Why Stocks Could Keep Going Higher In 2014

December 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm  ·  Category: Federal Reserve, History, Market Commentary, Stocks, Top Gun Financial Planning

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

I have finally come around to the view that the path of least resistance for stocks is higher.

The first and most important reason is that the Fed and global central banks remain highly accommodative.  The much feared Fed taper finally occurred two weeks ago – and stocks rocketed higher!  One reason could be that despite the taper the Fed will continue to buy $75 bil securities a month or $900 bil/year.

Second, earnings are strong and corporations are in excellent financial condition.  Consider Allergan (AGN), a stock I recently looked at, for example.  Allergan is best known for Botox, Restasis and breast implants but the biggest part of their business is eye care products.  The company is growing the top line around 10% and the bottom line around 15%.  They have $3 bil in cash and short term investments on their balance sheet.  As long as the economy doesn’t experience any significant shocks, Allergan should continue to churn out solid results.

Third, the technicals are extremely strong and sentiment is becoming increasingly bullish.  Investors are becoming more and more comfortable and confident in stocks and that should add fuel to the fire in the early part of next year.

I do, however, have a number of concerns.  The first is the length and maturity of the current bull market.  As I wrote in early November (“Bull Markets Don’t Last Forever”), at 5 years old we are approaching the time when all but the most vigorous bull markets tend to exhaust themselves.  The good times won’t last forever and we should be prepared to turn more cautious when the time is right.

Second, valuations are expensive in my opinion.  Many people say the overall market is not expensive at 15 or 16 times earnings.  But that is based on optimistic forward earnings estimates.  Those multiples are based on forecasts, not real earnings.  Using trailing earnings, the multiple on the S&P is approaching 20.  For example, Allergan’s trailing P/E multiple is 24.

Weighing it all together, I do think we will continue to see gains in the first half of 2014.  S&P 2000 is a reasonable target. 

However, that doesn’t mean I think you should run out and buy stocks first thing Monday.  We have had an excellent run this month and stocks are overextended in the short term.  A January correction would be a nice opportunity to pick up positions for what could be a strong final leg higher in an epic bull market.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

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Bull Markets Don’t Last Forever

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

A number of factors have coalesced in recent weeks that merit attention.

First, consider the overall context.  We are now almost 5 years into one of the greatest bull markets in history.  Bull markets don’t last forever.  According to Jim Stack of Investech, the average bull market since 1932 lasts 3.8 years.  Odds are that we are in the later stages of this one.

Second, some of the leading stocks are starting to roll over.  Consider Tesla (TSLA), LinkedIn (LNKD) and Facebook (FB).  Each of these stocks has been monsters this year, minting money for shareholders.  However, 3rd quarter earnings from all three were met with selling.  High flier Tesla has lost almost 25% since reporting earnings Tuesday.  The reaction to Facebook’s spectacular quarter was disappointing.

Third, Twitter (TWTR) stock has been heavy in the wake of its highly anticipated IPO.  It closed at $41.72 on Friday – well below its $45.10 open on Thursday morning.  This may be another tell that momentum is waning.

Fourth, last week’s Fed Decision was met with a sell the news reaction.  The Fed elected to continue its current pace of Quantitative Easing (QE) – which is what the market wants – but stocks have been weak since that announcement two Wednesdays ago at 2pm EST.

Finally, Thursday’s selloff was broad and deep with NYSE Composite Volume over 4 billion shares for the first time in quite a while.  It is worth noting that this took place on the day of Twitter’s IPO.  A follow through day of heavy selling in the next week or so would further confirm the beginning of at least a correction.

In sum, most of the news has been good in recent weeks, but stocks have reacted poorly suggesting that it may all be priced in at this point.  If an accommodative Fed, solid earnings and a blockbuster IPO can’t propel this market higher, what will?

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA

(916) 224-0113

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A New Investment Classic

Most investment books aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  Authors who have never experienced real investment success espouse the conventional wisdom: index funds, blue chips, buy and hold, etc…

Every once in a while, however, there is a true gem: Reminisces Of A Stock Operator, My Story by Bernard Baruch, How To Make Money In Stocks by William O’Neil, No Bull by Michael Steinhardt, Beat The Street and One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch, the Stock Market Wizards series by Jack Schwager.  It’s no coincidence that all were written by or about investors with extraordinary track records.  How can we expect to learn extraordinary performance except from those who have actually achieved it?

Add another to the list of investment classics: Trade Like a Stock Market Wizard by Mark Minervini.  Minervini is one of the greatest independent traders of our generation.  Starting with nothing, he made himself a multimillionaire through trading alone by the time he was 34 years old.  In a five and a half year period starting in mid-1994, Minervini achieved a 220% annual compounded return, including winning the US Investment Championship in 1997.  This is someone whose track record speaks for itself.

More than a decade ago, in an interview with Jack Schwager for one of his Stock Market Wizards books, Minervini summed up his investment philosophy: “My basic philosophy is: Expose your portfolio to the best stocks the market has to offer and cut your losses very quickly when you’re wrong. That one sentence essentially describes my strategy.”  Trade Like a Stock Market Wizard is an extended explication of what that actually means.

This isn’t a get rich quick book.  Minervini begins by explaining that learning how to trade in the stock market requires a lengthy education.  In his case, it took 6 years of losing before he put it all together: “When I began trading in the early 1980s, I endured a six-year period when I didn’t make any money in stocks. In fact, I had a net loss” (pg. 5).

In Chapter 4, “Value Comes At A Price”, Minervini contradicts the conventional wisdom about buying stocks with a low P/E.  According to him, in fact, many of the best performing stocks actually sport high P/E ratios: “Most of the best growth stocks seldom trade at a low P/E ratio.  In fact, many of the biggest winning stocks in history traded at more than 30 or 40 times earnings before they experienced their largest advance….. The really exciting, fast growing companies with big potential are not going to be found in the bargain bin. You don’t find top notch merchandise at the dollar store” (pg. 44).  Summing up, Minervini concludes: “My suggestion is to forget this metric [P/E ratio] and seek out companies with the greatest potential for earnings growth” (pg. 54).

In Chapter 5, “Trading With The Trend”, Minervini hammers home the primary role technicals play in his stock selection: “When I am screening for superperformance stocks, my initial filter is rooted in strict qualifying criteria that are based purely on a stock’s technical action and is designed to align my purchase with the prevailing primary trend…. Simply put, no matter how good a company looks fundamentally, certain technical standards must be met for it to qualify as a buy candidate” (pg. 63).  Amplifying this point later in the chapter he writes: “To compound your capital rapidly, you must be where the action is; you can’t afford to have your money tied up in a stock waiting for what you think is a great fundamental story to get noticed by the rest of the world” (pg. 83).

It’s worth pointing out that this runs contrary to the practice of many great value investors who seek out stocks that are undervalued and misunderstood by the market.  They get in early and make their money when the market comes around to their point of view.  Unlike Minervini, they are willing to wait when they have conviction in their fundamental analysis.

In Chapter 7, “Fundamentals To Focus On”, Minervini tells you what he’s looking for fundamentally: “[Superperformance stocks] are going strong because of a powerful force behind them: growth – real growth – in earnings and sales” (pg. 118).  Later in the chapter: “Really successful companies generally report earnings increases of 30 to 40 percent or more during their superperformance phase” (pg. 127).

Chapter 9, “Follow The Leaders”, sums up the kind of stocks Minervini likes: “I made 99 percent of my profits in the stock market by trading the leading names” (pg. 161).  As far as timing: “More than 90 percent of superperformance stocks emerge from bear markets and general market corrections” (pg. 164).  In other words, the big money is made buying the leading stocks that emerge first from nasty bear markets.  For example, think about hedge fund manager David Tepper who made billions buying the financials coming out of the 2007-09 bear market.

Trade Like a Stock Market Wizard is a great book by a great trader.  For those of us interested in the market, it’s one we can’t afford not to read.

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Some Reasons For Caution

August 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm  ·  Category: Federal Reserve, Interest Rates, Seasonality, Stocks, Top Gun Financial Planning

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

A variety of considerations are beginning to coalesce into the strongest bear case on the stock market all year.

Even bulls concede that easy money from the Federal Reserve, and other central banks around the world, have been a primary driver of stock market returns the last few years.  But the Fed may be poised to pull back as soon as their September meeting.

A vigorous debate is shaping up in financial markets over the prospect of tapering.  Last week’s strong weekly jobless claims are another data point in favor of tapering.  “The notion of the Fed starting to taper after the September meeting is becoming pretty well founded,” Brad McMillian, Chief Investment Officer at Commonwealth Financial Network told Barron’s.

Also concerning are weak earnings from two bellwether companies last week which played an instrumental role in Thursday’s selloff.  Cisco (CSCO) gave a weak forecast and announced significant layoffs Wednesday afternoon.  Thursday morning, Walmart (WMT) lowered its full year sales growth forecast to 2-3% from 5-6%.  These are big, connected companies whose results provide a window into the overall economy.

Third is the peril of rising interest rates.  The yield on the 10 year treasury has soared from around 1.6% to over 2.8% in the last 3 months.  That is deadly for interest rate sensitive industries like housing and contractionary for the overall economy.

Finally, seasonality is turning negative.  August is traditionally a slow month as many on Wall Street take their summer vacation.  However, as Summer turns into Fall, September and October are notorious bad months for stocks.

In recent Client Notes, I have written about how I have been too bearish on stocks during the last few years.  However, turning overly bullish at this stage of the game would be exactly the opposite mistake.  These are the warning signs that the easy gains of the first part of the year may be a thing of the past.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA

(916) 224-0113

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The Loser’s Strategy

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

Soros told me once that he lost more money selling short than on any other speculative activity. My experience is similar. The advice that comes down the pike from authors of stock market doom books – that individual investors should sell short – is a ticket to the poorhouse.
- Victor Niederhoffer, The Education of a Speculator, p. 46

The last few investment years have been difficult ones for me.  When I started my business in 2006, my goal was to take advantage of a housing bubble which I believed would implode and drag the entire economy down with it.  It didn’t take long for me to be proven right and the first few years of managing money were successful ones.

Starting in 2009, however, I began to find myself on the wrong side of a runaway bull market.  Fighting this bull market has been an expensive lesson for me and my clients.  A review of my trading history shows that the costliest mistake has been trying to short the market.  I estimate that shorting has cost us about 5% annually over the last 4 years.  Missing out on the windfall profits would have been painful enough.  Compounding the error by betting against the market only made things worse.

In his eclectic memoir The Education of a Speculator, Victor Niederhoffer tells the story of his grandfather Martin.  Martin was wiped out during the stock market crashes in The Great Depression and the experience left deep scars.  From then on, whenever stocks rose Martin was quick to short them in expectation that the next crash was just around the corner.  Unfortunately for him, the 1950s was a decade more similar to the 1990s than the 1930s: “My grandfather Martin lived through a thousand financial deaths during the stock market rise as he shorted the hades out of each rally, waiting for the 1930 crashes to reemerge” (p. 45).

Later in his book, Niederhoffer explains why shorting is a loser’s strategy: “The best reason for staying away from shorting stocks is the overriding 10% annual return for the past 200 years.  One way of seeing this is to dig up a long term chart of the stock market averages…  The overall impression is a continuous rise of some 100-fold over the past 100 years, with pauses in the 1930s and 1970s, and small downward blips in 1907, 1929 and 1987″ (p. 268).

We can add the 2000s to the 1930s and 1970s as another decade of lackluster stock market performance.  However, just because the stock market made no progress in those decades does not mean stock market investors lost money.  They just didn’t make money.  Conversely, shorts didn’t profit, either, unless their timing was precise.  Viewed from perspective of history, secular bear markets are pauses, not declines.  Previous gains are consolidated and a new base is formed from which further progress is made.

It is a cliché that we learn the most from our mistakes.  The last few years have left their mark on me but I believe an important lesson has been learned.  This doesn’t mean that I am turning wildly bullish 4 1/2 years into one of the greatest bull markets in history.  It does mean that going forward the bar for shorting will be much higher than it has been in the past.  Further, because the overall trend of history is up, the bar for shorting will also be much higher than the bar for being long.  A bearish view is best expressed by being in cash, not by being short.  “Any man who is a bear on the future of this country will go broke,” J.P. Morgan said in 1895.  Warren Buffett has been cashing checks on that proposition since 1956.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA

(916) 224-0113

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No Man’s Land

June 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm  ·  Category: Federal Reserve, Market Commentary, Top Gun Financial Planning

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

In my last Client Note, “Get Ready For New Highs”, I wrote:

The key event on the calendar is the next Fed decision on Wednesday, June 19.  If the Fed strikes a hawkish note, all bets are off.  However, should they refrain from suggesting imminent tapering that may well give the market license for a scorching summer rally.

To the surprise of most market participants, the Fed did indeed strike a hawkish tone and suggest imminent tapering which could begin as soon as September.  In response, the market experienced the worst selling of the year.  At Monday morning’s lows around 1560, the S&P was 127 points (7.5%) off its May 22 intraday high.

In tennis, no man’s land is the uncomfortable area between the service line and the baseline where a player cannot easily hit a volley or ground stroke.  Players in this situation are like a fish out of water or Rafael Nadal in the early rounds of Wimbledon.   As a result of the Fed’s intention to taper and the resulting technical damage, the market now strikes me as being in no man’s land.

“When the facts change, I change my mind” said J.M. Keynes. The incredible rally over the last 7 months, spurred by massive injections of liquidity by the Fed, has been undermined.  It is hard to envision the market making new highs if the Fed does in fact taper.  On the other hand, they are just talking at this point.  By the time September rolls around, things may look very different and the Fed may be singing a different tune.

For my part, I have liquidated most of our trading positions and raised cash.  I am holding on to our core long term positions, both long and short, but I am waiting for more clarity before further defining our portfolios for the short and intermediate term.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

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Get Ready For New Highs

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

A month ago in “How To Play A Stock Market Bubble” (May 12), I laid out a framework which has guided my trading since.  I made the distinction between a sustainable bull market and a bubble and argued that we may be in the latter.  I then outlined some ground rules for conservatively profiting from a bubble and some specific plays for doing so.

Over the last two weeks, a correction has given us the entry I’ve been waiting for.  The catalyst was testimony by Fed Chair Bernanke which raised concerns about “tapering” on May 22.  “Tapering” means a decrease from the $85 bil/month stimulus the Fed is now injecting into financial markets.  These concerns led to a two week, 5% correction.  However, a successful test of 1600 and the 50 DMA on Thursday has reignited animal spirits.

In addition, two “Goldilocks” numbers from important economic reports last week suggest the Fed may not be ready to taper just yet.  The May ISM Manufacturing Survey came in at 49 while the May Jobs Report showed the economy adding 175,000 jobs.  Both of these numbers suggest tepid growth in which the economy is muddling along but not strong enough for the Fed to pull back.  That is what is meant by the term “Goldilocks”.

The key event on the calendar is the next Fed Decision on Wednesday June 19.  If the Fed doesn’t signal imminent tapering, that could be just the license the market needs for a summer rally to new highs.

I continue to like the Wisdom Tree Japan Hedged ETF (DXJ) as the best way to play the bubble.  That’s because while there are now concerns about the Fed tapering, the BOJ is just getting started and its level of stimulus is proportionally much bigger.  This is a high beta play that promises to give us the most bang for our buck and a 22% correction over the last two weeks has provided the entry I’ve been waiting for.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

ENGAGE WITH ME ON SeekingAlpha AND FOLLOW ME ON Twitter!
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How To Play A Stock Market Bubble

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

In the last few weeks, I have become more and more persuaded that we are entering the bubble phase of the current bull market.  Investing in such an environment is tricky.  The opportunities for windfall profits are high – as are the risks of catastrophic losses.

In investing, it is crucial to distinguish between the market and the economy.  Too often people make the mistake of equating the two.  They assume that if the stock market is up, the economy must be good and vice versa.  Same thing for individual stocks.

However, the truth is that the market is its own world.  It is a world of perception dominated by professional investors trying to be one step ahead of their competition.  (For an excellent recent articulation of this position, see Josh Brown’s “My Edge And The Crossroads”, April 27).  In such an environment, the fundamentals often take a backseat to factors internal to the market itself.

That is why the market can continue to go higher despite all of the fundamental weakness I have been hammering home in recent Client Notes.  (Legendary hedge fund manager Seth Klarman took a similar tone in his latest note to investors (ZeroHedge)).  Indeed, the blowout move two Friday’s ago through S&P 1600 has convinced me the direction of least resistance continues to be higher despite all my fundamental reservations.  “Investors are convinced that central banks are in control and their actions support equity prices”, David Einhorn told his investors on a conference call.

As a result, I have arrived at a position where I am bullish on the stock market in the short term while continuing to be bearish longer term.  This is an act of mental acrobatics that requires balancing various considerations and time frames.

First we must distinguish between a bubble and a sustainable bull market.  A bubble is by definition an illusion while the latter is founded in fundamentals.  As a result, we have to be much more cautious about protecting our downside because bubbles pop.

Two ways to protect our downside while profiting from a bubble are through position sizing and time frame.  By reducing our position size and shortening our time frame, we reduce the risk of being fully exposed to a potential collapse.

Because investing in a bubble is speculative you should only do so with a small portion of your portfolio.  Somewhere in the range of 10%-20% strikes me as the right sizing.

Second, we should be willing to take profits and losses much more quickly.  Because a bubble is an inherently unstable environment that will eventually pop, instead of thinking in months and years we should think in days and weeks.

Specifically, 1600 seems to me to be important support (for example, see Larry McMillan in Steve Sears “The Smart Bull’s Guide To Riding This Rally”, Barrons.com, May 7).   We can trade against that and give the market the benefit of the doubt as long as it holds.

One of the important themes that should drive the next leg up is rotation.  Defensive stocks have driven the market so far this year (see “Market Internals: A Look Beneath The Surface”, Top Gun Financial, April 3).  Since the Jobs Report, however, we have started to see rotation into higher beta, more cyclical names.  Since defensive stocks are now overvalued and overextended, this will probably have to continue for the market to keep moving higher.

Commodities in particular may be the beneficiaries.  One stock getting a lot of attention from traders on this score and that I will look to trade is beaten down iron producer Cleveland Cliffs (CLF) (see, for example, Jim Cramer’s “Tacking The Rotation Dilemma”, TheStreet.com, May 7).

Another excellent choice for playing the bubble is Japan.  While the US Federal Reserve is starting to make sounds about “tapering” and “exit” (see “Fed Maps Exit From Stimulus”, The Wall Street Journal, May 11, A1), the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is just getting started.  Indeed, while the S&P is up on the order of 20% since mid-November, Japan is already well into bubble territory with the Nikkei having risen almost 70% in the same time period.  The vehicle of choice here is the Wisdom Tree Japan Hedged ETF (DXJ) which hedges out exposure to the weakening yen.

This is an exciting time to be trading the market.  Lots of money is being made as global securities move relentlessly higher.  Fast, easy money can be made in this kind of environment.  It can also be lost.  The trick is to balance both considerations.

If you are interested in this strategy but concerned about the risks, you may want professional help.  Give me a call at (916) 224-0113 to discuss setting up a separately managed account via Scottrade Advisors.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

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Some Perspective On Gold

April 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm  ·  Category: Gold, Sentiment Analysis, Top Gun Financial Planning
NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.

- Rudyard Kipling “If”

The hot topic of the moment – along with the S&P reaching new all time highs (see “The Road To 1600″, April 10) – is the collapse of the gold market. In general, most investors have little interest in gold. They don’t understand it and they don’t care about it. It’s a niche market. But lately everybody is talking about it.

Societe Generale wrote a piece titled “The End Of The Gold Era”. Goldman Sachs recommended shorting it. The New York Times ran a feature on Thursday (“Gold, Long A Secure Investment, Has Lost Its Luster”, Thursday, April 11, B1). Paul Krugman devoted his Friday op-ed to it.  This morning, Josh Brown wrote an over the top obituary to the gold bull market while insinuating that belief in gold is equivalent to religious faith: “Where the $#!@ is your Gold Messiah now?” he bellowed.

Based on the quantity and tone of the chatter, you’d think gold was on its way out. In fact, it is down only 20% since its 2011 highs. Let me say that again: gold is down only 20% from its 2011 highs. A 10 year chart shows that gold is still up nearly 300% in that time period.

A longer term perspective suggests that this is merely a blip in an ongoing secular bull market. All of the factors that have driven gold higher the last 10 years are still in effect. Gold is a store of value that trades inversely to the supply of and confidence in paper money. The creation of new money by global central banks has never been greater at any time in history. The Federal Reserve, the ECB and now the BOJ.

Technically, volume in the GLD Friday exceeded 50 million shares for the first time since the peak in the Fall of 2011. Just as there are countless bearish stories on gold now, there were bullish stories back then. We are much closer to the end of this correction than to the beginning of a collapse.

*****

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

- William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

For many of us this weekend is a good time to take a deep breathe and aim for some longer term perspective. I have spoken to investors who are panicked to get into the stock market and others who are completely despondent about the crash in the gold market.  I have said it many times and it bears repeating: extreme emotion is the surest sign of a market turning point. It is at times like these that our mettle as investors is tested. The temptation is to act reactively and impulsively but that is always a losing investment strategy. Now, more than ever, conviction and patience are needed (“The Need For Conviction And Patience”, February 18).

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

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The Road To 1600

NOTE: Every week or two I wrote a Client Note for my clients. I post the notes to my blog but with a time delay usually between 1 day and 1 week. To receive the Client Notes at the same time as my clients, sign up in the box in the right hand corner of the website.

*****

I have to admit it: I never thought we’d get here. New all-time highs on the S&P 500. Over the last four years, again and again I’ve learned the hard way the relentlessness of this bull market. I am humbled. The last time I felt this way was three years ago when I wrote a Client Note titled “I Was Wrong” (April 5, 2010).

Even traders who have been bullish are amazed. In a blog post from Tuesday night titled “The Big Challenge For Many Traders”, veteran trader Joe Fahmy wrote: “It feels like almost every time I see warning signs and turn cautious, the market magically picks up a bid and grinds higher. It is really amazing!” His advice: “Just stick with the terms uptrend or downtrend and stop trying to be an economist about the whole thing.”

Similarly, technician Andrew Thrasher wrote in a blog post Wednesday morning: “All the negative divergence is telling us is that the car tires are losing a little air. This doesn’t mean the car drives off into a ditch, it’s just a warning that the driver needs to be aware of…. They are warnings. They let us know something is happening ‘below ground’ so to speak” (“Technical Analysis Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult”, April 10).

In the last couple of weeks, even bad economic data have not been enough to derail this market for more than a day or two. Two of the most important – March ISM Manufacturing and BLS Jobs Report – both came in notably weak but were absorbed within a matter of hours. The Fed Minutes released today raise some concern about the Fed pulling back but no one cares.

Just this morning $15 billion bellwether industrial Fastenal (FAST), which sells all sorts of construction and industrial supplies, reported growing weakness in their business: “With the benefit of hindsight, we believe the economic activity of our customers slowed from January to February and slowed further from February to March” (Fastenal Earnings Release, April 10). A glance at their homepage shows the wide array of industrial supplies and equipment they sell to customers worldwide. As the S&P soars into uncharted territory, nobody seems to notice that FAST is down 4%.

The one bullish development which may be driving this latest leg up is the bazooka unveiled last Thursday by the Bank Of Japan. The BOJ has declared war on deflation and will aim to double Japan’s monetary base over a two year period primarily by buying Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) at a pace of 50¥ trillion/year. That’s $500 billion for an economy one third the size of the US. Japan has become “the most interesting story in global economics” (Neil Irwin WonkBlog, April 8). The whole world is watching because they are only doing to a higher degree what everyone else is. It won’t be long when we have to start talking about quadrillions when discussing the Japanese economy tweeted CNBC’s Kelly Evans. It makes our Quantitative Easing policies look like a squirt gun.

While today’s action probably paves the path to 1600 in the next couple of days, I remain extremely cautious.

Greg Feirman
Founder & CEO
Top Gun Financial (www.topgunfp.com)
A Registered Investment Advisor
Bay Area, CA
(916) 224-0113

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