December 1, 2003
Bush set the tone. He barreled his way into and out of Iraq in a bold move to help boost the morale of soldiers on the ground doing America's dirty work. The entire trip was a surprise, well-executed, well-timed, and much needed. Even an anti-Bushie like myself must step back, take a pause, and admire the whole operation.
We can make a similar analogy to the market. For the entire rally, the critics have wailed against this market loud and clear. We cannot go one week (sometimes one day) without hearing about what's wrong with this market and economy (I know - I have contributed to the whining!) Every small dip in the market has been met with "ah has!" by the bears who keep trying to time the top of this market. And yet, "damn the torpedoes," the market continues to barrel along. As I have stated before, while I share the bears concerns, there have simply been too many bears and too much bearish confidence to make the somber arguments convincing enough to act on. And so, the market continues to surprise on the upside - sometimes against all the better judgement of some of those "in the know."
When last I cluttered your mailbox, I insisted that the big milestones of Dow 10,000, and Nasdaq 2000 WILL be hit. After a convincing failure quickly followed, I had to declare that the battle will be hard fought, but the target remained in sight. The constant and consistent selling on good news was my worry at the time. We are now rounding the bend yet again towards these milestones. And for the first time in quite a while, according to my memory, the market actually not only went UP on today's good economic news, it did not turn around later in the day and succumb to those who insist on "selling on the news." This is an important change in character in the market. I claim this is the start of the next leg up in this run which will eventually make a mockery of these milestones that have been teasing us for so long. Yet another surprise visit that I think very few have truly prepared for. I cannot say whether this will be the final leg up for this bull run, but it should be something aggressive investors can look forward to. And just to hedge my bets, I will state for the record that this is not a prediction, but, a, uh, hunch.... :)
Besides the prospect of Bushie losing the 2004 election, probably the biggest worry for those with longer-term vision is the prospect of higher interest rates. As the economy improves, and inflation starts to go up again, interest rates will have to go up from these generational lows. It has been THIS worry that has caused the market to churn so much for so long so far. The next leg up on this bull run will feature the market getting more comfortable with the potential of the economy continuing to grow at a reasonable clip despite increasing interest rates. We should not forget that rates are so low now that even a doubling in rates over the span of say a year is not likely to snuff out the economy as many might fear. When rates begin to rise sometime next year AND the market continues to go up, we perhaps will see the final capitulation of the bears as the higher rates argument is perhaps the last credible critique they have over which the market has not already laughed its way to the bank.
Why am I so ready to pick on my fellow bears? Well, when it comes to the market, you cannot be dogmatic. You have to be willing to run with the herd when the trend is too strong to resist. And for some time, the trends have favored both the economy and the market. Indeed, the market has long-since earned the right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty. Sure, I can find a lot of reasons why we should convict, but the smoking gun has yet to fire on this mad dash!
So, I am certainly not encouraging us to get carried away. I continue to think that this particular market is more for aggressive investors than anyone else. I continue to believe that we are sowing the seeds of some kind of economic trials and tribulations at some point in the not-so-distant future. But, heck, the Bushies have been bold enough to print money like it grows from trees, borrow like there is no tomorrow, and give away the treasury in the form of tax cuts as if running the government, pursuing a big war and an effort to rebuild what we destroyed, and now supporting a big fat medical benefit for the elderly, all costs next to nothing. That kind of vision can only make sense if we are in for one HUGE surprise in the form of a sustained, robust economy that increases the tax base enough to save us from ourselves. Who knows what form this surprise visit will take - Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, maybe even Peter Pan or Robin Hood?!? Hmmmm..... I'll put my money on the Easter Bunny...as long as he promises not to carry all his eggs in one basket.