So, are we having fun yet in this year's stock market? If you followed the crowd's "consensus" view on what was supposed to happen this year, the answer is probably a resounding "No!"
For those keeping score at home, this is the second consecutive year in which the self-proclaimed masters of the universe have gotten it wrong - very wrong.
Recall that at the beginning of 2013, everybody and their brother was projecting doom and gloom. The "fiscal cliff" was going to kill the U.S. economy. Europe was going to collapse and kill the global economy in the process. And China's growth rate was going to fall on its face. Therefore, all those experts, with all of their fancy Ivy League degrees, told us that the sky was definitely going to fall in 2013.
And how did the market react? Ms. Market apparently took offense at all the negativity being espoused and put up a gain of 30 percent. As a result, hedge funds had another year of particularly weak returns.
Déjà_vu All Over Again
The situation playing out in 2014 is a bit different. But at this point in the year, the results are largely the same for those using a crystal ball to guide their investment strategy.
For example, remember all the "Sell in May" talk we heard a couple months ago? Remember all the predictions of a severe correction that was going to happen in the second quarter? Remember all the talk about the second year of the Presidential Cycle?
But for the record, the second quarter is almost over and the S&P 500 has made at least a dozen new all-time highs since the end of April.
What has kept the bears and all their negativity from being sent packing in 2014 has been a steady stream of "crises" for investors to fret about. According to the card-carrying members of the glass-is-half-empty camp, each and every one of the dilemmas that have cropped up so far this year "should" have sunk the market.
However, the chart below suggests that the market hasn't seemed to care that much.
S&P 500 - Weekly
However, this is not to say that the bears haven't been trying or haven't had anything to work with in 2014. There have definitely been opportunities for the nattering nabobs of negativism to get something going to the downside.
Below is a quick summary of the "crises" that investors have had to confront in the first half of 2014:
- The "Emerging Markets Currency Crisis"
- The Crimea/Ukraine/Russia "Crisis"
- The Polar Vortex-Induced Economic Speed Bump
- The Momentum Meltdown in Biotech, Social Media and Internet Sectors
- The First Defaults in China
- Tepper Talking Trash at SALT
- And now... the Iraq "Crisis"
To be sure, this is a pretty impressive list of "stuff" that the markets have had to deal with. The chart below illustrates the various "issues" that have defined the year so far.
S&P 500 - Daily
Granted, a 5 percent gain on the S&P 500 isn't much of anything to write home about. And if the bears have it right this time, that puny gain will likely be wiped out quickly once oil starts to run past the $120 per barrel level. (Oh, and oil will continue to move higher, we're told - just you wait!)
And yet, through it all, the market appears to be none the worse for wear.
Aren't There Concerns?
To be clear, this is not to suggest that everything is hunky dory and that stocks should be expected to march straight up from here. No, despite that fact that a new secular bull market has likely begun, the current leg of the bull is definitely getting old. And while bull markets will occasionally last longer than most believe possible, all good things do end eventually in this game.
In addition, there are some important technical divergences in place. Next, most everyone will agree that the central bankers of the world have done a fine job of propping up not only the banking system and the economies of the world, but also the major stock markets. And the bottom line here is that the Fed is most certainly going to pull the punch bowl at some point.
The Point Is...
The point to this morning's missive is that using a crystal ball to guide one's investing strategy - especially when it comes to the U.S. stock market - can be problematic. The simple fact of the matter is that no one has been able to "call" the big moves in the stock market correctly over a long period of time. And THIS is why it is important to have systems, rules, indicators or guidelines to help keep your accounts on the right side of the prevailing trend.
It is true that there is no such thing as a perfect indicators or system. It is also true that a system or a set of rules may cause you to look foolish from time to time (been there, done that!). But, having an unemotional method that can keep you in line with the really big, really important moves in the market may help you avoid losing sleep over your portfolio or the market action.
Positions in stocks mentioned: SPY
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