Global Investing

Timing the next bull market in stocks

Markets are down again today (MSCI world index down 0.7 pct so far this morning) and the market overall is nearing a bear market territory again (from a three-year high hit in May).

But asset managers are starting to look forward.  JPMorgan Asset Management reckons that if one assumes the current bear market for most equity indices started in 2000 and that the the trend of the previous experiences is to be repeated, then the current environment should be ending around 2014 (By the way, those who predict stock market cycles with sunspots activity reckon the year 2012 or 2013 is the bottom, but that’s a different story.)

But 2014 does seem a long way off.

“While this may sound depressing from 2011, we hasten to add that we are not expecting the ongoing bear market to result in continued downside, but rather in persistence of broad range-trading prior to a sustained breakout to the upside,” Neil Nuttal of JPM AM writes.

Nuttal says that since 2000 the  S&P 500 average level is close to 1,200 (compared with Thursday’s close of 1,216.13) , meaning the market has not slid too far out of range.

“At present, the wall appears to be very much in evidence while providing very little opportunity for ascent, notably in Europe, but not exclusively so… The majority of investors are light of risk, meaning that the pain trade (the development that would cause the most pain to the most people) would be a sharp rally in risk assets,” he adds.

Permabears are coming out of hibernation

After a 40-percent gain, the rally in world stocks might be losing momentum.

For permabears who live on doom and gloom to make money this is just a blip which is going to end in tears.

David Tice, a 20-year veteran short seller who manages Federated Investors’ $1 billion short fund, says we are in for a secular bear market which is going to last for 10 years.

“I’ve never more been convinced than anything in my life that this is a suckers rally,” Tice says.

Market bounce at crucial point

The latest stock market rally is at a crossroads as bear market bounces go, at least those seen in 2008-2009. They usually last on average 30 trading days. 

Today is the 30th trading day since the UK’s FTSE 100 and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 hit their lows on March 9. The FTSE 100 has rallied some 15 percent since then, while the FTSEurofirst 300 has surged 22 percent.

Bulls and bears have been at it for sometimes over whether this latest rally is the “real deal” or yet another bear market rally.  Pessimists point to potential shocks in corporate earnings in the latest reporting seasons in the U.S. and Europe, which will give investors a reality check, and the bank stress tests in the United States that are expected to be released on May 4.

Morgan Stanley bales out

Say this for Morgan Stanley — it is not afraid to buck the trend. With world stocks up more than five percent in the few days that have been April trading and up 24 percent since hitting a low on March 9, the bank has decided bale out. In its latest strategy report, MS says it is moving 5 percent out of stocks to neutral. It likes cash.

This puts Morgan Stanley in the camp that sees the current stock rally as just part of a bear market. It says it is looking at fundamentals to get better before it will decide that trouble is past. 

“The three fundamentals we look at are : 1) earnings; 2) U.S. housing; and 3) banks’ balance sheets”,  it says.

Fool me three times, shame on me

World stocks are up 22 percent since March 9 and a sell-off earlier this week was unable to break the trend.

“Like the old saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me three times, shame on me’, we think it’s OK to investors to be cautious, but not dismissive… We believe there is a good chance that we saw the low for this bear market in early March,” says Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist from the S&P Equity Research, in the Investment Policy Committee note.

The Comittee’s end-2009 targets are: 850 for the S&P 500 index and 675 for MSCI emerging market index.