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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Brooks’

All is OK when it comes to the stock market. Wall Street is urging you to jump in with both feet and get fully invested. The market is going to the moon. Foreclosure mess? Not a problem says the street. Unemployment? We are already use to it and not a problem. Just name the problem and you get the same answer. I guess to be fair the same could be said for anyone holding the same position as I. At some point, however, the risk tips the scale.

I would look at jumping into this market as the opportunity to run down the prosperity with your neighbor who has been making big bucks in the market. Just have one question when it comes to running after your neighbor. What if you are running down a road that eventually leads to a steep drop-off?

OK, candidly, I have not been right on this current advance at all. However, something could be occurring right now that is characteristic of how most big advances end. In the world of managed money and technical analysis it is called a “blow-off” top.

A “blow-off top” is defined as a rapid increase in price of the stock market that precedes a steep drop in price. It doesn’t always have to precede a change in direction. However, in many cases it does.

Playing blackjack, poker, etc., offers a great example of what this looks like. You get a hot-hand at the blackjack or poker table and feel like you are invincible. You are winning hand after hand. Then you start to lose a hand or two and then the trend reverses. After you know it, you have given back all that you won. The house always wins.

I think that the same applies to the market in this type of environment. Without a Plan B, (what you use when Plan A doesn’t work) most investors make money and then give it back.

Let’s look back to 2007 as a good example. Starting on 8/15/07, the market started a real nice bullish market rally (it went up). This ended October 9th, which marked a top in the stock market that, I believe, will be the highest level this stock market will see for many years to come. It went up 11% in 55 days.

Fast forward to today (as of the day this was written) – On 08/31/10, the market started a real nice bullish market rally. Thus far, it has been 53 days and the market has gone up 13%. This is not unusual by any means to see the market have such a big rally that should precede a pretty substantial market drop.

What do I mean by substantial market drop? I would say that a minimum from where we sit today would be a 26% to a 40% decline in value. Although that doesn’t even seem possible at this juncture there is plenty of evidence that would suggest that it is more than possible.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, watch your risk levels.

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Who am I to say that Ben Bernanke is wrong? After all, Bernanke went to Harvard and graduated with honors and his economics PHD from MIT. Then of course he has all of the political appointments and now is the Federal Reserve Chairman. There was someone else who had a list a mile long of credentials. In fact, he was the former Federal Reserve Chairman – Alan Greenspan. It is documented with a list a mile long of critical mistakes that were made in his part in blowing up one of the greatest debt bubbles of all time.

So, don’t let the credentials fool you. In short, Ben Bernanke wants to save the planet by purchasing billions of dollars of US Treasuries or said in another way, lend billions of dollars to the US to keep US debt a float. Buying a Us Treasury Bond is the equivalent of lending money to the United States. His logic? The Fed buys billions of dollars of US Treasuries, then mortgage rates will go down and interest rates on loans will do down further encouraging businesses and consumers to borrow and spend. This in turn might invigorate the economy and ease unemployment.

Let’s take a look at the main reason why this is a dangerous bet. I have many more. The problem is limited space.

Have you ever seen a kid blow a bubble as big as it will go? The child keeps blowing and blowing and the bubble gets bigger and bigger. The eyes of the child show the disbelief that the bubble hasn’t popped yet as more air is forced into the gum. Our bond market is one big juicy fruit bubble already. Let’s blow some more air into that bubble and see what happens.

By pouring billions of dollars into Tresuary bonds, prices of bonds (in theory) will continue to go up and interest rates fall. Common sense will tell you that prices of bonds are going up for no good reason. Thus they turn into the equivalent of worthless internet stocks that went up in price based on nothing material. This has the makings of a massive bubble. Riddle me this – what happens when that bubble bursts? Interest rates sky rocket. Isn’t that what he is trying to prevent in the first place?

There is also the notion that people are going to spend, spend, and spend because of low rates. If that were the case, people and companies would have already been doing it. Let’s face it, you need confidence to borrow money. I will just say two words why that isn’t going to happen – OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.

Further, how did that first round of 100’s of billions of dollars do for us? I don’t think that I need to answer that question.

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My two sons love this book that I would read to them called The Bear Snores On. The story starts out with all of the bear’s friends sneaking into his cave and throwing a party while the bear “snores on.” They would do something outrageous and the author would note and the bear snores on. They would pop popcorn and sing and dance and the bear snores on. Everything is great until the angry bear wakes up.

Well, our bear on Wall Street took a nap back in March 2009. He briefly started to wake up April of this year. Since then, our bear has been in and out of sleep as everyone has been partying in the bear cave.

The unemployment numbers showed continued losses of 95,000 jobs last month…and the bear snores on.

Countries are saber rattling about a currency war…and the bear snores on.

The foreclosure process is in crisis as it has been halted in states all over the country…and the bear snores on.

Middle and lower America continue to face personal financial crisis…and the bear snores on.

The politicians have an agenda so big and it doesn’t include real recovery…and the bear snores on.

The Fed prints money, continues to accumulate at alarming levels, and there is talk about a second stimulus package…and the bear snores on.

Healthcare…and the bear snores on.

Higher tax rates next year…and the bear snores on.

An investor community oblivious to the risks in the structure of our economy system…and the bear snores on.

The problem is that the bear will not hibernate forever. My guess is that he will wake up in a very bad mood considering everything that has happened in his cave. You see, I don’t think that we ever left his bear cave as investors. He has just been asleep. Yes, I know, I have been talking about this risk with nothing materializing and the market continuing to go up. However, keep one thing in mind:

In the book The Bear Snores On, it was a small spark from a fire that woke him up. It wasn’t the big events happening all around him. It wasn’t the loud music or the dancing that woke him up. All it takes is the smallest problem to surface and the house of cards will come tumbling down. As an investor, what is your Plan B?

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You have probably read that September’s performance, after having a horrid August, was the second best on record for the Dow Jones. The bulls are running hard with this headline as means to spur optimism. They want you and all of your money invested. It is the good times again and we have momentum in our sails. Well, I went back and did a little research. Dating back to 1929, there have only been 4 instances where the stock market has increased greater than 5% in the month of September.

1939 = 13.47% record – occurred during a long-term bear market
2010 = 7.7% – occurred during a long-term bear market
1954 = 7.36%- occurred during a long-term bull market
1973 = 6.7% – occurred during a long-term bear market

1939 and 1973 were both years that were caught up in a long-term bear markets. What is a long-term bear market? It is a long period of time (usually on average of 15 to 20 years) where the market goes either down or nowhere at all. I would suggest that we started a long-term bear market in January 2000.

You can contrast long-term bear markets with a long-term bull market where the market goes up over a long period of time. Said another way, they both represent long period of times where it is either good or bad for investors.

Following those big September months, the following occurred:

September 1939 – The Dow Jones made a top in that month and proceeded to decline -40% into a bottom April 1942.

September 1973 – The Dow Jones saw a top the following October and proceeded to decline -36% to a bottom in December 1974.

The only exception to the rule was in 1954 which was in the middle of a long-term bull market. It continued to increase in value.

With everyone pulling out the party hats, as an investor, you might want to start looking for the valet ticket. The police are on the way and this party might just be getting ready to get busted up.

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When mutual fund managers are very positive on the market, historically they have kept lower levels of cash on hand in their portfolios. Watching these levels has been a very good predictor of where the stock market might be heading. Consider these statistics that date back to 1961.

Throughout the 60’s, mutual funds held on average 5 to 6% of their portfolios in cash. In some instances, it was as high as 9% to 10%. Cash levels of 4% or lower was a precursor to a market decline. In other words, when mutual fund managers held around 4% of cash, it was a signal that the stock market was about to go into a bear market or at least go through some type of a decline.

The following is from a newsletter I wrote to my clients back in 2007 right before the start of the greatest bear market since the Great Depression.

In 1971, these cash levels went as low as 4% and a -9% decline followed.
In 1972, these cash levels went as low as 3.9% and a -42% decline followed.

Then the cash levels went back up to the average of 8 to 10% again for a very long time until April 98. At that point they went back under 5% for the first time in 21 years. Following that dip down to 4.8% of cash, the market dropped -19%.

Then between 1998 and March 2000, the cash levels stayed in the mid to upper 4% ranges. March 2000, saw the first dip down to 4% cash level in almost 30 years. Of course, that occurred at the top of the great bull market run that led to a -47% decline in the stock market.

In September 2005, we set another record low in cash levels of 3.8%. That led to a mild decline of -5.2%.

In March 2007, we are now at a new record of 3.7%. Does that mean we have a bear market in our future? History would suggest that we have some type of stock market trouble in our near future. The irony is that we are at an all-time in the Dow just like we were in March of 2000.

Fast Forward to Today

So, wonder where we are today? We are currently at a record low level of cash in mutual funds at 3.6%.

NEW BULL MARKETS DON’T START UNTIL CASH LEVELS IN MUTUAL FUNDS ARE CLOSER TO 10%.

That is not an opinion. That is what history has shown. With that said, I would be careful with the risk that you are taking. Things can change very quickly.

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So do you think that we are still in a recession? According to the agency that dates the starting and ending of recessions, it has been over for a long time. The National Bureau of Economic Research stated today that the recession that began in December 2007 actually ended June 2009. It has been referred to as the Great Recession because it is the longest recession (18 months) since the Great Depression (43 months).

So great! The NBER states we are out of the woods. Let me ask you a question – Is the recession over in your world? Do you feel better off than you did over a year ago? Keep this in mind when it comes to economic numbers – numbers can be manipulated and interpreted in many different ways. It is very easy to misrepresent with numbers – just remember what the government does with the unemployment report each month as a case in point.

Statistically you could say we are not in a recession. However, ask the people who have been laid off, facing or faced foreclosure, dealing with over-indebtedness, etc. if the recession is over in their lives. Statistics say one thing and reality says another. At the end of the day, I don’t think that the Great Recession of 2007 is going to get the press it deserves.

However, these favorable statistics do make for good political sound bites.

    State of the Stock Market

I would state that this is an important week for the stock market. The market has bounced back nicely in September and is at a 4 month high. Further, it has also risen past some key levels. However, it also has done so on very light volume which is not the sign of a healthy market. If the market starts a significant decline from these levels, I would not automatically assume it is just a pullback. I would take it seriously.

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Why hasn’t the economy recovered? Why are there still issues? This week I want to give you an economics lesson. If you can get an understanding of economic cycles, you can get a sense of where we are today.

We can get some insight by taking a look at how a normal economic cycle works. A normal economic cycle goes through 5 stages. The economic cycle starts at the bottom with a recession. Then you start a recovery that leads to a period of prosperity. When the period of prosperity hits a peak, a period of contraction occurs. During contraction, the prosperity period (economic growth) starts to slow down. If the contraction is severe then the slow down becomes economic loss. Economic loss leads to the next stage – recession. The recession acts as a detoxification period. The Government intervenes and then the recovery starts again which leads to a period of prosperity. The economy has been doing it that way for decades.

During a normal economic cycle, the government is effective in providing solutions. The government can intervene, fix things, and shorten the time it takes to get back to economic growth. In order words, the problems that created the recession can be easily fixed.

If we are not in a normal cycle, the cycle has grown much larger, meaning that it takes longer to move from stage to stage. This type of economic cycle is full of structural problems. For instance, the debt feuled prosperity period for this economic cycle was much larger and because of that the downturn is much larger. If that circle gets pushed far enough out, then the economic cycle could result in a much worse scenario like a depression or hyper inflation. It is an economic cycle that has gotten out of balance.

When you get into an abnormal economic cycle, you find the economy has structural problems. Said another way, it is the structural problems that create the abnormal economic cycle. With our current scenario, an irony exists. The very thing that created the growth in our country is the very thing that is creating the problem – DEBT. We were fueled and are being destroyed by the same thing. That creates more and more structural problems. A debt fueled recession or worse is the toughest thing to fix because in an abnormal economic cycle the Government cannot just fix things. They are ineffective as we have witnessed over the past few years.

The problem is only fixed through the destruction of debt. Either the debt is paid back or someone takes a loss. Since the government refuses to allow this to happen, the circle gets bigger and bigger pushing real recovery off into the future.

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