Insights & Advice

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Cash is King in a market like this

This is not the kind of market  in which one should stay fully invested. If your broker or investment advisor is recommending that strategy, tell them to take a hike.

If you doubt my advice, just consider the volatility we have experienced in the last five days. All three averages have swung from 3% gains to 3% losses and back again, on little if any news. The up days have been on low volume while the down days have experienced expanding volume. The take-away message from that kind of action is that there are a heck of a lot more sellers than buyers and it would be smart for you to step to the sidelines and wait out the storm. And, as I wrote last week this storm is not over.

Let’s face it; we’ve had a good rally off the lows. The market topped out in April at 1,220 on the S&P 500 (my target was 1,200-1,225). By that time, most investors have recovered at least some of the losses they incurred in 2008-2009. It doesn’t make sense to me to just sit there and watch those gains erode, especially if you are in or nearing retirement. Us old folks just don’t have the time to buy and hold (lose) because it takes too long to make it back.

This week’s excuse (as if this rigged market needs a reason to maul you) continues to be troubles in Europe. Only this time it’s Eastern Europe, specifically Hungary, which you may recall narrowly averted default in 2008. This country’s new government, elected on May 29 and led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has ‘suddenly’ discovered that Hungary’s previous government manipulated the books and lied about the state of the economy.

Hungary has promised to publish an action plan to deal with this crisis within the next 72 hours. I suspect that somewhere in that plan will be an urgent need for a 100-200 billion euro bailout courtesy of the IMF (read U.S. and European taxpayers). Unfortunately, it also opens up a Pandora’s Box of other Eastern European nations who will also want to jump on the bailout band wagon shortly.

Currency traders sold the Euro, which fell below the 120 level versus the dollar while the stock market did yet another swoon on Friday in response to this news as well as a disappointing non farm payrolls employment number.

So where does all this turmoil leave us? The S&P 500 Index continues to trade below its 200 day moving average, and the longer it does the greater the chance of further decline. The extreme volatility in the markets is telegraphing an upcoming move (up or down) in the markets. I’ve been looking for a minor bounce higher in the S&P to the 1,120-1,130 level (at most) and then a decline down to 990 or so. That’s my first and, hopefully, the last stop of this correction. If the market fails to hold there, then 940-950 would be the next support level. We won’t go there until we have to.

This is a much needed correction in an on-going cyclical bull market, nothing more. As such, once we do bottom, there will be a major opportunity to make quite a bit of money in a relatively short period of time. That’s provided you have the cash on hand to take advantage of bargain basement prices.

If your broker or advisor is still playing Darth Vader to your Luke Skywalker, while telling you to do nothing and just ride it out, listen instead to what your own gut is saying.

In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, I urge you to “Use the Force, Luke and raise some cash”.

Posted in A Few Dollars More, At the Market