The stock market is reaching new highs while the economy seems to be sputtering along. This has created an environment that has led Brian Nelson, CFA of Valuentum Securities appropriately using a baseball analogy during the baseball All Star Game and Home Run Derby to say, ” If there is an environment more difficult to hit a pitch out of the ball park, I don’t think I’ve seen one.”
My take is similar. The economy is improving and I don’t fear a rise in short term interest rates from the Fed. I’m in the camp that we need modestly higher interest rates to encourage banks to lend. On the other hand, while I don’t see any reason for a market correction, we are definitely due a routine 10% – 20% correction. What I am afraid of is that conditions exist such that an innocuous 10% correction could quickly become a full blown sell off – and very quickly.
And thus we have decided to start building our “arc.” My intent is to stay fully invested within the parameters of our investment models. However, we are definitely rotating our stock holdings into quality holdings. We’ve sold some of our higher yielding but lower quality investments and have sought out low cost, dividend growing cash flow kings that have proven they can weather a storm. We have backtested our holdings against several market scenarios and feel very comfortable should we get a surprise on the down side. At the same time, if the market continues its trek up, I think we will be well rewarded for holding low priced quality stocks.
This is when being “small” works to our advantage. With slim pickings in the markets for stocks that meet our stringent criteria, I am happy to hold 15 – 25 non-correlated stocks in a portfolio and not be forced to own hundreds of issues like a mutual fund.
I recently described my portfolio building process in an article for horsesmouth.com, a subscription site for financial advisors. A copy of the full article has been posted in the Library section of this web site.