A second-straight great day. Outstanding first-quarter earnings announcements. Good market breadth. Across-the-board buying of New Economy stocks at higher prices. A decent rally in Old Economy sectors like banks, brokerages, airlines and drugs. And a power move in the last 30 minutes that left the Dow up 184.91, or 1.8%, to 10,767.42 and the Nasdaq Comp up a stunning 254.36, or 7.2%, to 3793.52.
yesterday have been real confidence-boosters for investors. But what do they signify in the wake of last week's panicky drop?
The meaning may be that even in the short run, the long run matters. The economic and demographic and technological trends that have buoyed the market since 1982 are intact. It would be a mistake to think that they have vanished simply because of a market decline. The day will come when the news turns bad, but there is little evidence of that today. Fear ruled the markets last week, but it rarely does so for long if the economy is in fundamentally good shape. Markets may are manic-depressive in the short run but quite rational over the long haul.
It's easy to take for granted the powerful forces shaping today's investment landscape. They are so old-hat. But so important to keep in mind, according to
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
strategist Peter Canelo, who visited the
newsroom this morning. The bull market drivers, he said, include: healthy economic growth; subdued wage and price inflation; continued technological innovation; remarkable labor-productivity growth; a gradualist
Federal Reserve; a pro-business bent among politicians from the president on down; and the postwar baby boom entering its peak years of consumption. The dollar shows no sign of losing favor.
Canelo likes the market's prospects long-term. He foresees some near-term backing-and-filling for tech stocks if they get too far above today's levels. (That's almost inevitable, isn't it?) Later in the year, as earnings growth continues, he expects to see tech rally yet again. Canelo also says the recent move by some investors into the financials, drugs and retailers will keep on.
Tech investors are certainly hoping for the spate of good earnings announcements to put a floor under their stocks. They were sufficiently wounded last week to remember the pain. They are in no mood for more.
"I left the office at 3 o'clock last Friday," said one investor who oversees a $1 billion portfolio of largely tech stocks. "I wasn't going to buy. I wasn't going to sell. And I knew the market wasn't going to look good at the close." His portfolios lost about 25% of their value last week. His best fund now has a single-digit year-to-date return; in mid-March, it boasted a 46% gain.
Nonetheless, he, like Canelo, is confident that tech stocks with real earnings and real contracts will do well longer-term. He sees strong demand for chipmaking-equipment companies, PC makers and even mainframe companies.
Does that mean that we should all leap in and buy stocks because they have rallied back in the past two days? No, for the same reason that it did not make sense to unload all your stocks last week. For an investor, what matters are the fundamentals of the economy and of the stocks in the portfolio. The fundamentals did not materially change last week, nor have they in the past two days.