Over the last twenty years or so, the three days prior to thanksgiving have always been positive for the markets as has the day after. This year they were accompanied by record highs.
All three averages inched up this week, with the Dow surpassing 16,000 and the technology-heavy NASDAQ breaking 4,000 for the first time since the turn of the century. The S&P 500 Index beat my year-end target of 1,800 and may actually reach 1,850 by New Year’s. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It was a short week for traders, with the markets closed for Thanksgiving and only open half a day on Friday. Most of the news centered on how good or bad retail sales will be during the holiday season. This year there are six less shopping days available so big retailers are pulling out all the stops in their goal to boost sales by 4% over last year’s results.
We enjoyed yesterday’s repast with wonderful friends down the road. During dinner there was a great deal of grumbling amidst the turkey, sweet potatoes (and Hanukah latkes) over the retailer’s decision to open their stores once again on Thanksgiving night. Our conclusion, that America’s single-minded focus on pursuing the almighty buck has reached new and unfortunate heights, was the only negative in an otherwise wonderful holiday.
We only have three weeks of trading left before Christmas as well and just about everyone is expecting the traditional end of year “Santa Claus” rally. It usually kicks off a day or two before or after the holiday and extends through New Year’s and into late January.
As usual, when everyone is expecting one thing, the markets tend to surprise you. That is why I am hoping for a short-term pullback now rather than later. That would set us up for the up move everyone is expecting. Unfortunately, the longer we go without a decline, the higher the risk investors will be getting coal in their stocking this year.
All year long the market has climbed a wall of worry. If it wasn’t the deficit, it was the taper or any number of issues that kept us on our toes. Through it all, the markets forged ahead. But suddenly, the skies have turned blue with nary a cloud to be seen. Even the nuclear stalemate in Iran appears to be unwinding. For the first time in a long time, there does not seem to be anything to fret about.
That should be a good thing, right? So why am I worried, call me a contrarian (or the Grinch) but when there is no wall of worry, I wonder how the market will maintain its upward momentum in the short-term?
If a pullback is to occur, it should happen over the next 2-3 weeks. As I said last week, if it does occur, do nothing. Over the long-term, whatever decline we may get will be practically meaningless. Stay invested, turn off the television and enjoy yourself.
In the meantime, take a look at this coming week’s column on secular bull and bear markets, if you have a chance. Some of the smartest people I know on Wall Street are convinced that we have entered a new secular bull market. They are definitely a minority, but I happen to be in their camp. If I am right, and we have entered a new long-term bull market, there will be many more cheerful holidays in your investment world.