If you are a serious investor, your biggest question has been or will be, “When will this present bull market come to its end?” Over the decades, I have talked to hundreds of people who have had experiences and results from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Most folks in the universe undoubtedly practice the buy-and-hold approach. In this method, one is to buy a selection of diversified mutual funds or other investments according to his or her risk tolerance and hold on to them (sometimes for dear life!), no matter what develops in the markets or how wretched the financial weather.
The primary problem with this approach is that a large group of people create the absolute bottom of the cycle based upon psychology – fear, to be specific. When the greatest number of investors can no longer stand losing another dollar of value, they sell in lemming-like fashion, causing another drop in values.
When everyone who is the slightest bit tempted to sell has sold – usually everything they have – Mr. Market reverses course and the buyers take over. This sends prices upward in their usual ratcheting, bullish trend. Something like two or three steps upward, one step down.
The last time this occurred was in the December 2015 to February 2016 period. It so happens that this was the sharpest drop in about three weeks in history. Fortunately, the economy was such that the drop from the prior May to the February low of about 14 percent shook out enough sellers, the bulls’ regained control and went on their merry ways.
Prior to this, the squabble between President Obama and Congress touched off a frightening fall in stock values between May and October 2011. Even this was said to be insufficient to define an end to the bull market that began on March 9, 2009, when the insane mark-to-market accounting rule was finally lifted. A bear market is defined as one in which index prices drop by at least 20 percent.
The buy-and-hold proponents tell us that unless one knows the exact day in the cycle to sell out, there is absolutely no good way to manage your money otherwise. In fact, one of my friends in the business with that group told me in no uncertain terms that providing better results by adjusting with the conditions is impossible. If we were getting those results, it was by sheer luck!
Au contraire, I protest. There is a small but mighty and vocal minority of the world’s professional investment community admitting to the use of technical analysis to try to determine the relative health and direction of Mr. Market in his wanderings.
Why is it such a minority? In my opinion, this is primarily because the last thing investment companies want is more volatility in their level of assets and, therefore, their revenue. But when those brutal drops occur, they experience that anyway. Plus, it is more difficult a task for any advisers who would dare to take some responsibility for a clients’ results.
Next time, I will discuss some of the indicators one can use in the process of answering that aforementioned question: When will the good stock market times stop rolling?
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)
Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at email@example.com.