The guessing is over. You'll be happy to know that I have empirical and incontrovertible evidence that a psychological market bottom has been achieved.I have discovered the reliable indicator that market strategists have been seeking for so many months now.
Forget about all that technical and fundamental stuff. The answer won't be found in double-bottom chart formations, support and resistance levels, trendlines, interest rates or earnings reports. Forget about double-dip ice cream cone economies or new housing starts.
The answer won't be uncovered in shearing off the ethical fabric of the market complex. Between the threat of war and terrorism, we continue to find ourselves between Iraq and a hard place.
No, it's not the perp walks of narcissistic executives or the price of oil in Kuwait. It's not even a change in the psychology of making bad news look better. None of these things is the real tell signaling that we've marked the bottom.
What Is It Then?
The sign I'm going to reveal to you is far more powerful than any constellation of stars, Elliott Wave patterns, calendar cycles or mystical retracement percentages.
Here it is. Over the weekend, I was sitting at home writing when my doorbell rang. My home is surrounded by a fence, so I walked out to see who it was. Before me stood a 30-something woman dressed in a business suit. She smiled, offered her hand and introduced herself as Cynthia, a broker from the local A.G. Edwards office.
"You're what? A stockbroker?" I was initially stunned and couldn't believe I'd heard correctly.
Can I Get a Witness?
I was thinking maybe she was a Jehovah's Witness, using a cover as a broker to suck me into talking religion with her. I mean, this is the type of person usually ringing my doorbell without an appointment.
But no, she insisted she was really a broker with A.G. Edwards, and she had the literature to prove it. I gave a semi-pathetic smile, trying to hold back my amazement at what was taking place -- something I've never had happen in all my years of investing or being a homeowner.
"Excuse me?" I asked. "Are your telling me that brokerage houses are now canvassing neighborhoods, ringing doorbells and trying to solicit business? Is this what it's come down to? This must be the sign I've been waiting for. The miserable bear market has finally come to an end!"
Cynthia squirmed a bit and said: "Well, I don't know if I'd call it
. I just wanted to come by and introduce myself and discuss what I have to offer."
As I began to grasp that this was for real, I pressed the issue. "You wouldn't call it soliciting?" I asked. "What would you call it then?"
"Well, sir, A.G. Edwards has been doing this kind of reaching out to the public for many years." She smiled, like this was everyday stuff for her. Like, what's my problem? Don't I have brokers ringing my doorbell every week?
"They have?" I responded. "No broker has ever reached out before like this to me, coming through the neighborhood and knocking on doors. Usually they just send me an invitation for a free dinner seminar at a fancy restaurant."
I decided to lighten up the situation, so I went into my Gordon Gekko bit: "Well, Cynthia, it's nice to meet you. You know, I look at a hundred deals a day. I choose one. Now, you had what it took to find my address and ring my doorbell. The only question is whether you have what it takes to get into my house."
She broke out laughing. Then I told her she's got the wrong guy, that I've got Ollie the Terminator in my office who does all my trading. I tell her that I follow the market closely and that I write a column for
It didn't seem to ring a bell for her, but she asked for the name of my column and wrote it down. "Thanks," she said. "I enjoyed meeting you. You're amusing."
That's the sign. Cynthia is the tell we've been waiting for -- the young brokers leave their offices and go through the neighborhoods. When brokerage houses are so hungry for the return of the battered retail investor that they're forced to take this drastic step, we've hit the psychological bottom.
In case you're wondering, this story is true.
Steven J. Hendlin, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Irvine, Calif. He has been in private practice for the last 26 years, investing for the last 20 years, and actively trading online as a position trader and long-term investor since 1996. He is the author of
The Disciplined Online Investor and maintains a site at www.hendlin.net. He is pleased to receive your comments and questions for publication in his public forum columns at
email@example.com, but please remember that he is unable to provide personal counseling or psychotherapy through the mail.
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