In This Issue:

The Economy Is Bad, But Stocks Are Priced For Worse
Stocks Outshine Their Competition
Behold The Halo Effect
A January Bounce Seems Likely
Energy And Foreign Growth Are Positives
We May Be Halfway Through The Economic Downturn
What Everybody Knows...
The Bottom Line This Week

Last week we received additional signals that a bear rally is probably in the works. During the five day period, investors were treated to a smorgasbord of bad news. Congress turned thumbs down on bailing out the Big Three automakers. Unemployment surged to a 26 year high. T-Bill returns dropped to essentially zero. Many bellwether companies issued earnings warnings. Several firms cut their dividends, and investors were shocked by a $50 billion hedge fund collapse.

So what did the market do? It barely budged. The Dow eased down less than 0.1%. The Nasdaq actually rose 2.1%. The market was also strong during the first three days of the current week. In our opinion, such resilience in the face of disturbing economic events indicates that investors are probably getting ready to do some buying.

..."> Association for Investor Awareness - Week of 12/18/2008 - AIA Advocate for Absolute Returns - Investment Strategies, Analysis & Intelligence for Seasoned Investors.
Association for Investor Awareness - Week of 12/18/2008

In This Issue:

The Economy Is Bad, But Stocks Are Priced For Worse
Stocks Outshine Their Competition
Behold The Halo Effect
A January Bounce Seems Likely
Energy And Foreign Growth Are Positives
We May Be Halfway Through The Economic Downturn
What Everybody Knows...
The Bottom Line This Week

Last week we received additional signals that a bear rally is probably in the works. During the five day period, investors were treated to a smorgasbord of bad news. Congress turned thumbs down on bailing out the Big Three automakers. Unemployment surged to a 26 year high. T-Bill returns dropped to essentially zero. Many bellwether companies issued earnings warnings. Several firms cut their dividends, and investors were shocked by a $50 billion hedge fund collapse.

So what did the market do? It barely budged. The Dow eased down less than 0.1%. The Nasdaq actually rose 2.1%. The market was also strong during the first three days of the current week. In our opinion, such resilience in the face of disturbing economic events indicates that investors are probably getting ready to do some buying.

The Economy Is Bad, But Stocks Are Priced For Worse

We are not surprised that investors are starting to ignore what would otherwise be solid reasons to sell more stocks. Although the news is troubling, the market appears to be priced for much worse. Since investors always get around to matching values to reality, a partial rebound is likely.

An adjustment also seems to be warranted because more economists are beginning to predict that growth will ease back into positive territory late next year. If the contrary economists are right, the stocks of many high-quality companies are oversold.

Stocks Outshine Their Competition

Stocks don't just look better from a fundamental standpoint. They are also becoming more attractive when compared to other investments. For example, real estate in most regions is likely to decline much further before it turns around. As we said above, T-Bill interest rates are on the floor. And after the Fed's unprecedented rate cut on Tuesday, it won't be long before CD yields also come down.

Some Good Yields Are Still Available

To beat what could be a sharp loss of income we think you should act quickly to lock in the higher rates that are currently available at some banks. At EverBank, for example, rates will be adjusted downwards at the first of the year. However, Domestic Money Market accounts that are opened before December 31 will be "grandfathered" through all of 2009. New accounts start with a 4.01% return for 90 days after which the rate will be 3.42%.

The outlook for commodities is equally grim. One exception is gold. It should do well as inflation begins to replace deflation in a year or two.

That leaves stocks, especially from companies that are well established in global markets, have little debt, and have a good dividend yield. Such stocks are rapidly becoming the only game in town, which is why they are starting to attract more investors.

Behold The Halo Effect

Within the stock market, competition for investment dollars is also keen. Since most sectors don't look very appealing right now, new money coming into the market is likely to pour onto the minority of stocks that do look good. As a result, a rally may have a big impact on favored sectors, and nearly ignore others.

In addition to the multinational blue chips we have been recommending for several weeks, we also think the financial service sector is due for a pop. We've seen it happen on several occasions as the credit crunch set in. Every time it looked as if the sector might someday pull out of its tailspin, investors leaped aboard. For example, Citigroup (C) was just $3.05 in mid November. Now it is $8.23, 170% jump.

For the lowest risks, however, stick with companies that provide needed goods and services to consumers throughout the world.

A January Bounce Seems Likely

As to the timing of a rally, the last week or so of the year is likely to see it start. If so, prices could move up rather quickly because no portfolio manager can afford to miss any gains.

In addition, millions of Americans think that President-elect Obama is putting good teams together to deal with our problems. On Tuesday of this week, even Vice President Dick Cheney expressed his admiration for many of the heavyweights who are being recruited to the new administration. All in all, there appears to be an improving climate for stocks.

Energy And Foreign Growth Are Positives

One of the biggest stimulants at work in the economy isn't coming from Washington. Instead, the return to cheap energy and lower commodity prices is acting like a super tax break throughout the world.

Right now, most of the saved money is being squired away by nervous businesses and consumers. However, at least part of the savings will filter back into the economy as the new year progresses. Cars wear out, refrigerators quit, kids need braces, stores run out of products to sell, and so on. If the funds to fix the problems exist, they will be used.

Another reason the outlook may be better than the headlines today would suggest, is people in most developing countries are still spending money. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have over three billion consumers who are determined to maintain their improving lifestyles. The U.S. swims in that sea, and benefits from it.

We May Be Halfway Through The Economic Downturn

There is no doubt that the economic downturn is accelerating. However, even the optimistic economists acknowledge that conditions over the next few months are likely to be worse than they are now.

Fortunately, there is a consolation prize that goes with a severe economic correction: the faster it progresses, the quicker it can eliminate the excesses of the past. That's one of the reasons that the first part of a recovery may occur by the forth quarter of 2009.

The bottom line is, we don't expect an "Armageddon", a "Great Depression II", a "Greater Depression", or a "Very Great Depression" that many gloom and doomers are predicting.

What Everybody Knows...

Lastly on the subject of the economy, we have learned to be cautious when nearly everybody believes something is true. The more experts that climb on the bandwagon, the more likely it is that Mother Market will fool them all.

We don't need to look into the distant past to see how the cognoscenti can totally miss the boat. It was only a few months ago that nearly everyone from Harvard to Meadow Muffin Jr. College was certain that oil would soon be $200. Anyone who disagreed with that view was considered to be an utter fool.

Likewise, nearly every economist was certain that inflation was becoming a problem. Almost no one foresaw the deflationary cycle that began by mid year.

The conclusion to be drawn is not to assume anything is true just because nearly everyone thinks it is. Experts often miss economic calls, and they may be doing it again today.

The Bottom Line This Week

Jim Grant, a knowledgeable chap who writes the biweekly Interest Rate Observer, (www.grantspub.com) recently offered investors some cheer when he talked about several Wall Street legends who stumbled badly, and then recovered.

For example, Benjamin Graham lost over 70% following the crash of 1929. He got nearly everything back by 1936, but he gave about half of it back the next year. However, within a few years he was back on top again, big time.

Graham wasn't just stubborn. He knew that winning is impossible from the sidelines. That's a good lesson for today's investors who may be tempted to stay out of the game that hurt them badly this year.

Notice To Readers

The AIA "Advocate for Absolute Returns" will not be published next week. Publication will resume with our first January 2009 issue.


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Posted 12-18-2008 10:51 AM by Research & Editorial Staff