Third, new highs are validators of the asset class. We have seen high-frequency trading and flash crashes and weak and conflicting policies by the government for saving with stocks, many of the issues so poignantly described in the editorial "Why Individual Investors Are Fleeing Stocks," by Charles Schwab. The points are very well taken and I congratulate Schwab for advocating the position of the individual investor quite well. No one else seems to be doing it and that means there's been no pressure on the SEC do to the right thing by the individual investor only by the well-heeled and powerful institutional investors, who often favor reckless innovation and a two-tiered market like the one CNBC's Eamon Javers is exposing with Pulitzer-like precision. Javers' reporting is about how some high-frequency traders are allowed to legally inside trade. Now, I know Schwab has a vested interest as his brokerage caters to individual investors. But others should have that interest at heart and have voided it on the altar of higher profits from richer institutions, even as individual investors were the bedrock of capitalism and should be returned to their rightful place.
I am hoping that these new highs show that the market, as treacherous as it is, can still be regarded as a legitimate asset class for your important, hard-earned dollars.
Why does that matter? Because of the fourth point. The other asset classes are transparently wrong now. The bond funds so many sought refuge in have crushed people after a violent, but small, move in interest rates, at least in the long-term scheme of things. I like gold, specifically gold coins. But that's insurance against stocks, not an investment in its own realm. I like real estate. But the decision for real estate is simply to buy a home or not. I would tell you that despite the rapid decline in affordability for homes, a combination of higher interest rates and higher home prices, the bottom's been missed. But stocks, quite simply, are where the action is.
All-time highs put the market back on the front page. They show that stocks have a pulse. That they are viable. That they can win for you. New records are the brief for the asset class and the brief is a good one.Now remember tactics vs. strategy. The market is overbought and historically has not been able to sustain these recent gains without turmoil and a pullback. The market is hostage to interest rates staying stable. But the market is not hostage to wholesale destruction of capitalism as we know it as it was four years ago. We have weathered bank failures, high unemployment, European recessions, a vicious Chinese slowdown and, most recently, the collapse of the emerging markets as well as endless scandals and we've still been able to hit new highs. And while the cynical among us will say that it's too late and that anyone who comes in now is a sucker, stocks aren't so expensive that we can't maneuver tactically to gains when individual stocks get hit. To me, it's quite simply the verification -- not the kind you need if you read or watch me because I have liked the market ever since the systemic risk was removed -- that others need to come back in. Clearly the easy money has been made, but there's plenty of harder money to go around and the all-time highs say they are still possible and still ahead of us.