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Archive for July, 2009

Those of you who have been reading my analysis are probably wondering when I am going to throw in the towel and just admit that the bear market is over and start talking about buying stocks again.  Well, I hate to disappoint you.  It is not going to happen yet.  Let’s take a much bigger picture look at what is occurring.  First, we are in a financial crisis produced by the bear market and those don’t just go away without a strong fight. 

Second, how could a 40% plus rise in stocks not mean the bear market is over?  Well, let’s take a look at history for that answer.  In 1929, a bear market started as a result of a credit/debt crisis.  There are many similarities between that period and today.  The big difference is the type of debt crisis.  The bear market eventually bottomed in 1932 after an 86% decline.  The first “crisis” decline in 1929 saw the market drop -44%.  Following that -44% decline, the stock market went up 46% over the next 147 days.  If you compare that to today, we are going through a similar experience.  The crisis of last year resulted in a -48% decline.  Thus far we are a little over a 40% increase in the stock market over 137 days.   This is not in any way unprecedented.  The problem for stock market investors in 1929 was what followed the 46% increase.  Following that incredible stock market rally was an -82% loss over the next 3 years. 

Third, the market has been rising over the past two weeks as a result of earnings season reports.  Over 70% of the companies of the S&P 500 have reported better than expected profits.  However, a closer look would reveal that the vast majority of these “profits” were due to cost cutting and not real growth.  These are clearly not sustainable. 

Fourth, Wall Street is beating the drum that the recession is just about over.  The index of leading indicators came out last week “and is rising at a rate that has accurately indicated the end of every other recession since the index began being compiled in 1959” (Dallas Morning News).  Is that really valid when we are dealing with the worst recession since 1929 when no leading indicator index was even around? It is important to compare apples to apples.  Wall Street has a history of claiming the recession over prematurely many times before.

Finally, unemployment is a major crisis and there is nothing in the works to fix it.  Of course, you can always get a job working an Obama induced construction job. 

Let’s not get to ahead of ourselves.  I was premature to write that the stock market rally was nearing the end.  Obviously it still has more to go.  I don’t think that I am wrong to suggest the bear market is over.

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Have you heard of CIT Group?  CIT is a company that lends money to about 1 million small and medium size businesses and has about 40 billion dollars in debt. They are a pretty big player in the lending business, a company mired in debt, a company on the verge of collapse. 

In the event they fail, there could be some pretty significant repercussions throughout the financial system.  Of course, they are not on the same scale as the Lehman Brothers. However, with a financial system on shaky ground, who knows what would result in the collapse of a large lender.  So, a company in trouble should be no big deal.  After all, President Obama is in the bail-out business and hasn’t had a good bail-out in a while now. 

No, not this time.  Poor little CIT doesn’t meet the too big to fail test.  President Obama stated that it had set “high standards” for granting aid to companies and leaving private investors as the one alternative to avoid collapse.  Wait a minute, excuse me while I settle down from that good laugh I had while writing. 

Since when does this administration have standards?  They still think that GM is a good business model.  So will CIT go into bankruptcy if Big Brother doesn’t lend them a hand?  Of course not, because Big Brother is going to lend them a hand.  The secret is that they are going to do it behind closed doors.  Yes, this is what is happening to our taxpayer dollars.  Roughly 7 of their big bondholders are in talks to cough up 3 billion or so to place another band-aid on the festering wound. 

Where do you think that these bondholders get their money?  With the banking system pretty much nationalized, the money easily funnels from the Government through these banks to these troubled companies.  Obama can keep his “high standards” and no problems to deal with in the financial sector.  They have been running the same system with AIG since that major entity was nationalized.

Price Levels

Let’s take a look at price levels. Last week I warned that things were looking bleak for the market.  As soon as I wrote the warning and hit send, the market turned around and put in a big week.  So does that mean we are out of the woods in the near-term?  Well, last week was the one week out of the month that we have options expiration.  Options expiration can be a real dramatic week either positively or negatively.  It is misleading to see the results of options expiration as what is really occurring with the market.

The next significant price level we are looking at is 956.  The S&P 500 has entered into a price level “zone” (over 940) and now we will really see what this market is made of.  Any strength carrying the S&P 500 over 956 could indicate that we are heading towards 1000.

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Well, I took the wrong time to take a vacation. A great deal of very important things occurred last week in the stock market and investors should be extremely cautious.  This morning I will take some time to get you caught up on what is occurring with price levels as well as what I believe to be a fundamental shift in the stock market. The stock market has been in a stock market rally from the middle of March at least until June 11. Since June 11, the S&P 500 has declined -7 %.

One of the themes that I have written about since the low in the stock market in March is the overall future direction of the stock market. If you ask most people on Wall Street, they will say the worst is behind us and we have started a period of recovery. I have argued the opposite. I feel that we are in a long-term bear market that started in 2000 and could last as long as 18 to 20 years (based on history).  Concerning out current situation, my analysis would suggest we have been in a bear market rally. This is a period of time where the stock market stops declining and starts what looks like a period of prosperity and recovery for investors.

These are mean periods of time for investors because they fool the vast majority of people into believing that the worst is behind us. When you look at how far up the stock market went in a small amount of time, it certainly would appear that the worst is behind us. At the same time, it also looks just like a typical bear market rally and not the start of a period of recovery.

Since the March low in the stock market, the question has been how long and how far the stock market will go up. It is a little too early to declare that the stock market rally is over. However, the evidence is building. The problems are becoming much too loud to ignore. So, let’s start with the evidence. We always want to look at price levels of the stock market. Price levels are determined by where the stock market closes at the end of each day. They can tell us a great deal about the level of risk that we are facing.

If we manage to stay above certain price levels, then stock market investors should feel comfortable with taking risk by investing in stocks. However, if the market closes below certain price levels, then the probability increases that stock investors will lose substantial amounts of money. On June 11th, the S&P 500 reached its highest price level since the March low. That closing price level for June 11th was 944 on the S&P 500.

As of last Friday, we were at a price level of 879. The price level of 878 is the first level of risk for the stock market. Last week the S&P 500 fell below that level but has not closed below that level. Remember that the closing level is the most important one to watch. Once that level is broken, the next danger zone lies between 814 and 779. If you are heavily invested in stock, you do not want to see the S&P 500 fall below 779. In that event, I would think that the next price level down could be as low as 719 all the way down to 666.

The price level of 666 is extremely important because that was the March low of the stock market. In the event that would happen, that would be a considerable low and loss to stock market investors. For now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Keep in mind that investing in stocks is all about monitoring your risk. One of the best ways to do so is by monitoring price levels.

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