Thursday, March 26, 2009

Percentages Can Be Deceiving

It's been awhile since the sentiment in the market has appeared positive. With the S&P 500 having come off of a low on March 9th, we have seen a marked improvement in the value of stocks. Remember, however, that this percentage increase is coming from a very low point and that percentages can be deceiving. For example: if I had $100 and it decreased in value to $80, that would be a drop in value of 20%. If that $80 rose in value by 20%, I would now have $96 and still not be back where I started. If you think of the stock market as having dropped about 50% at its low, that means that $100 of investments would now be worth $50. If it were to rise by 20% (sounds like a lot) that would be $10 and we would now have $60. Better than before, but still not good! Percentages can be very misleading. I’d rather see it in dollars so I can understand what is really happening. In six of the seven trading days following the March 9th low, the market was up. In three of the five subsequent days, the market was down. Yesterday, March 25th, the morning saw the DJIA up 200 points. By late afternoon, the DJIA was down 110 points. That is a negative swing of 310 points in a matter of hours. At the close, we had a rally of 178 points with the DJIA showing a nice gain of about 1% for the day. We are likely in what is referred to as a trader’s market. The traders who are buying are not purchasing for long-term investment, but rather to either sell what they don't have (short selling) and buy back in when prices drop, or to purchase when prices are low and sell at the first opportunity to make a profit. In this environment, the supply of stocks available for sale is high while demand is variable. When demand is strong, stocks do well as sellers find willing buyers. When buyers step aside, even for a brief period, the market slides down rather quickly. At this point, the notion that a new bull market has begun is hard to justify. It looks more like an uptrend in a continuing bear market. Confirming this idea is the fact that interest rates, that had decreased earlier in the year accompanying a rise in stock prices, then rose again when stock prices fell, are staying at higher levels than I believe would be consistent with a bull market trend. I am happy with the gains but watchful of where it will lead us. Ed Mallon

Monday, March 9, 2009

How's Your Market?

I was thinking today, as the market was falling, how am I doing? I realized that my values, my faith, and my belief that the U.S. is still the best place to live have not changed. What appears to have changed is our collective relationship to money. For a long time, "getting and spending" money was relatively easy. The "Big Easy" seems to be over. The new reality is that, as a country and a world, we may have to work hard simply to keep what we have. This is worthwhile, and will likely strengthen our values, just as WWII and the Great Depression did for past generations. This is not the kind of reality check we like, but here it is. We must be strong, stop whining, and keep our spirits up. If you’re looking for the media to do this for you, give it up. Watch an old comedy instead. It will be more meaningful. Ed Mallon