• 13 Nov
    How close is the S&P 500 to a level that you should REALLY start to worry?

    How close is the S&P 500 to a level that you should REALLY start to worry?

    If you were watching the market sell off again yesterday, you probably started to wonder as I did if the market was really starting to follow through on the bearish sentiment that drove it back into correction territory for the Dow and the NASDAQ. The S&P plunged nearly 2% amid worries that the entire tech sector, which has paced and even led the market throughout its bullish trend since 2009, has finally peaked. The “FANG” stocks – Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet, and Amazon – all led the selloff as reports indicated that demand for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone has weakened.

    If you’re listening to the talking heads on market media outlets, it’s even easier to buy into the negative hype, as more and more of them wring their hands and talk about the end of the bull market. The to remember, however is that while a correction always precedes a legitimate bear market, not all corrections are followed by a bear market. In fact, corrections are entirely normal, and even healthy; they are one of the things that makes a long-term upward trend sustainable. During its nearly ten-year bullish run since 2009, the stock market has experienced numerous pullbacks and corrections.

    Does that mean that all of the angst, worry and concern is overblown? I’m not sure; the truth is that the longer the market holds an upward trend, the greater the major trend reversal risk becomes. The truth is that when the market’s long-term upward trend does finally reverse – and make no mistake, it certainly will – the drop is likely to be extreme. First, consider that since bottoming in late 2009, the S&P 500 has more than quadrupled value; next, consider that in the last two bear markets, from 2008 to 2009 and prior to that, from 2000 to 2002, the downward trend shaved 50% or more from that index each time. As of yesterday’s close, the S&P 500 closed a little above 2,700 with its all-time high in late September coming at around 2,900; that means that if the market is actually starting the latest, inevitable slide to bear market territory, the bottom might not be seen until the index is around 1,400, or even lower.

    I think the real question isn’t if the market is going to reverse; it isn’t even when, despite the talk that seems to be dominating market news right now. Even the question of why or how it could happen is less important at the moment than identifying the point that I think every smart investor should be ready to acknowledge the reversal could actually be happening.

    Analysts like to use percentage declines as a barometer for how severe the latest drop from a high is. 10% is generally accepted as the level at which the market is officially in a corrective phase. The market’s drop in October put things in the second corrective phase of the year. Where is does the bear market come to play? The next percentage level is 20% – which for the S&P 500 would be around 2,300 based on its September highs. We’re still more than 400 points away from that point, which is why you might see some analysts maintaining their generally bullish stance right now.

    I like to use trend and pivot analysis on the broad market to supplement these generally accepted levels. I think the market is closer to a legitimate bearish signal than the 20% minimum suggests, and it is another reason a lot of people are wringing their hands right now. Here is what I’m seeing right now.


    This chart is for the S&P 500 SPDR (SPY), the ETF that matches the movement of the index. The prices shown on the right for the stock don’t equate directly to the S&P 500, but the percentages between prices are consistent, so this is a good proxy chart for the index. I’ve drawn a horizontal red line along the bottom of the chart using the previous low points the S&P 500 tested during the first correction of the year. That levels corresponds roughly with the 2,600 level for the index; as of yesterday’s close the market is a little less than 5.5% above that point. It came near to that point in October before rallying strongly towards the last couple of days and into the beginning of November.

    This red line is what I think most investors should be treating as the signal point; not necessarily for the point where the market has finally turned to bear market conditions, but rather the point where the market can actually confirm a legitimate downward trend. We’re not quite there, although the drop from the market’s pivot high a few days ago is a warning sign. If the index drops below its October pivot low, the market will officially be in a short-term downward trend. If that is then followed by a drop below the red line I’ve drawn, I think you’d be smart to say that the downward trend  is more likely to extend into an intermediate time frame, which could last anywhere from just a couple of months to as long as nine months.

    An intermediate downward trend doesn’t guarantee the trend will become a long-term one, and it doesn’t guarantee the market will drop into bear market territory; however given how raw the market’s emotional state appears to be right now, I think you would foolish to discount the very real possibility that the market could easily shift from uncertainty into legitimate panic once the market breaks below the 2,600 level. If that panic extends to massive selling, we’ll see a lot of average investors getting out of their positions and you’ll hear even more about concepts like “safe havens” and “flight to quality.” These are market conditions that exist when investors start dumping stocks and moving en masse into instruments like bonds, money markets, and even to cash. That hasn’t happened yet, but pay attention to the 2,600 level for the S&P 500. If the index drops below that level, and stays below it, don’t be surprised if the selling gets even worse. That’s why even as I’m writing about stocks in this space that I think represent interesting values right now, you should be very careful about taking on any new positions. When the sell-off really starts, it will be hard to find a place to hide, which means that you should be holding stocks you’re willing to ride out over the long-term, with conservative positions sizes that make it easier to limit your overall risk even in an extended bear market.

  • 03 May
    Buffett Thinks You Can Turn $400 Into $400,000, But Here’s The Reality

    Buffett Thinks You Can Turn $400 Into $400,000, But Here’s The Reality

    Buffett recently gave an interview where he discussed how if he would have invested the first $114.75 he made in 1942 in the S&P 500 and reinvested the dividends, he would now have $400,000.

    That’s a nice way to sell the stock market to people, but I really disagree with Buffett and with what he’s selling. Today, I’ll discuss reality.

    More →

  • 26 Apr
    Here’s How A Defensive Investor Should Think About Stocks

    Here’s How A Defensive Investor Should Think About Stocks

    We all like common stocks, but in this stage of the economic cycle we should also be defensive. Therefore, it’s a perfect time to discuss Chapter 5 of Benjamin Graham’s book The Intelligent Investor – The Defensive Investor and Common Stocks.

    The topics we’ll discuss today are:

    • Four rules to follow when buying stocks.
    • Growth stocks.
    • Dollar cost averaging.
    • Investor’s personal situation.

    More →

  • 25 Apr
    Here’s Why You Should Worry About What Happened In The Market Yesterday

    Here’s Why You Should Worry About What Happened In The Market Yesterday

    The thing with the stock market is that it gives you signals way ahead of time, but nobody wants to listen. The things I’ve been blabbering about over the past two years are the following:

    1. Higher interest rates will come just as the FED told us they would.
    2. Higher interest rates will squeeze valuations.
    3. Higher interest rates will slow down economic growth.
    4. Higher interest rates will slow down earnings growth.

    So, let’s start by discussing these.

    The 10-Year Treasury Passes 3%

    When the 10-year Treasury was below 3%, nobody seemed to care except a few crazy analysts like this scribe. However, when it crossed 3%, the market suddenly looked at what had been going on for nearly the last two years. More →

  • 18 Apr
    These 4 Steps Will Save You In The Upcoming Market Crash

    These 4 Steps Will Save You In The Upcoming Market Crash

    A stock market crash is always around the corner.

    In the last 18 years, we’ve seen two crashes of 50% and if you live in the Netherlands, you still dream of those 2000 highs. Nevertheless, a 9-year bull market quickly erases all the painful memories.

    But forgetting what happened and how it looked is dangerous. If you haven’t lived through a stock market crash, you should at least try and think about it in order to be prepared as much as you can be.

    More →

  • 16 Apr
    Have Everything In Stocks Now? Here’s Why You’ll Want To Rethink That

    Have Everything In Stocks Now? Here’s Why You’ll Want To Rethink That

    • As crazy as it sounds, one shouldn’t have everything in stocks.
    • Perhaps the best counter option right now is short term bonds.
    • We’ll discuss Graham’s take and apply a contemporary perspective on it.


    Today, we’re going to continue our review of Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor with a discussion on the fourth chapter, General Portfolio Policy: The Defensive Investor.

    Graham clearly differentiates between aggressive and defensive investors where an aggressive investor spends a lot of time on research while a defensive one enjoys life. No matter whether you’re aggressive or defensive, this chapter is crucial for this environment as being defensive might be the most aggressive thing one can do. More →

  • 09 Apr
    These Will Be The Causes Of The Next Recession

    These Will Be The Causes Of The Next Recession

    After a long period of stillness, we are finally seeing two-way markets which is a clear indication that the market is looking for direction.

    Last week we saw two days with drops larger than 2%, and the so called Kudlow rally on Wednesday. More →

  • 06 Apr
    Graham Has Some Words Of Wisdom For When The Market Crashes

    Graham Has Some Words Of Wisdom For When The Market Crashes

    Today, we’ll continue on with our series on The Intelligent Investor and applying Benjamin Graham’s everlasting knowledge to the current market in order to avoid doing stupid things while taking advantage of others’ stupid actions.

    Graham’s data goes up to 1971, so we’ll first look at his data and later discuss the insights that can be applied to the current market situation.

    The main points Graham emphasizes that we can learn much from are:

    • The varying relationships between stock prices and their earnings and dividends.
    • It’s important to understand the manner in which stocks have made their underlying advance through the MANY cycles of the past century (emphasis mine).
    • Look at successive ten-year averages of earnings, dividends, and stock prices.

    More →

  • 23 Mar
    Benjamin Graham Has Some Words Of Wisdom On Today’s Market

    Benjamin Graham Has Some Words Of Wisdom On Today’s Market

    Probably the best book out there for long term investors is Benjamin Graham’s book, The Intelligent investor. However, the most recent publication is from the 1970s, so I’ll go through the book in a series of articles in order to extract what is still relevant.

    Believe me, there’s still plenty of relevant material, especially in this market. This will allow us to compare the current market with essential value investing wisdom and perhaps improve our risk reward perspective on things.

    Let’s start with chapter 1, Investment Versus Speculation: Results to be expected by the Intelligent Investor. This chapter discusses the appropriate portfolio policy for the individual investor, an everlasting topic. More →

  • 12 Mar
    Watch Out, Your Value Is Being Stolen

    Watch Out, Your Value Is Being Stolen

    • Book value might be the biggest not risk, but loss of value in the current market environment.
    • A full year of S&P 500 earnings evaporates every 3.5 years.
    • Fortunately, there is something you can do.


    Today, I’ll continue with my series on market risks. These are the main market risks I see and you can read more about them by clicking on the links provided:

    • Debt is being used recklessly.
    • Valuations don’t matter as growth is the key and profitability will come.
    • Book values are so old fashioned.
    • Stocks can only go up and corrections and bear markets don’t last long.
    • If you invest in index funds, you will do well.

    In this article, I’ll focus on book values which are often an omitted metric, especially late into a bull market, but are extremely important. More →

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