By Peter Switzer, Switzer Super Report
Was Friday's market comeback of 38 points, after the 2.3% loss on Thursday, one of those sucker's rallies? Are we ripe for a pullback and is the US expert Dennis Gartman right when he tips a 7% slump in stocks is on the cards?
Right now I am as popular as Sally Pearson after she took gold in London, with everyone wanting to know if it's time to get in or get out of stocks?
Regular readers know I have been arguing a pullback was overdue but I have also speculated that any sell-off would be shallow because there are lot of over-cashed up investors dying to get into the market. Some will take any dip, while others will wait for a real slump, hoping to get a real bargain.
If Gartman, who writes a widely followed newsletter, is right then a 7% slide would be a "yes, sir, thank you very much" event for waiters but if the market slump is more a slip, then the waiters are back where they started.
Trader or investor?
Let me recap on my Friday meeting with my financial planners and my business partner Paul Rickard, the ex-boss of CommSec, who is a pretty smart market assessor.
We have new clients who were 100% in cash when they came to us and so my planners wanted to know how to play this tricky issue around the pullback.
If I am a trader I am chasing short-term profit and so now is a time for high anxiety. However, if I am a long-term investor, it really is a situation of low anxiety, though I understand if someone is anxious as any capital loss is hard to take especially if I lost when the market went down in 2008 and I've missed the rise since March 2009, which is around 60% plus dividends!
So, when pressed by my planners, I could sum up my attitude this way: "I don't know. I don't care."
Forget about timing
Of course there is a bit of bravado in this but as a long-term investor and long-term watcher of markets, I know timing the market is hard. I argued in the meeting that they should tell clients in this "out of the market" bind to consider where the market will be at Christmas when the Yanks bring their typical Santa Claus rally. I am tipping 5,500 but others have it higher.
Geoff Wilson of WAM this week says he can see the market going to 6000 or even 6,300 easily.
He says we are in the early stage of a bull market and you will know we are in the mature stage when "a stock like Lynas is a $30 stock!" (Editor's note ? Lynas is currently about $0.58)
History also says a stock market will pass its old high before it thinks about diving and it usually goes a way above it. Sure history can let you down but on this one there is a lot of support for its relevance for investors trying to guess how high the market can go.
The big picture
This week we have lost 0.4% on the S&P/ASX 200 index but since reporting season started we are up a tick over 2% and over the past three months there has been a 15% run up. That's huge and it's why a 7% pullback would not be surprising, though I reckon we will need a big left-field, X-factor event for that to happen.
By the way, as the p-word will be around as long as there is talk of a sequester issue in the US Congress and then there will be the usual "sell in May and go away" challenge some time this year (as the Yanks head for the beach and holidays), I should probably explain what a pullback is.
A market fall of less than 5% is called a digestion, which few people know or use. Between 5% and 10% is a pullback, 10% plus is a correction and 20% plus is a crash.
Glass half full
I am anticipating some digestion opportunities to get into the market but waiting and trying to time it will not be good for your hairline ? nor your sleep!
Fund managers now have most of the reporting season to analyse and they are saying we're at the end of the earnings downgrade cycle and the economy is showing green shoots ? both here and abroad.
I would like our planners to be right all year for our clients but I think we might have to cop some short-term anxiety for some long-term, very broad smiles and better-looking investment nest eggs.
To be honest, I do care but as I don't know what happens in the short-term, I am punting on my knowledge of history, economics and that crazy money-making ? and losing ? machine called the stock market.
I have faith that being in the market is better than being out for 2013.