In fact, investors who rely on long-held rules about Price/Earnings (P/E) ratios when they buy and sell stocks are risking a pretty big "haircut:" They may be overvaluing some of their stocks - and the stock market in general - by 17% to 20%.
Let's take a closer look...
The past week and a half has been a welcome reprieve from the extreme volatility we've seen over the past few months. There have been no fewer than 19 days this year in which up or down volume has accounted for more than 90% of total volume.
The rapid up-and-down, all-or-nothing nature of the stock market has confounded even the most talented, highly paid and well informed traders. The hedge fund industry as a whole has been caught flat-footed - posting losses in each of the last two months.
Municipal bonds - usually referred to as "munis" - are very popular portfolio plays because of tax advantages that, in effect, enhance their rates of return. There's also an allure because of their local nature: Investors can invest in specific bond issues that provided the money for projects such as schools, highways, bridges, hospitals or housing that actually affects the community in which the investor lives. That makes them a very tangible investment.
But there's a problem.
State-and-local-government finances have taken a bigger beating during this economic downturn than during any other recession since World War II. Even worse, that beating came after the easy money available during this stretch encouraged those same governments to venture well beyond any reasonable limits in terms of their borrowing. They're now stuck with a bigger-than-warranted debt load - which can't be covered by the property tax stream that's been reduced by record-level housing defaults.
The bottom line: At the present time, "munis" may not be the benign - or even alluring - investment that they've been in the past. In fact, thanks to continued fallout from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, some munis may be more akin to bombs than bonds - ticking away and just waiting to blow up your portfolio.
Now here's a new reason for optimism: The current situation bears a striking resemblance to the 1962 summer stock market rebound.
Here's the scoop: In early 1962, a head-and-shoulders pattern emerged that looked very similar to the one that appeared to have taken shape in April-June this year. When the neckline of the pattern was violated in April 1962, stocks fell like a ton of bricks into a June low that was ultimately 27% lower than the January 1962 high.
Considered the most conservative of all option plays, this strategy - which basically involves selling (or "writing") one call option for each 100 shares of a stock you own - can be employed for one or more of five distinct purposes:
- To generate a stream of additional income - over and above dividend payments - from individual stocks in your equity portfolio.
- To generate a stream of income from stocks you own that pay no dividends.
- To reduce the effective cost basis of longer-term stock holdings by bringing in option premiums, thus recovering some of the original purchase price.
- To provide a limited hedge against potential losses in portfolio value as a result of overall market pullbacks or cyclical downturns in the prices of specific stocks.
- As an income-producing substitute for a "limit-sell order" - intended to liquidate a stock position when a specific profit target is achieved.
For months, the winning trade was to short stocks, the euro, and commodities, while buying gold, bonds and the dollar. Commentators labeled this the "risk off" trade since gold and bonds were seen as safe-haven assets. But when crowd mentality is at work, and sentiment - not fundamentals - is driving the bids, there really isn't such a thing as a "safe" trade. It's all speculation.
Take yesterday (Tuesday), for example: After surging 131 points, or 1.4%, out of the gate, the Dow Jones Industrial Average relinquished most of its advance to close just 16 points higher at 9,702.98. Meanwhile the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which had climbed 1.5% to 1,038 in early trading, ended the day just 0.18% higher.
Stocks were hammered on Tuesday as a negative revision to an economic report out of China and fears over European bank funding set off a global firestorm of selling. A very weak consumer confidence report didn't help matters.
The major U.S. stock indices fell through critical support levels, with the S&P 500 returning to levels first reached last August. That's almost an entire year of stock market appreciation out the window.
In the end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.7%, the S&P 500 lost 3.1%, the NASDAQ lost 3.9%, and the Russell 2000 lost 4%. Large-cap stocks outside the United States fell 3.5%, while emerging market stocks fell 4%. Some of the European exchanges fell the most, including iShares MCSI Spain Index ETF (NYSE: EWP), down 5%, and iShares MCSI Switzerland Index Fund ETF (NYSE: EWL), down 6%.
Click here to see how the stock market plunge fits a historical pattern...
The huge-and-growing overhang of debt-laden portfolio companies that private-equity shops want to take public - when combined with additional leveraged deals in the pipeline - will keep a lid on U.S. stock prices and could even spark a sell-off for stocks in both the United States and Europe.
Let me explain...
In terms of that whole new rules/new profit opportunities paradigm, here's one that may surprise you: The ongoing European crisis could end up as a net positive for U.S. stocks.
Let me explain...
To see how Europe's travails can aid U.S. stocks, please read on...
Still, the simple fact that there are a few economic boogey-men lurking behind each suspect piece of data doesn't mean that investors should run screaming away from stocks.
In fact, if you take the time to listen to the opposite point of view before you make up your mind about the direction the economy is headed, you might be pleasantly surprised.
The week's results erased four weeks of losses, including the despairing session that ensued on June 7 after a disappointing report on U.S. employment. Meanwhile, the result of the past 35 trading days, or seven calendar weeks, are still largely negative, ranging from a loss of 5.5% for U.S. stocks and -8.5% for Europe. Only gold stocks have eluded the smoke monster, rising 7% in the span.
The variation in one-week and one-month results illustrate perfectly how investors are showing that they are hopeful but unconvinced that recent strength in gross domestic product (GDP) growth and corporate income advances are sustainable, and therefore won't buy stocks heavily until prices are so cheap that they discount worst-case scenarios. In other words, they want a high risk premium before buying -- sort of like demanding a 72-month warranty before buying an expensive car.
To read about the four factors you should consider before investing click here.
Founded almost 100 years ago and publicly traded since 1957, Cummins dominates the diesel truck engine market in the United States and is strongly increasing its international presence.
The high quality, efficiency and durability of the engines Cummins designs and builds are the foundation of the company's leadership. And its strong and disciplined cost controls, inventory, and receivable management are vastly superior to that of its competition.
In fact, a decline that takes the Standard & Poor's 500 Index down below the 1,040 level - roughly 7% below where it closed yesterday (Wednesday) - would probably murder the bull-market case for stocks.
But until that decline actually occurs, don't rule the bulls out for the count.
That "thread" may be tougher than you think.
To see what's in store for U.S. stocks, please read on...
I'm all for being optimistic at the prospect of a super-oversold condition amid rampant pessimism. But bulls need to take charge of the controls of this sputtering plane. But now that they failed to yank the stick higher before the February lows, the bottom is really in danger of falling out.
Most corrosive for the major indexes' value at present are large-cap energy and bank stocks, which have fallen 7% as a group amid a hex from the BP PLC (NYSE ADR: BP) blowout and financial regulation clampdown.
You would think that a cut in oil supply from the Gulf of Mexico would provide a strong undertow for energy, at least, but investors have been acting like industrial demand will grind to a halt in coming months.
June historically has been the second worst month of the year, after September. But after suffering through the worst May since 1940, and bearish sentiment on overdrive, it's fair to expect opportunistic investors to dive in now and take advantage of bargains.