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@theMarket: Geopolitical Risk Trumps Economic Growth
By Bill Schmick On: 04:04PM / Friday August 08, 2014
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The front page of most newspapers on Friday featured at least three hot spots around the world that has investors worried. None of them may be anything to worry about over the long-term, but over the next few weeks they have the potential to drive the stock market lower.

You may ask, why now? After all, the situation in Ukraine has been going on all year. Turmoil in the Gaza Strip has been a reason for concern for far longer. The Iraqi Shiite/Sunni fighting has plagued us for months. About the only new threat that has arisen over the past two weeks has been the occurrence of a number of cases of Ebola Virus. So why have investors suddenly decided to embrace these concerns as a reason to sell stocks?

Investors need a reason to sell and so does the media. Simply selling because the market's price levels have gone too far or because we haven’t had a sell-off in a while are simply insufficient reason for most of us, we need an excuse to sell and now we have them.

Don't get me wrong; the world is a mess right now. As I wrote yesterday in my column "Beware the Russian Bear," the situation in the Ukraine is fraught with danger. The escalating embargos that are flying around between the EU, the U.S. and Russia certainly have the potential to hurt global growth. President Obama's decision to authorize air strikes in Iraq is clearly a new development, while financial problems among the Portuguese banks have soured investors on

While geopolitical risks move to the front burner, the economy, unemployment, wage growth and what the Fed is going to do about it have receded to the back burner. Interest rates continue to drop, despite the end to quantitative easing in October. The employment gains are accelerating, forecasts are now around a 3 percent growth rate for U.S. GDP in the third quarter while corporate earnings, for the most part, appear to be growing even faster than expected.

But, remember, the stock market and the economy are not the same thing and therein lies an advantage to profit. Right now (and possibly over the next month or two), the stock market will remain volatile with a downside bias. I would expect the S&P 500 Index to re-test its 200

day moving average (DMA) which is at 1,861 or so. That’s another 2 percent-plus down move from where we are now. It may take several days or even weeks to get there.

Usually, the market will bounce at that point. Nothing says that bounce will be sustainable and in most cases will result in disappointment and another re-test of the 200 DMA.

What happens next will depend on how investors handle the decline. Usually, declines end in a bout of panic selling; something we have not seen yet. We could easily go lower than the 200.

Some perma-bears are calling for a 20% correction depending on who you read. Right now, I would say those forecasts are a bit extreme. Maybe half that amount is where I stand.

But remember folks, we are talking about paper losses. The growing economy will provide a cushion of support for stocks. This could actually turn out to be a great buying opportunity for investors in the weeks ahead. At the beginning of the year, I forecasted a 5-6 percent gain in the S&P 500 Index for the year. I don't see any reason to change it. I believe next year will offer much better gains, so keep your powder dry and wait for lower prices. You won't be disappointed.

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: June Swoon
By Bill Schmick On: 02:37PM / Friday June 13, 2014
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This week the stock market was actually down three days in a row. It caught many investors off guard, but by the end of the week, traders were expecting the dip buyers to arrive. They did not disappoint.

As we approach the first days of summer, the stock market appears to be becoming more, rather than less, volatile.  The VIX, the volatility index, actually jumped a bit from its record lows as turmoil in Iraq and a subsequent spike in oil prices spooked the markets.

Earlier in the week, the World Bank also cut their economic forecast for 2014 global growth from 3.2% to 2.8%. And here in America, the election defeat of Eric Cantor in the Virginia Republican Primaries provided additional uncertainty for investors. Given the news, who could blame traders for taking a little off the table, especially at these record-high index levels?

So can we expect the markets to regain the losses suffered this week? It looks like we could see the S&P 500 Index hit the 1,950 level before all is said and done. Some think that could be the top but calling an end to this bull market has been a fool’s game. I would suggest there are better things to do.

On the economic front, there is plenty to be happy about. The deficit is improving dramatically, bank lending among the smaller, regional banks is surging and we are even seeing some improved lending from the larger banks as well.  

On the negative side, the rate of national debt is still growing, although at a reduced rate. So far, thanks to the extremely low interest on that debt, the servicing costs remain low but that will change as interest rates rise. It is a problem and one that needs to be addressed fairly soon.

Corporations are still hoarding cash. The money they do spend is being used to pay dividends or buy back their stock or someone else’s. As a result, merger and acquisition activity is at record highs. As this rate, it will soon become cheaper to build rather than buy additional capacity. And that will be a good thing for the nation’s health. Our stock of nonresidential equipment in this country is getting older and there is a widening gap between that stock and its rate of replacement.

When and if corporations decide that the future economic picture looks strong enough to risk building new plant and equipment, employment will rise and so will wages. That day is coming. We have recently witnessed the rise of a number of activist’s hedge fund managers who are urging corporate managements to either increase their capital expenditures or sell out to someone that will.  

So overall, the picture is brightening. If I look out over the longer term, I see more positives than negatives for the economy. All we need do is get through the next few months of uncertainty and stock market volatility. This month may be the beginning of that pullback I’ve been looking for. If it occurs, it shouldn’t last more than a month or two. All it requires is a little patience.

That’s not so bad, is it?

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: Europe Is a Good Bet
By Bill Schmick On: 12:34AM / Sunday June 08, 2014
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When the allies invaded the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, no one knew how much was at stake. It was a risky move that not only put an end to years of bloodshed within Europe but also ushered in a new world order that continues today. European leaders are hoping that their central bank's actions this week will provide an economic D-Day of their own.

The greatest risk to the economies of Europe is deflation. The European Central Bank (ECB) maintains a 2 percent inflation target for the EU, but the inflation rate as of May was a mere 0.05 percent.  While unemployment remains above 12 percent and economic growth continues at a sub-par rate, the EU could face an era of stagnation similar to that which had plagued Japan for twenty years.

Over the past three years, the ECB has shoveled over one trillion Euros in loans without conditions to the banking sector. Little of that money found its way to the private sector. Instead, the banks simply re-deposited those funds with the ECB and banked the interest or used it to trade for their own account in the stock and bond markets. In the meantime, lending to the private sector keeps shrinking and the economy stalling.

The ECB has now cut a key interest rate to below zero. It essentially means that European banks in a complete reversal will now be paying the ECB to park their funds there. This negative rate of interest in intended to spur financial institutions to begin lending that money to companies and other credit-hungry entities. The ECB also suspended their sterilization operations (taking money out of the market) which should inject a further 165 billion Euros into the mix.

The bank also promised over $500 billion in discounted loans to banks, providing they lend that money to companies and not other financial institutions. I'd give the bank an "A" for effort, but more needs to be done.

Investors were taken by surprise by the boldness of these latest moves. You see, the markets have long been inured to the actions of the ECB as too little, too late. Unlike the U.S., where our Fed answers to no one, the ECB has to juggle the conflicting views of many member nations of the European Union. While the Fed can take decisive and far-reaching steps to jump-start our economy, the ECB needs to build consensus among its members. This takes time.

This week's actions are, in my opinion, only the first of several steps to grow the European economy. A quantitative easing program that emulates the asset purchasing that both the U.S. and Japanese central banks have implemented might be the next step. So far, Germany, with its deep-rooted fear of hyperinflation (pre-WWII) has been against this action.

But Mario Draghi, the bank's president, went on record promising more, if these efforts failed to accomplish his goals. "Are we finished?" he asked. "The answer is no."

I believe him.

So let's bring this down to you and your portfolio. Readers may recall that well over a year ago, I suggested some exposure to Europe either through a mutual or exchange traded fund. That has worked out well since European averages, although still selling at a 15 percent discount to their American counterparts, are all at record highs. I think more exposure to Europe would be a wise move.

Right now, most readers have 25-30 percent in cash based on my advice. Over the next few weeks, I suggest you move some of that cash to Europe. Exactly how you do that is up to you. Take notice, however, that if the ECB's strategy works, one can expect the Euro to weaken against the U.S. dollar while their stock markets rise. It would make sense to look for a fund that combines those two elements. If one decided to simply ignore the currency aspect, remember that Germany is probably the strongest country economically, while Italy offers the most value. Invest according to your own preferences or call or e-mail me for more advice.

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: Flirting With Record Highs Again
By Bill Schmick On: 07:31AM / Saturday May 24, 2014
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You can't keep a good market down, so why is everyone so darn worried about the stock market? Could it be that too much of a good thing may be dangerous to your financial health? If so, someone should tell the bulls.

Truly, no one should be complaining. Here we are at the end of May, normally a month where the markets come under selling pressure, and we are a mere five points away from the S&P 500 Index's all-time high. The contrarian in me says that too many people are waiting for the shoe to drop right now, so it probably won't.

Officially, it is the Memorial Day weekend that kicks off the herd migration from Wall Street's gray canyons and valleys to more amenable vistas. Highly-polished Wing-tips are exchanged for Gucci sandals, as the high and mighty head for the over-crowded beaches and multimillion dollar "cottages" of Long Island and the Hamptons.

Those who remain are the young and ambitious. Without much trading authority, they will have a hard time moving markets. Nonetheless, they will attempt to make a killing for their bosses at the expense of the rest of us. As market volume dries up this summer, it is a toss-up on whether markets become even more volatile or simply wallow in apathy and neglect.

In my career, I have seen both during the summer doldrums. In recent years, the markets have tended to be more volatile with fairly large declines in June and July. In other periods, you could hear a pin drop for weeks at a time on New York trading floors. I'm betting we see more volatility than less.

While the markets continue to grind higher so does the short interest in the stock market.

Short interest is the quantity of stock shares that investors have sold short but not yet covered or closed out. Many strategists use short interest as a market-sentiment indicator, since it indicates how many investors think a stock's price (or market) is likely to fall. Both the short interest aggregate dollar amount of the S&P 500 Index and short interest ratio (days to cover or buy back these shorts) are at levels not seen since mid-2007. We all know how that ended for investors.

The markets continued to make new highs until the end of the year and then subsequently crashed in 2008-2009.

Last week the markets touched my S&P 500 Index target of 1,900 — briefly. It was so quick that I half hoped we would make another stab at that level and possibly break it. It appears we are trying to accomplish that as I write this. Markets are never neat and tidy so if we break this level to the upside, I would expect a bout of short-covering which could propel the markets higher by another 20-40 points quickly. At the same time, I think too many people are bearish for a sell-off right here and now. If we were to see a fast jump higher and a panic stampede into the market at that time we just might be set up for a last hurrah.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend. But while you are grilling, swimming or just plain having fun, do me a favor. Take a moment to remember our servicemen and women both past and present. I know I will be remembering my buddies in Vietnam that didn't make it. Semper Fi

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: Don't Buy the Dips
By Bill Schmick On: 04:11AM / Saturday May 17, 2014
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The S&P 500 Index hit 1,900 this week. The Dow Jones Industrial and Transportation averages also reached new historical highs but the euphoria lasted about a minute and a half.

That's about as long as it took for traders to sell into the move. Not good.

The market gave the bulls all the excuses in the world to man-up and push the markets higher, as they backed and filled for two days, then the bears took over. Thursday was a blood bath and sellers added to the damage again on Friday. Not good.

Last year, if you recall, all I recommended readers to do is "buy the dips" whenever the stock market declined. Obviously, from this headline, I am recommending just the opposite today, especially in the so-called momentum stocks. Momentum, small-cap and mid-cap stocks continue to lead the markets lower. As it should be, since they have led the market up over the first three months of the year. Don't think that they have bottomed. In fact, sell any bounces in these names.

"I can't sell them now, they are down too much," retorted Chris, a friend and client, as we walked our dogs by the lake this morning.

It is an understandable attitude. The hardest thing to do is sell when you are underwater pricewise and down 40-50 percent from the highs. That little devil on your shoulder is whispering that if you just hold on you will recoup all your losses and then some. That may happen but in my experience too often the opposite occurs. Instead, you will end up watching those stocks drop another 30 percent before you finally sell in a fit of emotional disgust.

Another thing to remember is that many of these momentum names that hit astronomical prices had no business reaching that price in the first place. Expecting them to regain their former luster anytime soon is about on par with hitting the lottery next week. To me, it is far better to take losses now, sit on the sidelines in cash and wait until there truly signs of a bottom before buying back in.

If, on the other hand, you managed to avoid getting entangled in these high flyers, sit tight. You have raised the recommended cash. Sure, you will take some paper losses on the rest of your portfolio, but that will be a temporary condition. By the end of the year you should recoup those losses.

It is too hard to tell whether this week was the start of my forecasted 10-15 percent correction.

However, we are entering the third week in May (sell in May and go away) so whatever you do - don't buy the dip. If the markets follow the behaviorial pattern of the last several weeks, expect the market to bounce for a few days next week.

We have now hit my target of 1,900 on the S&P 500 Index. I actually expected a little further upside (20-30 points or so) once we hit that level but I'll settle for what I can get. And who knows, traders might try once again to break that 1,900 ceiling level and propel markets and emotions to higher highs. I don't care.

It feels to me like the markets are rolling over here. If that process has begun, I wish it would be a short, sharp and therefore less painful ordeal than a drawn-out affair that lasts through the summer. However, markets, as I have often said, will do what is most inconvenient for the greatest number of people.

Plan accordingly.

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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