Its official, the S&P 500 Index is now up 100% from its low of 666.79 back in March of 2009. It was the fastest double in stock prices since 1936. And it is not over.
I have suggested several times in past columns past that a big move in stocks would come when individual investors sold their bond holdings, gathered their courage, and returned to the stock market. That time may be upon us.
Consider that this is the fifth week in a row that inflows into domestic stock funds have increased. A total of $21.3 billion moved into equity mutual funds in January. The first week in February saw an additional $5.85 billion and last week another $9.3 billion flowed into equities.
The money is coming out of bond funds (mainly funds invested in U.S. Treasuries and Munis). As expected, the stock markets’ five-month winning streak and low rates of return in the government bond markets and money markets are forcing investors back into equities. This has been my premise for well over a year.
Corporate profits are approaching record levels. The economy is gaining steam, inflation forecasts remain subdued (2-3%/year) and interest rates are historically low. That is what I call a ‘sweet spot’ for making money in stocks. But the market’s steady rise since the beginning of the year, with little to no corrections, has also confounded veteran market watchers. Some respected technical analysts I know have actually given up trying to predict the timing of a pullback. The truth is that a correction can happen at anytime, but so what. Buy the dip.
Consider that the U.S. market continues to rise in the face of tensions in the Middle East, soaring global commodity prices, declining stock markets in the high growth emerging markets and continued financial concerns in Europe. In the past, any one of the above circumstances has had the power to take our market down 5% in a blink of the eye. But thanks to “Bennie and the Fed” investors own a “put” on our market. Back in November in my column “Don’t Fight the Fed” the following explanation for why the market would continue to rise.
“The Fed is clearly telegraphing to investors that they want a higher stock market, and like unemployment and the economy, they will do what it takes to accomplish that goal. This message is behind the jump in the stock market this week. My advice to you is don’t fight the Fed. Buy stocks.”
I stand by that advice.
On another note, have you been watching the price of gold and silver? A few weeks ago I suggested that the price correction in both these precious metals was just about over. Since then both gold and especially silver have roared back to life. Silver is above $32/ounce. It is getting closer to my target of $36-$37/ounce, so be ready to take some profits when we reach that price level. Gold has lagged silver so far, but I believe it will ultimately narrow the lead. Nonetheless, both metals performance have been far from shabby.