Posts Tagged 'bear market'

What to Make of the Current Market High

Much is being said about the S&P 500 breaking through its former daily high set in 2007. The question seems to be whether this is the end of a bull market or the start of a new one?

First, let’s put this into perspective. Below is a chart of SPY – the SPDR’s S&P 500 Index tracking ETF showing monthly returns since 1997. Many pundits like to point out that we have been in a four year bull market, and therefore, this rally is extended and due to come to an end. This is simply false.

What we have been in for four years is a bear market recovery, as anyone who invested prior to 2008 can tell you, we have simply had a long 4 year slog to recovery from the financial crisis induced crash.

Figure 1 SPY 1997 – Present, monthly returns.

chart1

Source: www.freestockcharts.com

Second, from a longer term secular reference, we have really been in a 13 year bear market and recovery cycle dating back to the 2000-2002 tech wreck market crash. Since the market peak in March of 2000, we have not gone above, and stayed above that level for 13 years now. This is the definition of a secular bear market.

The good news is that secular bear markets do end.

Below is a chart from Crestmont Research showing the history of secular markets in the U. S. since 1900. As you can see the market’s history consists of long periods of rising markets (green bars) followed by relatively flat periods (red bars). However, “flat” describes the period from beginning to end of the period. Flat periods, or secular bear markets, can be filled with large declines and recoveries.

Chart 2. History of Secular Markets

chart2

Source: http://www.crestmontresearch.com/docs/Stock-Secular-Explained.pdf

So are we going higher? Hard to say.

 I know you want an answer.

My point is not that we are at the beginning or end of a bull market. My point is simply that just because we have re-attained prior market highs, does not in and of itself mean much of anything as to which way this market goes from here. It is simply not that simple. But it makes for good headlines.

What I will say is this: The overall stock market is not “cheap” at these levels – in terms of corporate earnings. However, it is extremely hard to factor in just how much of an effect the Federal Reserve’s series of Quantitative Easings have had on valuations. In English – low interest rates make stocks more attractive. We have extremely low interest rates, albeit artificially low due to the Fed.

If the Fed can successfully keep interest rates low this year, and without a major “event” the market could finally breech its former highs, and stay above them before the next bear market rears its ugly head.

That said, in practice we remain cautiously optimistic. We continue to look primarily for undervalued dividend opportunities in our Dividend Growth portfolios. We are fully invested in our seasonal ETF growth strategies.

Rally or Top?

The markets have had a very nice rally since mid July when Mario Draghi, ECB Head, gave a speech indicating that the ECB will do “whatever it takes” to keep the Euro together.

This week has brought a modest pause to the advance. The question now becomes, “Is this a pause, or the beginning of the end to the rally?” Unfortunately, in today’s politically charged environment judgment can be clouded. And global events certainly add an additional interesting backdrop for today’s investors.

The chart below is from http://www.chartoftheday.com. The chart plots all major market rallies of the last 111 years. Each blue dot represents the rally’s total return and the length of the rally. The “You Are Here” dot is in the bottom left corner.

The question I am asked frequently is whether the market is “too high” since we are approaching all time highs. From the chart below, it is evident that, by historic market rally standards, this rally has just begun.

Unfortunately, investing is never that clear cut.

If you look just above the “You Are Here” dot, you’ll see the label for “2002”. The post “tech wreck” rally was slightly less in return and slightly longer in duration than where we are now. And as we all now know, the 2002 – 2007 rally ended most unhappily.

Conclusion: If this is another “Bear Market Rally” i.e. Similar to the 2002 – 2007 rally, we are likely looking at an over extended market.

But if this is truly the beginning of a new market cycle, then we are just at the beginning.

Over the weekend I’ll work on a new post outlining our current strategy as we head into the years final quarter.

Bottom Line: There is plenty of time for patience to pay off. Being conservative is not such a bad idea. More aggressive investors might want to start looking at building there “market rally” portfolio, if they haven’t done so already. With cash on the sideline, I think it would be prudent to see how earnings season plays out before committing. If in the market, I’d plan an exit strategy now


bill@401advisor.com • 937.434.1790

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Charles H. Dow Award Winner 2008. The papers honored with this award have represented the richness and depth of technical analysis.

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