Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Market Rationality

Though I'm a contrarian by nature, I realize it is insufficient to simply go against the crowd all the time. A significant part of the time, the consensus view is right--or at least it makes sense.  

I reviewed the 100 largest S & P holdings the other day and scanned where the current prices fell within the 52-week range for each stock.  Despite the huge risks in Europe and the economic and political uncertainty in the U.S., a number of the stocks are at or near their highs over the past 52 weeks.  It is not surprising that most are health care stocks such as Abbott and Merck, or consumer staples stocks such as Coca-Cola, Colgate, and CVS.  Stocks at the bottom are energy stocks (with oil prices down sharply recently and gas prices down for a while), financials, and those with company-specific problems (such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Walgreen).

The investment question that matters most is what comes next?  I am not optimistic about economic growth being stronger than expected, but I have an aversion to buying "defensive" (or any) stocks at 52-week highs.  I'd rather keep money in cash and buy companies with more cyclical businesses when their stocks are especially depressed or there are early signs of earnings estimates bottoming.

Steve Lehman

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