Last Tuesday's events in New York City and Washington, D.C., have caused so many emotions to bubble to the surface that most don't know which one is coming out in any given hour. There is pain, anger, helplessness and patriotism.
The most troubling emotion or reaction for the market is "after this, nothing else matters." That's a very dangerous feeling, because it is like the sound of the vacuum cleaner sucking you into the abyss. I certainly felt that way until yesterday, when a good friend who was also emotional looked at me and said "pain is inevitable; suffering the rest of your life is optional." That struck me as the truth. And while I will never forget what happened and will never be the same, I will not let it be a reason to give up on life.
The issue at hand surrounds the psychology and mourning process for the entire country, Wall Street included. This terrible act hit too close to home for those who buy and sell securities on a daily basis. It is not just the loss of family and friends that is dampening the spirit, but the experience of being there and seeing the tragedy with your very own eyes. These feelings and emotions are going to take a long time to heal -- and that will clearly have an impact on the financial markets. The only thing that helps ease the pain of such a tragedy is time, and one week clearly will not be enough.
Still, I have a job to do, and that involves helping investors wade through the emotions and news in the markets in order to make wise long-term investment decisions. No matter what you hear or read, no one has a clue as to what the next few weeks are going to bring. The market is going to have to deal with what President Bush called a new kind of war that is going to be long-term in nature. In addition, the economic impact of the terrorism is totally uncertain at this point. What took place in New York and D.C. is going to take an economic and psychological toll that makes an unclear situation look that much more uncertain.
That is the reason
I wrote in a column last week to say that making near-term emotional decisions is probably not a good idea. I would love to say that the market is going to respond to this tragedy with a patriotic fervor that takes us out of the bear market and swings us quickly into a bull market. But that is not reality. The positive side of fiscal stimulus injected into the system should ultimately provide a powerful economic recovery, but it will take time to overcome the psychological and emotional impact.
There is little doubt that at any point we can have a news-driven snap back in the markets. They are deeply oversold, and it was overdue even before last Tuesday. The problem with trying to trade based on that is the unpredictability of upcoming events. For example, let's say the Taliban government in Afghanistan turns over Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of planning the attacks. That would lead to a rally, because we got him. Then, two days or two weeks later, the U.S. could initiate a military strike on someone or some area that has supported terrorism. I don't know if any of this will happen, but my point is that volatility is going to make trading incredibly difficult and potentially very damaging.
From a longer-term perspective, we still don't know what the economic impact of this tragedy is and how long it is going to take to recover. As most of you know, I rely on historical precedent in order to determine what the future may hold. There is no precedent here. We can only turn to the resolve of our government leaders to do the best thing for the American people and economy, and the resolve of our financial leaders to provide the stimulus needed to prevent an economic disaster and allow for a significant recovery down the road.
Unquestionably, I would be a buyer here, but with a caveat: I would buy quality companies because of the ultimate result of the fiscal stimulus and the American spirit, which cannot be held down -- not because we are oversold, stocks got blasted or bin Laden might get turned over. Like so many others on Wall Street, I have lost people close to me. My heart goes out to those who are so affected by this cowardly, faceless act and I will do my best to be there for you and them during these trying times. We always have responded well to adversity, and I expect nothing less this time.
Anthony F. Dwyer is the chief market strategist of Kirlin Holding Corp. and managing director and chief market strategist of Kirlin Securities, its wholly owned broker-dealer subsidiary. Before joining Kirlin, he served as director of research and chief market strategist of Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. At time of publication, Dwyer had no positions in any of the securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. He welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to