George Costanza: "My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every part of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong."
In a classic episode of Seinfeld called The Opposite, perma-loser George Costanza comes to the realization that if he would just act completely contrarily to his own instincts, things would begin to go his way.
Jerry Seinfeld: "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."
One cannot help but see the parallels between George’s epiphany and the paradox of the high beta market rally that has left even the most experienced players in utter disbelief.
Think about how rewarding it’s been for traders who have completely violated any sense of prudence or market savvy:
*AIG ($AIG) barely avoids liquidation – buy it and enjoy percentage gains in the thousands!
*Unemployment remains at around 10%, inital jobless claims are still climbing – so buy some specialty or even luxury retailers!
*Mortgage rates are inching higher and housing has not truly bottomed – so snag some Hovnanian ($HOV), some lumber names and why not a little Home Depot ($HD).
*Oil breaks out above $85 – and the airlines go wild!
*Congress passes a de facto takeover of Healthcare – OMG! Healthcare stocks are rallying on the news of their newly subjugated status!
*Commercial RE is a time bomb – REITs! I gotta have more REITs!
We can document dozens of these types of paradoxical setups. Investors are taking almost any opportunity to do the opposite of what they’d normally be expected to do. If everyone in the market is a contrarian, is the true contrarian the non-contrarian? Heh – "Whaaaaat is the deeeeaal with contrarians?" Thanks, Jerry.
If Georgie was running a hedge fund right now and abiding by his counterintuitive life strategy, he’d be absolutely killing it.
George Costanza: "I tell you this, something is happening in my life. it’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I’ve ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion. Jerry, this is my religion!"
The January Merrill Lynch Fund Managers Survey showed very optimistic expectations from the majority of money managers. This is a sharp change from last months survey when fund managers were entering 2009 with cautious optimism. The latest survey showed the highest surge in Merrill’s Risk & Liquidity (46%) indicator since May of 2006. In the past, this indicator has served as a fairly good contrarian indicator.
In terms of asset allocation, fund managers have turned substantially more aggressive. Cash levels are now at their lowest levels since 2007. Fund managers have aggressively deployed cash into the equity markets:
“Average cash balances have fallen to 3.4 percent, the lowest reading since mid 2007 and down significantly from 4.0 percent in December. Appetite for equities is strong. A net 52 percent of asset allocators are overweight equities, up sharply from a net 37 percent in December.”
Much of this cash has poured into commodities:
In terms of regions, the U.S. remains an underweight as investors continue to favor emerging markets:
This survey is showing some contrarian sell signals. Just 45% of fund managers are protecting themselves against a downturn versus 52% in December. The survey also shows a strong appetite for risk and high beta names. According to Merrill’s analysts the survey could be cause for alarm:
“This survey is one of the more bullish we have seen and suggests that investors buy into the idea that this recovery has legs,” said Gary Baker, head of European Equities strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “We are, however, seeing early signs that might alert contrarians looking for a selling opportunity – namely low cash allocations and possible complacency against a sell off in stocks,” said Michael Hartnett, chief Global Equities strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.
The Bears, who are dead right about how bad the economy is or the Bulls who are dead right for being long virtually every asset class, the riskier the better? Perhaps the true contrarian is neutral right now, refusing to play either the economic weakness or the markets’ strength. My head hurts.
Anyway, I put together a few notable quotations on contrarianism itself while you ponder the above conundrum. Bon appetite…
The first gets to the very essence of contrarianism, from one of the most famous practitioners of this art, David Dreman:
“I paraphrase Lord Rothschild: ‘The time to buy is when there’s blood on the streets.’”
And the classic take from Warren Buffett:
“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy, and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”
One from Bernie Schaeffer:
“As contrarians, the only thing to fear is the lack of fear itself”
Perhaps the greatest contrarian investor of all time, Sir John Templeton, weighs in:
“Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.”
Here’s a little-known contrarian gem from fund manager and legalized-heroin advocate George Soros:
“The worse a situation becomes the less it takes to turn it around, the bigger the upside.”
This one’s recent, but an instant classic nonetheless. Arthur Cuttensaid it yesterday on Jesse’s Cafe Americain:
“But being a contrarian requires a superior sense of what is real, and what is out of synch with reality. In general few amateurs possess this level of judgement and perspective, and end up just looking silly and eccentric after a few correct calls, taking the opposite position because it is the opposite, proclaiming night to be day, and the moon to be cheese.”
These are my favorite contrarian investing quotes, let me know if I missed any good ones.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
What do falling energy prices mean for the US consumer? Sober Look writes a brief yet thorough overview of the consequences of the correction in the price of crude oil. There are good aspects, particularly for the consumer, bad aspects, and out-right ugly possibilities. For more on this subject, read James Hamilton's How will Saudi Arabia respond to lower oil prices? In previous eras, Saudi Arabia would tighten the supply to help increase prices, but in this "game of chicken," the rules m...
The world market selloff moderated over the past week, except for Japan's Nikkei 225. The top performer in my gang of eight world indexes (and the sole gainer) was Germany's DAX, which rose 0.70%. At the bottom of the heap, the Nikkei plunged 5.02%. The S&P 500, like most of the others on the list, posted its 4th weekly loss, down 1.02%
Despite its 10.64% year-to-date advance, the Shanghai Composite remains the only index on the watch list in bear territory -- the traditional designation for a 20% decline from an interim high. The index is down 32.56% from its August 2009 peak. See the table inset (lower right) in the chart below.
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Volatility continues to increase in the stock market and many of the leaders are breaking down. In particular, semiconductors took a rather big hit when one of the bellwethers warned of weakening global demand. Nevertheless, despite the significant headwinds, I do not think this spells the end of the bull market. But the technical damage to the charts is severe, particularly to the small caps, which are in full-blown correction mode. The large caps must show leadership and rally immediately -- or it will put at risk the critical and widely-anticipated year-end rally.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten U.S. business sectors, and then offer up ...
Shares in Apple (Ticker: AAPL) are near their highs of the session in the final hour of trading on Wednesday, adding to the muted gains seen earlier in the day, following the release of the September FOMC meeting minutes and after activist investor and Apple shareholder Carl Icahn tweeted, “Tmrw we’ll be sending an open letter to @tim_cook. Believe it will be interesting.” Icahn’s tweet hit the ether at 2:33 pm ET and was met with a spike in volume in Apple shares. The stock is currently up 2.0% on the day at $100.75 as of 3:15 pm ET.
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Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
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