On Wednesday we learned that short interest is now at an eight-year high, levels not seen since 2008. It should not come as a surprise. After a meteoric bounce from the lows of early February, stocks seem due for a breather. After all, this whole market is being propped up by the Federal Reserve right?
That appears to be the consensus view at this point. Some great calamity lies ahead thanks to Central Bank shenanigans here and abroad.
Can I propose something else? Everything will work out just fine. Catch your breath. Allow me to explain.
I am not an expert on monetary policy. Unlike most, I am of the belief that the people at the Federal Reserve are probably more suited to handle monetary policy then me -- call me crazy. That doesn't mean I have complete faith in the strategy that's being deployed. It just means I know certain things are beyond my control and even -- wait for it -- best left to others.
Any rational person would have to acknowledge that even if there is not a bubble in the stock market, other assets like, say, high-end real estate, art and even collectible cars seem to be getting a little silly. It's worth noting though that these three markets have at least shown signs of cooling, if not falling sharply as of late. I don't view this as bad.
Back to the market. It's entirely possible there will be a huge stock market bubble as a result of global monetary policy. If history tells us anything, it's that booms and busts cannot be avoided as much as we may try. But is this a boom? The economy is chugging along at a constant, albeit anemic pace. Hardly a boom. Euphoria in the equity markets also seems absent.
Many valuations which were stretched have already "crashed" to some extent. Think GoPro, FitBit and others. Yet, here we are just a few percentage points from an all-time high. Bonds appear overpriced unless compared to similar offerings in other markets. How long that can last is anyone's guess. That seems to leave cash as the only "safe" alternative, despite returning close to nothing.
So the smart money has decided to be short the market here, I guess. This in the face of how poorly "smart money" has performed over pretty much every meaningful time frame this century. Yet, we still seem to care what this cohort is up to.
I don't dismiss the concerns over Fed policy, largely because I recognize I have no idea how this will end. I am willing to at least acknowledge the possibility it will all be okay though, which puts me in the minority.
Currently, every pullback is met with, "This is it! The game is over! Sell everything!" Meanwhile, any recovery in prices is duly noted with disclaimers like "low volume" or "lack of participation" of any given sector. It's all a little ridiculous.
Market calls seem to come under the guise that everyone is 100% invested at all times. This is rarely the case in my experience and not recommended by any financial professional I have ever spoken to. Human nature leads us all to believe that we will "lose everything" if the market crashes 50%, when in fact you will still have 50% of what you had and a fantastic buying opportunity.
If you're willing to accept that something horrible can happen at any given time for any reason then you can spend more time thinking about what might actually go right. There are some actual real problems in the world after all, many would love to have market volatility at the top of their worry list.
Thursday we learned that Venezuela will declare every Friday in April and May a holiday simply over concerns they will not have enough power. Yes, Venezuela is worried it can't keep the lights on.
Meanwhile, in this country we've discovered so much energy that we crashed the largest commodity market in the world. By the way, companies can go out of business, the oil and gas reserves will not go back to "undiscovered." This would appear to be a much better problem to have then Venezuela's, but I digress.
One could also argue that if we could get an agreement on simple corporate tax reform and find a profitable way to export liquid natural gas, our economy could easily get back to the mythical 4% growth everyone craves, relatively easy. It may go even higher considering Japan and China's thirst for natural gas. (Go look at the prices they're paying over there.)
Admittedly, these are not simple tasks and simple people cannot solve them, which means we may have to wait until next election cycle to get them done. However, this scenario remains a possibility that few seem to want to recognize. Perhaps the market's resiliency at current levels is the first step to such a realization?
We seem to be in a not so virtuous loop of looking for greener pastures. It's human nature, but at a certain point someone should ask how beneficial that is to long-term financial goals.
If you're expecting the market to double in the next three years, I would bet you'll be very disappointed. But if you're trying to time an outsized market correction, I know you will be disappointed. Maybe it's time to consider that things may turn out just fine.