Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Chin -- It blocks the punches!

In an email conversation today, the question of when to start buying equities again came up. Warren Buffet's advice to be, "fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful" was cited and that's good advice. That's what Mr. Buffet had to say October 16 in an op-ed piece in the NY Times: Buy American. I Am.

I start with that because it's a good counterpoint to the rest of this. Mr. Buffet is undoubtedly smarter than me -- so pay attention to his advice. :) In the long term, stocks will rise, especially in the face of the massive inflation of the money supply over the past year.

For the next several months to year though, I think the market is in for a helluva beating.

What does it look like is coming in the next handful of months?

While the market has taken a beating lately, I don't think it is anywhere near bottoming out. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Dow is still overvalued when compared with the monetary inflation that has happened since February 1995. "If the Dow had increased in line with nominal GDP since February 1995, it would today be trading at 7,829." In February 1995, the economy wasn't in the tank, things weren't amazing, but they weren't horrible either.

That isn't the case today. Instead, we have an economy that is unwinding 24 years of credit excess. So far, we've had only a single shoe drop and there are at least half a dozen others remaining.
The key driving many of these is the increase in unemployment driving US, UK, and Euro consumer spending down, which decreases business revenue, which increases unemployment....

The US has gone well past the point where each new dollar of debt produced more than a dollar of GDP growth. We're now at the point where it takes 5 dollars in debt to produce a one of GDP growth. That rate is getting worse.

The one thing that has barely started to unwind in the current crisis is debt. We are in a solvency crisis created by 20+ years of cheap credit topped off by 4 years of insanely cheap credit.

During the past year, we haven't really seen gobs of price inflation -- at least not to keep pace with the 2 to 3 trillion dollars pumped in by the Fed and Treasury (and the corresponding actions of the European central banks). Perhaps this is because the cash pumped in has been immediately soaked up by the worthless securities so many financial institutions have on their books. Even so, this is another piper that must be paid. And the inflation piper is an indiscriminate killer of wealth.

Until we start to see a wave of bankruptcies, things aren't going to get better. Too many sectors of the nation and world are insolvent today. Until this solvency crisis is dealt with, things aren't going to improve.

So, when is a good time to get serious buying stuff? Probably once we start seeing more than just a scattered handful of bankruptcies.

This is why I think Buffet could make decent judgements about the short term state of the market.

We really haven't gotten started on the "real" economy side of the current crisis. That's coming.

1 comment:

Alexis de Tocqueville said...

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Anthony M. Freed