Editor's Note: Jon D. Markman writes a weekly column for CNBC on MSN Money that is republished here on TheStreet.com. First they assassinate the generals. Then the colonels. Then they lure the captains and foot patrols into a trap and slaughter them en masse. And finally, they grab some pretzels, pop open a beer and light a cigarette. No, that's not a secret Pentagon war plan. It's the typical game plan for a "secular," or long-term, bear market -- which is what a lot of prominent market forecasters believe we have been experiencing, off and on, since 2000. With the broad market averages at four-year highs, this might seem like a very odd time to bring it up. But in the interest of public-service financial journalism, I feel obligated to let you know -- during the week that marks the six-year anniversary of Nasdaq 5000 -- that this view is advancing in popularity among much of the Wall Street intelligentsia. When you are laying out your investment game plan for the year, it helps to know what your enemy may be thinking -- or how you should act if you happen to share their views. And right now, they're shunning growth companies and sticking to the safe stocks of foodmakers, brewers and tobacco companies.
A Discriminating Bull
Did I say enemy? It's an unfortunate fact of life that the stock market is not an "I'm OK, you're OK" kind of place. It is not a team sport. With a finite number of shares available at any given time, not counting derivatives, you can win only if someone else loses. If you want to win in the long term, you need to understand the schemes and dreams of your opponent. The first thing you need to know is that bears are crafty and lay out elaborate long-range plans. A key element of their approach was to knock off the 1982-2000 bull-market leadership, and then make believe it never happened.