Insights & Advice

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Are we there yet?

 

No, is the short answer to that headline. The S&P 500 Index needs to test 1,905 or thereabouts before all is said and done. You might ask why.

The talking heads will tell you weak data in Europe is at fault. Others will blame the recent strength in the dollar. Then there is the uncertainty of the mid-term elections now less than a month away. The problem with all of the above is that investors have known all about these issues for months and months. So why react now?

Readers will recall that since the springtime I have been waiting for the markets to test what is called the 200 Day Moving Average (DMA), which is a popular technical indicator that investors use to analyze price trends. The 200 DMA is simply a security’s average closing price over the last 200 days. You would think that the higher the 200 DMA climbs the more bullish it is for stocks, but actually the reverse is true

The higher the ratio climbs the more optimistic traders have become and, for a contrarian, like me, that flashes a danger signal. Historically, the S&P 500 Index has re-tested (sold down) to its 200 DMA at least once every two years. We were way overdue for a retest. This, among other indicators (mid-term election years since 1950 have experienced at least an 8% correction), has made me cautious as well.

Over the last few weeks I have been warning investors to expect a pick-up in volatility and boy have we experienced that over the last five days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has experienced a swing of over 2,000 points up and down through the week. Wednesday and Thursday marked the largest one day gain and worst one day decline in 17 years. This kind of volatility, after five months of practically none, is an emotional shock to most of us.

Back in 2010-2011, we had far longer periods of high volatility and experienced much deeper pullbacks. Human beings, however, tend to have short memories so October has been especially painful for most. Your first reaction is to sell and stop the pain before it gets any worse. That’s a normal feeling, but feelings have no business in investment, so what should you do?

Nothing, if you are fully invested and most people are at this point; hang in there. The 200 DMA is just a few points away. Sometimes the indexes will bounce off that line and shoot straight up, but that is rare. Usually, stocks will overshoot to the downside, and in that case, we might see 1,875 or so and then spend a week meandering up and then down around the 200 DM level.

The point is that this is a technical sell-off based on overbought markets that have been this way for some time. We are down about 5% from the highs. Fundamentally, the economy is in good shape. Stocks are not overvalued. We simply need to pull back and catch our breath.  If you have any money on the sidelines I would advise you to start putting it to work as the market declines from here. Not all at once, because no one can pick the bottom.  Industrials, mega cap stocks, technology, health care, financials are just some areas that come to mind. This would also be a good time to swap out of your more defensive positions in favor of more aggressive equity holdings.

Above all, stop worrying about the volatility. It is the cost of doing business in the equity market.

 

 

 

 

Posted in A Few Dollars More, At the Market