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@theMarket: Coal in Your Stocking?
By Bill Schmick On: 08:15AM / Saturday December 14, 2013
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The bulls can't muster enough strength to push stocks to new highs. Bears lack the conviction to stage a meaningful decline. It appears we are in a stand-off, but for how long?

This year many of the yearly investments themes of Wall Street failed to bear fruit. The "Sell in May" crowd was mightily disappointed this year. Those who warned that September and then October would be terrible months for the market were also stymied. Today, it's the "Santa Claus" rally crowd. Many investors are geared up to make a stocking full of profits any day now. They may be in for disappointment.

One could argue that we have already had our Santa Claus rally. After all, the S&P 500 Index is up over 25 percent year to date. How much more do you want? I have been warning readers to expect a pullback. Many of the indicators I follow have been flashing amber lights and some have turned red.

Eight of the last 10 and 12 of the last 18 sessions have finished lower. That's called distribution but the losses have been so minor and the euphoria so strong that bulls have largely ignored that fact. Last Friday's jobs report were cause to celebrate. At first the markets did just that, gaining over one percent on the news. But here we are a week later and stocks have given back all of those gains.

Chart of the Day

The politicians in Washington had further good news this week. There won't be another government shutdown in the foreseeable future. Both sides have hammered out a budget deal, which, if passed by the Senate this week, should solve that particular problem at least through 2015.  It removes some of the cliff hanging drama the markets hate so much, but stocks barely moved.

Last week, I advised that if the S&P 500 Index regained 1,800 and remained above it for any period of time, the coast would be clear and this present distribution would have simply been another buy-the-dip opportunity. So far the bulls have not made their case. It is true that the S&P index jumped on the employment news last Friday by over one percent, but quickly broke down. And now it is below that level once again. We are below 1,780, which is another support level. I suspect we decline to 1,760, which is the 50 day moving average. That is my first downside target.

Hopefully, it will bounce from there, but if it doesn't, there is a possibility that we may test the 200 DMA. There have never been two years in a row when the S&P 500 Index did not decline to test the 200 DMA. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's take it one support level at a time.  

Although all of this cautious advice I am spouting may lead readers to believe I am bearish, when in fact I am extremely bullish over the medium and long-term. It's just that right here, right now, the markets might Grinch us out. But once we go through this little digestion phase, the markets should resume its advance, at least until the end of the first quarter.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.



     
@theMarket: Good News Is Bad News
By Bill Schmick On: 04:14PM / Friday December 06, 2013
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U.S. economic growth in the third quarter surged higher by 3.6 percent, while jobless claims plunged by 23,000 to 298,000 as layoffs slowed. That's great news, right, so why is the stock market falling?

If you are scratching your head about now, who can blame you? Americans have been waiting for years to see the economy finally transition from a slow, bumpy recovery with stubbornly high unemployment to something akin to more traditional economic recoveries. It appears we are finally hitting our stride but growth like this could mean the end of the Fed's open-ended quantitative easing, thus the decline.

Investors are afraid that the Fed may begin to taper as early as this month, given the good news. The implications are that interest rates would rise and the stock market would decline as the Fed withdrew support from financial markets. That's what you will hear and see in the financial press, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Let me tell you what is really going on. Don't listen to these pundits who worry about a stock market bubble, pointing to the Fed's easy money policy as the culprit. I disagree. The market rally, in my opinion, is wholly justified. It is based on expectations that the economy will pick up steam and unemployment fall. As I have said before, the markets anticipate events 6-12 months ahead of time. The market media has missed that fact. They are still harping about Fed easing/tapering when the data is telling us the gains are about the economy.

It is why I have been bullish all year and am getting increasingly bullish when looking at the future. The Fed's efforts to stimulate the economy have worked.

The private sector is now picking up the slack and the years ahead should see better and better growth not only here but worldwide. That's a long-term forecast consistent with my belief that we are in a secular bull market in stocks. However, that does not mean the markets will go straight up from here.

Two weeks ago, I warned investors that stocks needed a rest. We could easily see a pullback based on sentiment numbers, momentum and technical factors. Today, I remain cautious in the near term. I accept that there are factors that argue against a decline right now. Christmas is only three weeks away and the historical data suggest a Santa Claus rally happens more often than not. Investors have also become conditioned to buy the dip, no matter how small.

If the bulls can get the S&P 500 Index back over 1,800 then the rally continues and I'm wrong. But if the markets want to use good news as an excuse to drive the markets lower, so be it. I don’t care what triggers a decline; I only care that we need to consolidate gains before moving higher.

How low could we go? If I rely on technical data, we could easily fall to the 50-day moving average (DMA) on the S&P 500 Index. From peak to trough that would be a decline of a mere 3.5 percent. If the Fed does announce the beginning of a Taper this month then we might actually see a test of the 200 DMA. In that case, we're talking a decline of over 8 percent. I find it hard to believe that the Fed would take that action on the eve of transition with new Fed chief, Janet Yellen, taking the reins in January. In either case, a 3-8 percent decline in the markets happens several times a year. It would not be the end of the world and would simply set us up for continued gains into 2014.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.



     
@theMarket: Record Highs Again
By Bill Schmick On: 10:10AM / Saturday November 30, 2013
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Over the last 20 years or so, the three days prior to Thanksgiving have always been positive for the markets as has the day after. This year they were accompanied by record highs.

All three averages inched up this week, with the Dow surpassing 16,000 and the technology-heavy NASDAQ breaking 4,000 for the first time since the turn of the century. The S&P 500 Index beat my year-end target of 1,800 and may actually reach 1,850 by New Year's.

It was a short week for traders, with the markets closed for Thanksgiving and only open half a day on Friday. Most of the news centered on how good or bad retail sales will be during the holiday season. This year there are six less shopping days available so big retailers are pulling out all the stops in their goal to boost sales by 4 percent over last year's results.

We enjoyed Thursday's repast with wonderful friends down the road. During dinner there was a great deal of grumbling amidst the turkey, sweet potatoes (and Hanukah latkes) over the retailers' decision to open their stores once again on Thanksgiving night. Our conclusion, that America's single-minded focus on pursuing the almighty buck has reached new and unfortunate heights, was the only negative in an otherwise wonderful holiday.

We only have three weeks of trading left before Christmas as well and just about everyone is expecting the traditional end of year "Santa Claus" rally. It usually kicks off a day or two before or after the holiday and extends through New Year's and into late January.

As usual, when everyone is expecting one thing, the markets tend to surprise you. That is why I am hoping for a short-term pullback now rather than later. That would set us up for the up move everyone is expecting. Unfortunately, the longer we go without a decline, the higher the risk investors will be getting coal in their stocking this year.

All year long the market has climbed a wall of worry. If it wasn't the deficit, it was the taper or any number of issues that kept us on our toes. Through it all, the markets forged ahead.

But suddenly, the skies have turned blue with nary a cloud to be seen. Even the nuclear stalemate in Iran appears to be unwinding. For the first time in a long time, there does not seem to be anything to fret about.

That should be a good thing, right? So why am I worried, call me a contrarian (or the Grinch) but when there is no wall of worry, I wonder how the market will maintain its upward momentum in the short-term?

If a pullback is to occur, it should happen over the next 2-3 weeks. As I said last week, if it does occur, do nothing. Over the long term, whatever decline we may get will be practically meaningless. Stay invested, turn off the television and enjoy yourself.

In the meantime, take a look at this coming week's column on secular bull and bear markets, if you have a chance. Some of the smartest people I know on Wall Street are convinced that we have entered a new secular bull market. They are definitely a minority, but I happen to be in their camp. If I am right, and we have entered a new long-term bull market, there will be many more cheerful holidays in your investment world.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.



     
@theMarket: Stocks Need a Break
By Bill Schmick On: 08:06AM / Saturday November 23, 2013
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This week the S&P 500 Index touched 1,800 before pulling back a bit. Hitting round numbers in the averages usually creates some profit taking among investors. A number of indicators are also hinting that a minor correction could happen at any time.

A stock market decline in the magnitude of 5-6 percent is overdue. I'm not sure if it will happen this week or next, but I am pretty sure it is just around the corner. I could be wrong on my timing although the evidence is building. Some of the variables I watch are flashing red lights, others are simply amber and a few remain green.

One indicator I watch is small cap speculation. Frothy markets are wonderful for penny stocks. Speculators day trade these puppies and can make as much as 8-10 percent in a short time period if they bet on the right horse. In the last few days those stocks are not working as well as they have over the past month. They are usually a leading indicator for market turns.

Then there are the momentum stocks. In bull markets there are always stocks that seem to go up and up almost every day until they don't. Take the current mania for solar stocks and companies that produce 3D printers. In the last few weeks some 3D stocks have actually doubled. But this week, these same stocks have been down as much as 20-30 percent. When momentum stalls, the overall market is usually not far behind.

As a contrarian, I also pay attention to investor sentiment. The more bullish investors become, the more worried I get. Proprietary crowd sentiment numbers indicate we are at a level where the market has pulled back several times since 2011.

Readers may ask how this cautionary column squares with my belief that we have entered a secular bull market that could last for years. A secular bull market does not mean that the markets go up and up without experiencing declines. They do, and some of them can be severe.

It is what keeps the bull going. Periodic sell offs that allow the markets to consolidate its gains and give new buyers a chance to get in is the historical formula for a long-lasting uptrend.

What I am hoping to see is a short-term decline in which the S&P 500 Index falls to its 100-day moving average. That is around 100 points lower from here. In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. It would allow the markets to then stage a traditional Christmas rally sometime in late December continuing through the New Year.

I'm sure you are asking what this means for your portfolio. The short answer is a paper loss in your portfolio. Some investors may be tempted to sell now and jump back in after the correction. Good luck to you if that's your plan. There is no guarantee that the markets will cooperate. What if the decline is only 2 percent? What if I'm wrong and the markets continue to grind higher without a pullback? Are you willing to be glued to the computer screen eight hours a day watching the markets for a turn that may not come?

If you can't take a short-term loss 5-6 percent paper loss in your portfolio, you are invested far too aggressively. These kinds of minor declines are the cost of doing business in the equity markets. They happen all too frequently. Get used to it, or reduce the risk in your portfolio permanently.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.



     
@theMarket: Market Gains Are Just Beginning
By Bill Schmick On: 03:59PM / Friday November 15, 2013
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For those who have yet to commit to equity, it is time to reassess. We have entered a new phase in stock markets worldwide. It is called a secular bull market and could last for many years.  Don't let this opportunity slip by.

Talking to prospective clients and investors over the last few years, I have heard a litany of reasons why stocks are not a good investment. The following are just a few of the more popular excuses: a second financial meltdown is just around the corner. The Fed's quantitative easing will spark hyperinflation. U.S. debt and deficits will sink the markets. Washington's politics will drive the country into a depression.

Then there are those trapped in self-fulfilling prophecies. I call them the "I missed it" crowd. These are the investors that continuously argued that the markets are too high year after year.  Now, four years later and over 100 percent higher, they are still sticking to the same mantra.  A subgroup of those dissenters, who are still holding U.S. Treasury bonds or CDs, would like to take the plunge, but they too are afraid that the stock markets gains are over.

My position is that the above investors are looking backward. Future gains will be equal to or better than those of the last few years driven by gathering strength in world economies and low interest rates.

So let's put this "markets are too expensive" argument to bed once and for all. The stock market, as represented by the benchmark S&P 500 Index, on March 24, 2000, was trading at 1,527. Today, Nov. 15, 2013, that level is 1,792. That is a gain of only 17.3 percent over 13 years (1.3 percent gain annually). That is much less than the inflation rate during the same time period and far below the market's historical average of 7 percent per year over the last 100 or so years.

Ask yourself if those kind of gains accurately reflect the advances we have witnessed over the last 13 years in education, energy, technology, science, medicine, food production industrial manufacturing and a host of other areas.  By any stretch of the imagination, does a 1.3 percent gain in stock prices each year reflect those advances?  
Of course not; but let's look at another metric, the trailing price/earnings ratio (P/E) of the market, a tool that attempts to value stocks by dividing the price of a stock by its past earnings. Back in March of 2000, the P/E ratio stood at 28.3 times earnings. Today, that ratio is only 17.4 times earnings. So why is the market cheaper now than it was 13 years ago?

The simple answer is that the stock market had been in a secular bear market for most of that time. During secular bear markets, which can last from five to 15 years, gains are hard to come by. During secular bull markets, which I believe we have now entered, the opposite occurs. There is a catch-up period where markets begin to make up for all those years of low growth. We are in that phase right now. In the years ahead, the gains will begin to slow down but should be above the historical average. We may even have a few years where we experience losses (because of a recession, for example) before growth resumes.  

So for discussion's sake, let's guess that this particular secular bull market will last a decade. If the S&P 500 Index simply returns to its historical norm, that would mean 7 percent growth/year times 10 years or a total of 70 percent. Of course, if you compounded those gains the returns would be much higher.

The moral of this tale is that anyone with a long-term view could enter the market today, despite its historical highs, and expect to prosper for years to come. Sure, there would be pullbacks, as there are in every market environment, but the trend would be your friend. How simple is that?

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.



     
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Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of BMM. None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article 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 email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill’s insights.

 

 

 



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