Patience is a virtue that many investors find difficult to master, present company included. However, this time it appears to have paid off. The tight trading range that held the market captive over the last few weeks has finally been broken. Unfortunately it was to the downside.
This week, especially Thursday, a major sell-off occurred across all asset classes — equities, gold, silver, crude — with economically sensitive stocks leading the decline. It is a key indicator, for me and suggests that the flush-out, selling climax or whatever you want to call it is beginning.
The ostensible reasons for this rout were numerous: a sudden and surprising trade deficit in, of all places, China, a downgrading of Spanish debt by another credit agency, a jump in U.S. jobless claims and of course, some further bad news from the Middle East. This time the concern is riots in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, all these troubles took a back seat to a devastating earthquake/tsunami that struck Japan spawning another tsunami that raced across the Pacific toward Hawaii and the West Coast of the U.S. mainland. Suffice it to say that the markets remain volatile. I'm hoping for a conclusion sometime this coming week and if not, we will all need to practice the "P" word.
Investors were jumping into U.S. Treasuries and the U.S. dollar in a bid for safety. At the same time, Bill Gross, the head of Pimco, the largest bond house in the world, said he has sold all but the very shortest of his Treasury bond holdings in his largest fund. In explaining the sale, he said:
"When a trillion and a half dollars worth of annualized purchasing power disappears," Gross said, referring to the end of the Fed's QE 2 operations, "I simply question as to who will buy them and at what yield."
When Bill speaks, the bond world listens and so should you.
However, this is not the time to panic. Although it may well feel like an irresponsible action to take, I say gird your loins, start purchasing equities and if you are still in Treasuries (after my numerous pleas to sell), this is an opportune time to unload.
"How deep of a pullback are you looking for?" asked a reader from Great Barrington on Friday.
Well let's look at the technicals.
The S&P 500 Index has a lot of support around 1,265-1,270, failing that, the next level would be 1,225. So from around1, 300, we are talking about no more than a 5 percent correction. As I have often said, equity investors should expect corrections of up to 10 percent at regular intervals in the stock market. It is simply the cost of doing business and if you can't take that kind of volatility you don't belong in the stock markets, period.
Silver, on the other hand, has hit my price target of $36-$37 an ounce. Since I'm fairly disciplined when it come to trading commodities, I have cashed in about half of my chips, although I remain long gold for now. It just seems to me that a 300 percent gain in silver calls for some profit taking. I hope you agree.
That does not mean I will abandon the metal entirely. I believe silver will consolidate as metals often do for several weeks or possibly months before moving higher. In the long term, I believe silver has further upside as do most metals. For longer-term investors I suggest you take your lumps in the short-term. As for me, I will wait until it pulls back to a more reasonable level before becoming interested once again.
Oil, however, as I have reiterated, has more than reached my price target of $100 a barrel. My strategy for investors in that area had been to first reduce exposure to energy stocks, followed by a reduction in oil itself. It doesn't bother me that the talking heads are betting that oil goes higher. If they want to risk their money on an extra $10 worth of upside, let them. I think the easy money has been made (from $35/bbl. to $100 a barrel) and that's what I try to achieve — low risk, high return trades.
Hang in there readers, there are better days ahead.
Bill Schmick is an independent investor with Berkshire Money Management. (See "About" for more information.) None of the information presented in any of these articles is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill's insights.
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