Sunday, August 31, 2008

Market Bottoms

A very common sense article about what differenciates market bottoms from market tops:

The Aleph Blog: The Fundamentals of Market Bottoms
The Investor Base Becomes Fundamentally-Driven

1) Now, by fundamentally-driven, I don’t mean that you are just going to read lots of articles telling how cheap certain companies are. There will be a lot of articles telling you to stay away from all stocks because of the negative macroeconomic environment, and, they will be shrill.

2) Fundamental investors are quiet, and valuation-oriented. They start quietly buying shares when prices fall beneath their threshold levels, coming up to full positions at prices that they think are bargains for any environment.

3) But at the bottom, even long-term fundamental investors are questioning their sanity. Investors with short time horizons have long since left the scene, and investor with intermediate time horizons are selling. In one sense investors with short time horizons tend to predominate at tops, and investors with long time horizons dominate at bottoms.

4) The market pays a lot of attention to shorts, attributing to them powers far beyond the capital that they control.

5) Managers that ignored credit quality have gotten killed, or at least, their asset under management are much reduced.

6) At bottoms, you can take a lot of well financed companies private, and make a lot of money in the process, but no one will offer financing then. M&A volumes are small.

7) Long-term fundamental investors who have the freedom to go to cash begin deploying cash into equities, at least, those few that haven’t morphed into permabears.

8 ) Value managers tend to outperform growth managers at bottoms, though in today’s context, where financials are doing so badly, I would expect growth managers to do better than value managers.

9) On CNBC, and other media outlets, you tend to hear from the “adults” more often. By adults, I mean those who say “You should have seen this coming. Our nation has been irresponsible, yada, yada, yada.” When you get used to seeing the faces of David Tice and James Grant, we are likely near a bottom. The “chrome dome count” shows more older investors on the tube is another sign of a bottom.

10) Defined benefit plans are net buyers of stock, as they rebalance to their target weights for equities.

11) Value investors find no lack of promising ideas, only a lack of capital.

12) Well-capitalized investors that rarely borrow, do so to take advantage of bargains. They also buy sectors that rarely attractive to them, but figure that if they buy and hold for ten years, they will end up with something better.

13) Neophyte investors leave the game, alleging the the stock market is rigged, and put their money in something that they understand that is presently hot — e.g. money market funds, collectibles, gold, real estate — they chase the next trend in search of easy money.

14) Short interest reaches high levels; interest in hedged strategies reaches manic levels.


No Bottom Yet

There are some reasons for optimism in the present environment. Shorts are feared. Value investors are seeing more and more ideas that are intriguing. Credit-sensitive names have been hurt. The yield curve has a positive slope. Short interest is pretty high. But a bottom is not with us yet, for the following reasons:

* Implied volatility is low.
* Corporate defaults are not at crisis levels yet.
* Housing prices still have further to fall.
* Bear markets have duration, and this one has been pretty short so far.
* Leverage hasn’t decreased much. In particular, the investment banks need to de-lever, including the synthetic leverage in their swap books.
* The Fed is not adding liquidity to the system.
* I don’t sense true panic among investors yet. Not enough neophytes have left the game.

Not all of the indicators that I put forth have to appear for there to be a market bottom. A preponderance of them appearing would make me consider the possibility, and that is not the case now.

Some of my indicators are vague and require subjective judgment. But they’re better than nothing, and kept me in the game in 2001-2002. I hope that I — and you — can achieve the same with them as we near the next bottom.
Via The Big Picture.

No comments: