Enjoy The Ride!

Since the market bottom last November the S&P 500 has rallied from 2083 to 2560, a very healthy gain of 22.8% not including dividends. Despite these gains there are almost no signs of euphoria within the investing community which leads me to think this rally still has a long way to go.   Euphoria is a necessary evil that’s almost always seen at major market highs when investors refuse to believe the market will roll over.

Is there a valid case to be Bearish? Yes, but market momentum always takes precedence. Eventually the bears will be right but it may take a few more years and in the meantime so much opportunity will be lost. The bearish arguments have been around for years and completely dismissed as markets make new The bear case always sounds intelligent and well thought out but their losses and opportunities missed can be staggering.

This week marks the 17th time in the past 90 years that stocks made new all-time highs each day of the week. In only ONE instance did this ever mark the exact top of the stock market (1968). Higher highs occurred 94% of the time.

Once a trend has been established it tends to persist and run its full course.

Investing always has some form of anxiety for investors to contend with. If it’s not nervousness with the decline in your account value it’s the fear of the value rising too much and worrying you’ll give it all back. Is there a Goldilocks too hot – too cold – just right equivalence? Nope, but keep things simple as in try to sensibly grow your principal as much as possible in the good years and lose as little as possible in the bad. And, try not to mess it up in the meantime which is why: Temperament can more important than intellect.

In past years bonds offered a decent yield which allowed an investor to gain some income and diversify from stocks.   The problem in this era is that yields are very low and in order to gain a modest, even a high single digit return there must be some increase in bond prices and very little of that is happening now.

One of the best books ever written on investing was authored by Jesse Livermore “How to trade in stocks” published in 1940.   At his peak Livermore was worth an estimated $100 million in 1929 dollars after starting from scratch.   His approach was systematic and still effective today and I use many of the rules he originally created for himself.

One of Livermore’s lessons was: “Money is made by SITTING not trading” To paraphrase, when you know you’re in the right you stay invested until the rally fades.   You should remain in the stocks that are trending higher and take small losses along the way (never ride a losing stock down hoping it will turn).

The majority of “easy” money made in stocks is made during two unique phases of the economy/markets: The violent rally higher during the transition from recession to expansion and during long trending rallies in the mid cycle of the expansion like we’re experiencing right now. Smooth trending markets may happen just once or twice in a decade so it’s important to maximize the opportunity when it’s present.

While it’s part of our management philosophy to protect our clients during major down drafts, we do not sell prematurely or pretend that we can call a market top.   “Top Calling” the stock market is a way of gaining media exposure and attention. Top Calling has nothing to do with solid investment management since astute advisors know it can’t be done. The better option is to let the market take us out when the time is right with our built in exposure systems.

Charting the warning signs of the 1987 crash

It’s been 30 years since the 1987 crash so why not look at it closely for lessons?

The evolution of market tops is a gradual process whereby markets weaken as selling and distribution increase. Sometimes the flat sideways trend is nothing more than the “pause that refreshes” before another up-leg commences. However, sideways/choppy trends can also be the early stage of something more ominous.

In the summer of ‘87, the bond market was very weak with declining prices and higher yields which were becoming increasingly more attractive to stocks.   This was causing a migration from stocks which began to manifest itself in August. These were the grand old days when investors wouldn’t buy a municipal bond unless it had a tax free yield of 10% or more.

Stocks peaked in August then sold off by 8% in September then rallied 6% into October before crashing.   The decline in early October breached the 50-100-200 day moving averages which would have triggered a wave of sell signals for us. We always use the 200 day moving average as the ultimate cut off for owning stocks. I consider declines below the 200 day to be Bear Market country.


Summary: Enjoy the ride.

Brad Pappas


The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision. All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market, economic or political conditions. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.