NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For the last 25 years while I've watched the stock market, most of the time when it was rising (or was just about to rise a lot), people were worried. Last year there was plenty of talk about Wall Street's "Wall of Worry" as the market rose, but as we rallied from the recent lows of this correction nobody has mentioned it.
You'd think since we did cross above the 200-day moving average on the upside that somebody would have at least asked the question, "Is what we have today the beginning of a wall of worry?"
Instead over the past two months we've come close to repeatedly jumping out the proverbial window on huge fears moving from one issue to the next almost weekly, only to find whatever we worried about last week wasn't actually worth jumping out a window over. Not to worry because we have since forgotten last week's issue and have something new to worry you about. Usually good for media ratings, traders and those long volatility, but few others.
In fact other than a few lousy (but not horrible) economic reports mixed in with some just fine economic numbers (and some great BRIC numbers), the only reality we've seen behind any of the things we've worried about is the
Gulf oil spill and a
flash crash lasting minutes.
If you recall, by now we were supposed to have a European Lehman. Greece, Portugal and Spain were supposed to bring down the world's economy. Even though Europe's been around forever it was going to implode and fall off the edge of the earth. The euro was supposed to go to parity with the dollar. China's supposed housing bubble was going to pop and China's growth was supposed to slow too much. Even poor Hungary came to the forefront again as it did in 2008.
We worried about a lousy jobs report even though we have a 20% chance of having a lousy report each month in a bull market. We over fretted about a lousy retail sales number that was largely predicted by analysts. Today we're worrying about housing numbers that should have been predicted (more on that later). We've worried about so many things now which have had very little in the way of teeth, that I'm sure I'm missing some of them.
Yes the Gulf oil spill is horrible. It's terrible for the region and has caused immense pain for many. Of all the things we've worried about, it's the only really terrible thing that's happened. But there's no reason the world's economy should double dip over it, or a few mediocre economic reports. Likewise, just because the stock market's functionality is both broken and at the same time the market has lost many of the protections we had in place which undermines investor confidence, it's also no reason to predict an impending bear market. The crash of 1987 didn't cause an economic recession and it was twice the magnitude of the flash crash. (The market rose after the 1987 crash).
This week apparently we have a new thing to worry about. Double dip in the
housing market . As if we should be surprised by some lousy numbers here. The government removed its artificial stimulus to buy. Some apparently were surprised by the decline. Go figure.
Maybe they forgot the market's down. Think a 14%
correction (not to mention the long list of things we've been worrying about) might make home buyers pause? A 14% correction is rare and enough to make any buyer of anything question what they're doing. If you believe those you hear on TV who benefit by increased volatility, you'd think we have a 10% correction a couple times a year. NOPE!!! Since the Great Depression there have only been 19 corrections more than 10%, but less than 20% (which we call a bear market). The median only fell 12%. This correction is especially unique in that it came just after an 8-9% correction in January-February. Unless this correction turns out to be a bear (which is not justified by this economic data), it has made the infamous top ten list of worst corrections since the Great Depression.
(Don't believe the manic push by those who benefit from increased volatility at your expense. Fight it. Go to the
's petition to bring back the uptick rule. It takes 10 seconds to make a difference. Weigh in with the SEC by showing your support.)
We had a 14% correction without any bad economic data to back it up. The facts support it. As I write the IMF is increasing their global growth forecast for 2010 to 4.2%. For example, take the supposedly horrible jobs number which is probably the most important report of all. Not very bad by historic standards. In the 12 bull market years since 1994 there were seven negative jobs reports that averaged a loss of about 100,000 jobs.
During those same years there were another dozen or so reports that were positive but worse than the one we had. So in those 12 years, about 18 jobs reports that were on average much, much worse than the one we had, but only three stock market corrections of 10% or more. Really kind of makes you wonder how far we'd have fallen if we actually had a negative jobs report. Don't laugh. History suggests we have a better than 50% chance of having a negative jobs report in the average bull market year but only a 25%-30% chance of a 10%+ correction. This report was at least positive. Worried about the most recent housing data... hey housing prices didn't fall.
We're now in a manic state because we had a 14% correction, even though most of that 14% happened courtesy of a data entry error/flash crash. With that and the myriad of worries we've heard about since, are you surprised that home buyers in May paused or were anxious? Wouldn't you be anxious if you were buying a home? Here we see the very real cost of artificially high volatility. It causes buyers of all assets to freeze and interferes with real progress. Not to worry. Those buyers still want a home and more demand builds as time goes on.
All this talk of a double dip in the housing market leads some to imply that if housing weakens we will have a double dip recession. Silly because we've had housing weakness for a while now. For all the double dip talk it's amazing to me that nobody has mentioned that at 1086 the S&P 500 is still 30% below its bull market highs. At the 1040 lows we were 33% below the market's previous high. Many bear market's/recessions didn't see the S&P 500 fall 33%. (And the last market's high wasn't much higher than the 2000 high). We're still down far enough that it's as if we are at a market low for a moderate to normal bear market/recession. It's as if we've been in a constant state of double dip market pricing the entire year.
When it comes to Wall Street's manic behavior, you'd think exceptionally strong growth in the BRIC nations would count for something? (Incredibly strong BRIC growth will keep the worldwide economy growing nicely.) Should low inflation count for something? Strong corporate balance sheets? A steep yield curve? Incredibly low interest rates? Friendly monetary policy worldwide? A trillion in new liquidity in Europe? A relatively cheap S&P 500 that's throwing off a lot of cash? China signaling they'll play ball and devalue their currency which will push some of their growth to the developed world?
How about the fact that we survived the second worst recession since the Great Depression? Nope just a never ending manic wall of worry. It's the most encouraging thing I've seen yet. It's what happens before the market rises. It's a sign that sellers have sold and compressed multiples.
Both corrections and risk grinds tend to last about two months. The median of the 19 corrections since the Great Depression was 54 days. We're now at day 60. The thing that strikes me about this correction is the speed with which we got to down 14% courtesy of the flash crash. That provided a lot of time for those who needed to sell or wanted to sell to do so. It also gave us an excuse to test and retest and re-retest and think about retesting.
We can't know if what we have today is the beginning of a new "Wall of Worry," but it's sure starting to feel like it. Whenever it does come, it's likely that by the time we start to regularly hear the words "Wall of Worry" in the media, half to two-thirds of the gains of the stock market's next big move up will be behind us.
Here are some stocks that are a long term steal as a result of the correction and volatility. I've bought all of these stocks during this correction and will likely buy more over the next month. All have huge long term upside if you can hold them for two to four years.
is one of the leaders in cranes which the growing part of the world will need to grow. It's been unfairly beaten up for its moderate Europe exposure and cyclical nature, which is more than priced in. Every time I buy it I remind myself that I'm rewarding management for the good job they've done lowering costs and repaying debt.
( PCX). I started buying this Tuesday; gotta love it when a stock falls almost $3 for an old mine closure that was expected next year anyway, and that will cost the company maybe 50 cents and maybe much less if they can shift production as they plan.
is selling at giveaway prices and its biggest problem isn't the housing market but what to do with its cash. It's the best way to play China in my opinion. With cheap housing and rapidly rising incomes, there is no China housing bubble, only a great investment opportunity. See my
article on E-House from last month.
(IVAC). $5 per share in cash and investments, $1.50 in cash generation by the end of August from signed backlog, another 1.50 in tangible book beyond cash. Stock at $12 and just shipped their first solar tool that can easily double existing sales... which will benefit from a coming industry upgrade. See my
article on Intevac from last April.
Bank of America
. Large-cap that should go up 3x+ during this bull market.
At the time of publication, Clay Fisher owned MTW, PCX, EJ, IVAC and BAC.