Both boom and gloom are risky from here

We seem to be at an interesting juncture in market psychology.
The long always cheerleaders are still out in full force, urging everyone to buy, buy, buy. But they always say that, so we have learned to filter out the noise of perpetual optimism.
At the other end of the spectrum there is now a famous club of “bear” commentators who called the downturn a couple of years ago and are now continuing to receive significant media attention with dire predictions of untold doom yet to come.
Yes, my firm called the downturn as well, and yes the PR for getting that right and protecting our clients has been very positive. But before I become intoxicated with the views or prophetic abilities of myself or anyone else, I am insistent on keeping affixed to practical plans and sober thoughts.
The truth is that no one can actually predict what the stock market does next. Not Meredith Whitney, not Nouriel Roubini, not Richard Russell, not little old me.
As I have said many times, all we can really do is calculate the probabilities of various outcomes. All we can devise are management plans for various probable outcomes. I can’t count how many times I have met with investors and business leaders over the years who can articulate a plan for their best case scenarios, but not for a plan B, C or D. This type of wilful blindness tends to be a fatal flaw to lasting success.
When market valuations are over-stretched at the end of a cyclical expansion we can calculate that the probabilities of a significant earnings and stock market decline are large and mounting with each new day. After markets have been through a lengthy bear market with declines of greater than 50%, we can calculate that the probabilities of a further significant decline are lower and lessening over time. And in between; pretty much everything can happen.
Come February, we in Canada know that the winter must be nearing its end. We know that spring will eventually follow. Those that confidently predict exactly which day will see the last snowfall, or when hot weather will arrive at last are rightly given the sceptical attention of a bemused smirk.
The only rationale response to uncertainty is to define our strategies for various outcomes in advance. Then we must stick to the discipline of taking objective measurements, every day, every week, every month and adjusting our exposure to the elements accordingly.
I am reminded of the wisdom in this approach recent mornings, when my 9 year old son leaps out of bed asking me what temperature it is going to be today. (He wants to hear he won’t need to wear a coat). When I tell him it is 2 Celsius expected to be 6 Celsius, his common reply is “I bet that it isn’t”. Each day I recommend that while he can bet for his best case, he should take a coat and mitts in his bag just in case.
The stock market rally since March 6 has been significant. For those that rode the market down through 2008, the recent rally has been but a drop in the bucket of what they now feel owed. For the those of us that have been making net returns, we are just content to ride the rally for however long that it lasts.
For those that have tried to passively hold equities throughout, the ride has been harmful and the next several years are likely to prove very frustrating.
For those that have an objective method for participating in rallies and limiting down market exposure, I think life and wealth building are likely to go on just fine.
In the meantime, those betting on great doom or great boom from here are both likely to be caught without a workable plan.

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7 Responses to Both boom and gloom are risky from here

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Danielle,
    I would like to ask you how you see this market shaping up from a technical point of view? Are there some key levels that you are watching? I have heard of the 880 level to be big resistance and ultimately the 1005 to be even bigger…I would appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    On examing a long term graph for the S&P 500 adjusted for inflation, I see that this drop after the double top has not been that great. Are you a believer in the Dow and Hamilton 3 stage theory? If so, what stage is next?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Government intervention in the marketplace is now accepted practice. What happens to your analysis if we assume that governments are also buying and selling equities in large amounts at crucial tipping points.
    Would you have any indicators that this is happening?
    Are you in favour of this policy?

  4. Anonymous says:

    “The truth is that no one can actually predict what the stock market does next. Not Meredith Whitney, not Nouriel Roubini, not Richard Russell, not little old me.”
    A big AMEN to that. I've long been annoyed by perennial market Pollyannas like Lawrence Kudlow, but mega-bears like Roubini are just as arrogant and dogmatic in their own right. Thanks for keeping it real, Danielle.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The next upside technical tests on our radar at this point would be a weekly close above 850 on the S&P and above 9500 on the TSX. As for down side tests, we see a potential retest of the November lows sometime in the June-July time frame. This would test the thesis that extent of decline may have been reached in the march lows, but that time may have further to go in this cyclical contraction.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We believe in the stages of human behaviour. If we are near a bottom here, I would say that the general mood now is one of disbelief, and if the rally can hold for several weeks and months into the fall, we will likely start seeing more belief (buying) emerge. If the present rally breaks down significantly though the masses may well plunge back into deep fear. Which is why I see sentiment as straddling a pivot point presently.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Your prompt and clear replies are much appreciated. Thanks.

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