The bottom line is that most should err on the side of conservatism: Keep trading and investment positions smaller than usual, keep plenty of cash reserves so that you can be opportunistic, and, above all, consider loss of capital above return on capital.
Karen Finerman said that she doesn't have the temerity to trade; she invests similar to most money managers. So what does an investor do, abandon one's style?
I said you look for special situations, but in today's market they better be very special situations such as
(YHOO - Get Report)
Joe Terranova asked me whether I was impressed that stocks are holding in despite the leap in energy prices. I responded by saying that last week Wall Street strategists universally came to the conclusion that the economy will be unaffected until oil moves to $125 a barrel or higher.
My view on oil and the economy is different than most market participants'. Given
issues, the sharp move lower in home prices over the last three years, higher marginal tax rates implemented by our cities and states as well as the deflating impact of municipal austerity measures, I believe that it will grow clearer that the economic tipping point and demand destruction will be far lower prices of oil. That uncertainty will also weigh on stocks, investor confidence and consumer spending.
Melissa concluded by asking me: In a trendless market, is there upside or downside risk?
My answer is that the S&P 500 will be roughly flat for the year, with some short-term downside bias.
The final question she asked was to name one new special investment situation. I offered
, a reinsurance company whose shares have recently been hit by greater-than-expected catastrophic losses (earthquakes and floods). Its shares are selling at about 85% of book, and the company has embarked upon an aggressive capital strategy of repurchasing stock. In light of bad industry experience, insurance pricing is starting to turn up. Platinum Underwriters has retired a good deal of stock over the last three years and recently accelerated its buyback program. Essentially, the company is slowly taking itself private.
Let's go to the tapes.
Doug Kass writes daily for
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