By Jeffrey Saut
June 4, 2012
The “S” word makes most investors uneasy. They find the “B” word, “buying,” much more pleasant. Why is perhaps best explained in a book written by Justin and Robert Mamis titled “When to Sell.” Following are several poignant excerpts from that book:
“Stocks are bought not in fear but in hope. No matter what the stock did in the past it assumes a new life once a purchaser owns it, and he looks forward to a rosy future – after all, that’s why he singled it out in the first place.
But these simple expectations become complicated by what actually happens. The stock acquires a new past, beginning from the moment of purchase, and with that past comes new doubts, new concerns, and conflicts. The
purchaser’s stock portfolio quickly becomes a portfolio of psychic dilemmas, with ego, id, superego, and reality in a state of constant battle.”
“The public is most comfortable when they are sitting with losses. Because if their stocks are down from where they bought them, they don’t have to worry about them. Once he’s got a loss, the typical investor is sure he isn’t
going to sell. He bears the lower price because in his mind it is temporary and ridiculous; it’ll eventually go away if he doesn’t worry about it. So selling at a loss becomes absolutely out of the question. And since it is out of the
question, and his mind is made up for him, the struggle of any potential decision vanishes and he is able to sit comfortably with the loss.”
“To the public mind, selling is never sound. It always conveys the possibility of being wrong twice: first, admitting that they’ve made a buying error; second, admitting that they might be wrong in selling out. And if the stock has
actually gone up, they are tormented; should they take a profit or hold for a bigger one? That creates anxiety, and anxiety breeds mistakes. But as long as they’ve got losses, and never have to decide, they can sit back
comfortably and dream instead.”
“Through the entire market cycle lurks the fear of finalizing the deed, of taking it from dream to reality by selling. By not selling, by tightly holding on to his stocks, the investor never has to face reality.”
Yet, “selling” seemed to be on the market’s mind late last week punctuated by Friday’s Dow Dive of ~275 points. Said decline left the senior index down 8.74% from its May 1st closing high (13279.32) into Friday’s close (12118.57). While not all that big of a decline, it brought back memories of the past two years’ May – July corrections of 17% and 20%, respectively. Yet, investors should
keep in mind that since 1928 there have been 294 pullbacks of 5% or more. Ninety four of them have been moderate (>10%), 43 have been severe (>15%) and 25 have been bear markets (>20%). What is interesting to me is that since last October 4th’s “undercut low” the chant from most investors has been, “We want a pullback to become more fully invested.” Now that we have the pullback everyone is in panic mode (again). To borrow a line from George Bernard Shaw – There are two tragedies in life; one is not to get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it! The “heart’s desire” for the bulls since last October has been the fact the markets have ignored all of the bad news. Verily, the senior index has turned a deaf ear to the worsening Euroquake situation, Iran, softening economic trends, deflationary dives in commodities, etc. Of course that “deaf ear” stance has changed over the past four weeks.
Indeed, the Dow’s decline is now 22 sessions long. Such “selling stampedes” typically last 17 – 25 sessions before they exhaust themselves; it just seems to be the rhythm of the thing. This has been my observation over the years in that it takes this long to get participants bearish enough to finally panic and throw in the towel by selling their stocks. While it is true some stampedes have lasted more than 25 sessions, it is rare to have one run more than 30 sessions. Today is session 23 on the downside. Obviously Friday’s Fade took out my failsafe point of 1290 on the S&P 500 (SPX/1278.04), leaving the DJIA (INDU/12118.57), the S&P 500, and the NASDAQ Composite (COMP/2747.48) all below their respective 200-day moving averages (DMAs). The bears will be quick to
point out this is what happened right before the crashes of 1929 and 1987. However, the bullish argument is that over the past 20 years a break below the 200-DMA by the SPX, after it has stayed above it for three months, has typically led to a rally. Also worth noting is the decline has left most of the oversold indicators I rely on pretty oversold. Nevertheless, I told “callers” on Friday that
when markets get into one of these selling squalls they rarely bottom on a Friday. What tends to happen is participants go home and brood about their losses over the weekend and “show up” on Monday in selling mode, which often leads to “turning Tuesday” (read: recoil rebound). Accordingly, the SPX needs to quickly recapture 1290, and stay above that level, if a rally is to commence.
On the other hand, if the SPX merely bounces back up to 1290, and then falls sharply back, I would view that as a bearish sign requiring more downside hedging and/or the raising of some more cash. Fortunately, we recommended raising cash in February – April. Unfortunately, we recommended judiciously putting some of the cash back to work (but not much of it) into somewhat more
defensive names like 3.8%-yielding Rayonier (RYN/$42.18), which has a Strong Buy rating from our fundamental analyst.
While Euroquake has been on center stage for weeks, Friday’s shockingly weak employment report brought the focus back to the economy and jobs. The 69,000 private sector payroll growth figure was well below the estimate of 150,000 and just to add pain to injury the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2% from 8.1%. Still, investors should remember unadjusted private-sector payrolls have risen by 1.983 million over the trailing 12 months for roughly a 165,000 monthly average jobs gain. As our economist, Dr. Scott Brown, notes, “That’s not bad, but it is far short of what’s needed to make up ground lost during the economic downturn.” Now for weeks I have been discussing the weakening economic reports. That string of weakness continued last week given that of the 21 economic releases, 18 were weaker than expected, two were in line, and only one exceeded the estimate (that would be Continuing Claims). This softening trend could still just be a weather-related issue combined with skewed seasonal adjustments; the next few months will decide.
The call for this week: Friday was the first day of hurricane season here in Florida, yet the storm didn’t hit our beaches but rather blew onto the Street of Dreams with a 275-point “storm surge.” The media attributed Friday’s Flop entirely to the disappointing employment numbers, but the truth was the market was already headed down before the release of those numbers. And when the
SPX’s 1290 level was breached, the rout was on. The result left all of the indexes we monitor near their lows of the day and the three major market indices (INDU, SPX, COMP) below their respective 200-DMAs for the first time in about five months. The bears will be quick to point out this is what happened right before the crashes of 1929 and 1987. However, the bullish argument is that
over the past 20 years a break below the 200-DMA by the SPX, after it has stayed above it for three months, has typically led to a rally. And despite the break below my 1290 pivot point I can’t shake the feeling that all of this is just part of the bottoming process.
P.S. – I am on the road again this week seeing accounts and speaking at conferences.
Important Investor Disclosures
Raymond James & Associates (RJA) is a FINRA member firm and is responsible for the preparation and distribution of research created in the United States. Raymond James & Associates is located at The Raymond James Financial Center, 880 Carillon Parkway, St. Petersburg, FL 33716, (727) 567-1000. Non-U.S. affiliates, which are not FINRA member firms, include the following entities which are responsible for the creation and distribution of research in their respective areas; In Canada, Raymond James Ltd., Suite 2200, 925 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6C 3L2, (604) 659-8200; In Latin America, Raymond James Latin America, Ruta 8, km 17, 500, 91600 Montevideo,
Uruguay, 00598 2 518 2033; In Europe, Raymond James Euro Equities, SAS, 40, rue La Boetie, 75008, Paris, France, +33 1 45 61 64 90.
This document is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity that is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country, or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation. The securities discussed in this document may not be eligible for sale in some jurisdictions. This research is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security in any jurisdiction where such an offer or solicitation would be illegal. It does not
constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Past performance is not a guide to future performance, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of original capital may occur. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision.
Investing in securities of issuers organized outside of the U.S., including ADRs, may entail certain risks. The securities of non-U.S. issuers may
not be registered with, nor be subject to the reporting requirements of, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. There may be limited information available on such securities. Investors who have received this report may be prohibited in certain states or other jurisdictions from purchasing the securities mentioned in this report. Please ask your Financial Advisor for additional details. The information provided is as of the date above and subject to change, and it should not be deemed a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Certain information has been obtained from third-party sources we consider reliable, but we do not guarantee that such information is accurate or complete. Persons within the Raymond James family of companies may have information that is not available to the contributors of the information contained in this publication. Raymond James, including affiliates and employees, may execute transactions in the securities listed in this publication that may not be consistent with the ratings appearing in this publication. Additional information is available on request.
Registration of Non-U.S. Analysts: The analysts listed on the front of this report who are not employees of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., are not registered/qualified as research analysts under FINRA rules, are not associated persons of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., and are not subject to NASD Rule 2711 and NYSE Rule 472 restrictions on communications with covered companies, public companies, and trading securities held by a research analyst account. Analyst Holdings and Compensation: Equity analysts and their staffs at Raymond James are compensated based on a salary and bonus system. Several factors enter into the bonus determination including quality and performance of research product, the analyst's success in rating stocks versus an industry index, and support effectiveness to trading and the retail and institutional sales forces. Other factors may include but are not limited to: overall ratings from internal (other than investment banking) or external parties and the general
productivity and revenue generated in covered stocks.
The views expressed in this report accurately reflect the personal views of the analyst(s) covering the subject securities. No part of said person's compensation was, is, or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendations or views contained in this research report. In addition, said analyst has not received compensation from any subject company in the last 12 months.
(c) Raymond James