised to see the market in serious rally mode for about a month, if we're lucky, through the summer even. But I STILL feel the pain ain't over yet. For traders, this rally will be sweet. For investors, it will be bittersweet because as time and money help you forget your past pain and generate more hope in future wealth, you will likely be caught completely off-guard by the bear's final stamp of disapproval.
So, there you have it. My best attempt to join the growing bullish chorus in the market. I must say that I am truly excited about the potential opportunities that lie ahead. For those you who decide to join me in seeking those opportunities, please keep in mind the REAL hazards that lay all about. I have got my rear view mirror clean and polished AND my headlights on highbeam!
My tune will shift again if we can somehow take out those important December, 2002 highs (most everyone else is focused on the highs from the war rally right now). Until then, I will continue to assume that we are locked in a long-term, "secular" trading range.
Be careful out there!