“Let me be clear with you. YES, it is time to worry, and it may be time to worry a lot. ...something wicked this way comes.”
Retail investors generally buy an off-the-shelf portfolio allocation model that is heavily weighted in equities under the illusion that over a long enough period of time they will somehow make money. Unfortunately, history has been a brutal teacher about the value of risk management.
"... there is presently an enormous chasm between the point where self-reinforcing selling pressure by speculators is likely to emerge, and the much lower point where balancing buying pressure by value-conscious investors is likely to support the market. Because every seller necessarily requires a buyer, the enormous gap between the two represents substantial crash risk."
When markets begin a "bear" cycle, they can remain in an oversold condition for extended periods. There is an important 'truism' to remember - "Markets crash when they’re oversold."
An angry bear has been released after nearly seven years in hibernation, and the entire world is going to be absolutely shocked by what happens next.
The reckless herd has been in control for the last few years, but their recklessness is going to get them slaughtered. Corporate profits are plunging. Labor participation continues to fall. A global recession is in progress. The strong U.S. dollar is crushing exports and profits of international corporations. Real household income remains stagnant, while healthcare, rent, home prices, education, and a myriad of other daily living expenses relentlessly rises. The world is a powder keg, with tensions rising ever higher in the Middle East, Ukraine, Europe, and China. The lessons of history scream for caution at this moment in time, not recklessness. 2016 will be a year of reckoning for the reckless herd.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”
"Security prices are not low. I wouldn’t say high, but full. So people are thinking cautiously but they’re acting bullish and they’re behaving in a pro-risk fashion. While investor behavior hasn’t sunk to the depths seen just before the crisis, in many ways I feel it has entered the zone of imprudence... The market is not an accommodating machine. It will not go where you want it to go just because you need it to go there."
There are many half-truths perpetrated on individuals by Wall Street to sell product, gain assets, etc. However, if individuals took a moment to think about it, the illogic of many of these arguments are readily apparent. The index is a mythical creature, like the Unicorn, and chasing it has historically led to disappointment. Investing is not a competition, and there are horrid consequences for treating it as such.
Over the last two decades the Fed’s interventionism has created artificial booms and real busts. Their dreadful mistakes are “fixed” by currency debasement, lower interest rates, and money printing – creating even worse mistakes. They have successfully gutted the American economy and left a hollowed out shell. The coming collapse will be three pronged as stocks, bonds, and real estate are all simultaneously overvalued. Junk bonds are the canary in a coalmine. High end real estate in NYC has topped out. New and existing homes sales growth has stalled out. Retailers desperately slash prices to maintain sales, while destroying their profits. Corporate profits are falling. The stock market is teetering on the edge.
Equity markets have not priced a meaningful slowdown in global corporate earnings. They are still pricing in central banker commentary... for now. History teaches us that equity turbulence accompanied by meaningful economic softness often marks the turn from a secular bull market in to a bear market.
"While it is human nature to think and expect along linear lines, our World just doesn’t work that way. Instead, everything moves in cycles, some short and shallow, while other cycles are long and deep. What we are experiencing today is the likely turning point in a very long cycle of borrowing, borrowing and then borrowing some more."
One of the primary arguments by the more "bullish" media is that the current setup is much like that of 2011 following the "debt ceiling" debate and global economic slowdown caused by the Tsunami in Japan. While there are certainly some similarities, such as the weakness being spread from China and a market selloff, there are some marked differences.
When you tell people in self denial the market could drop 40% in a few months, they think you are crazy. They declare this could never happen. They would get out of the market before it would fall vertically. Their memories are conveniently short as their normalcy bias and cognitive dissonance blind them to what happened over three months in 2008/2009. We wonder how many willfully ignorant investors can handle a 50% to 70% haircut in their 401k, especially if they are over 50 years old. We wonder how much angrier the populace will become when the current recession results in more job losses, bankruptcies and revelations of Wall Street malfeasance. Beware of the bear.