Taking Advantage of Misleading Headlines

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) --Factual headlines are often misleading.

For example, a popular financial portal offered, "October consumer confidence weakest since March 2009." Most people might interpret this to mean that consumers aren't spending and/or won't be spending their money, resulting in less revenue for economically sensitive corporations.

However, actual consumer spending has been on the rise, 1.1% in September alone.

Equally important, Retail ETFs have reflected the actual spending data as opposed to the "confidence" data. The capital appreciation far surpasses the sector competition as well as the broader S&P 500 benchmark.

Simply put, headlines can wreak havoc on human emotions. Consider the market's late April peak. At that time, headlines tended to downplay Armageddon-like scenarios, while simultaneously talking about hiring as the last piece to the recovery puzzle. Bullish optimism outpaced bearish pessimism by 3 to 1 in the "Advisers Sentiment Survey."

Flash forward to October of 2011. Today you'll see headlines that include Europe's imminent doom as well as China's hard landing/bursting economic bubble. Not surprisingly, the same newsletter survey by Investors Intelligence currently has far more bearish pessimism than bullish optimism.

Indeed, the folks at Investors Intelligence will be the first to tell you that their survey is a "contrarian" indicator. It follows that a contrarian might look at 40% declines in China ETFs and consider some of the more favorable realities.

For instance, China's PMI is rising and inflation is moderating. Moreover, if GDP growth slows more than authorities prefer, they have ample room to loosen monetary policy and/or utilize a portion of vast cash reserves in a large-scale stimulus package. The likely result? ETFs like SPDR S&P China ( GXC) with a P/E near 9 would probably skyrocket.

It's not that the mainstream media intends to mislead investors. Yet the more pessimistic we feel, the more negative the headlines; in turn, the relentlesss nature of "bad news" tends to move folks from pessimism to abject fear.

Obviously, not everyone has Buffett-like wiggle room to "buy when others are fearful, sell when others are greedy." The Oracle of Omaha can afford to be wrong.

Nevertheless, if you're willing to use stop-limit loss orders to protect positions, rather than succumb to the latest Greek tragedy to hit the newswires, there are plenty of contrarian possibilities.

Consider Retail HOLDRs ( RTH) or SPDR Retail ( XRT) for continued consumer spending; recognize China's flexibility with an allocation to SPDR S&P China ( GXC) or an indirect investment via exporting powerhouses like iShares MSCI Australia Index Fund ( EWA) and iShares MSCI Malaysia Index Fund ( EWM).
Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a website that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial and/or its clients may hold positions in ETFs, mutual funds and investment assets mentioned. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert website. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert at the site.

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