Monday, March 31, 2008

Are We In a Bear Market?

The "contrarian" view last week was to claim that the market had bottomed, financials were cheap, and it was safe to dive in. Two interesting commentaries this weekend (by two of my favorite commentators John Authers of the Financial Times and Alan Abelson of Barrons) claimed that the contrarian to the contrarian view indicated that we had not bottomed. I do tend to be a contrarian in nature, but since I believe we are in a bear market, I guess I am now a contrarian squared?
I find it hard to believe that we have bottomed. Although I currently focus most of my commentary on the financials, due to their importance in the current market maelstrom, other segments of the stock market have begun behaving in a decidedly bearish manor. One of the most interesting observations I made during the previous bear market (without actually knowing it at the time) was that the market seemed to be correcting itself one stock at a time. In January 2000, when Lucent released lousy earnings (or a warning, I can't remember precisely), the stock dropped around 25% in a day. Several months later, Nortel did the same, then Cisco, followed slowly by the rest of the market over the course of the next few years. On march 10th, WellPoint slashed its earnings outlook, followed two days later by Humana. All of the health insurers were punished on the news. Today, Merck and Schering were dealt a blow after the release of details from a study of the cholesterol drug Vytorin. Healthcare stocks are supposed to be defensive so why are they behaving as if they have exposure to the subprime market? Is it safe to put your money anywhere in today's volatile market? Equity investors aren't so sure anymore. According to the Financial Times, investors pulled $100 billion dollars worldwide out of equity funds in the first quarter of 2008. Where did all the money go? Money market funds, which had inflows of $140 billion. When will it be safe to jump back in the market? When I figure it out, I'll let you know.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Where did the money go you ask K10? Its Bill Gross and Paul McCauley being proven right.....The Shawdow Banking System in all its glory. If this asset bubble was created by excess leverage to begin with and overinflated our economy then the deleveraging or the "sucking out of that excess capital" is not going to be very positive. If you consider our GDP is around 14 trillion and 70% comes from consumer spending, then taking money out of the consumers hands is not going to be very good for us going forward is it? I just don't see how the negative wealth effect of declining home prices nationally is not going to have severe ramifications going forward. What would another 10% decline mean in terms of consumer spending. All I know is that my mother has asked me on more than one occassion lately if she should take some money out of her bank. People are nervous and when that happens a defensive strategy is almost always the outcome. That means, no buying or spending on new items and that is going to have a very real effect for all parties involved.