Thursday, April 16, 2009

Economic Statistics are Yesterday, Stock Prices are Tomorrow

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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The Fed Beige book was released yesterday and the media reported that it saw a glimmer of hope for economic recover in the U.S. That glimmer is not yet showing up in the economic statistics, which are gloomy worldwide not just in the U.S. However the economic statistics are backward looking and usually dated on top of that by the time they are released. While the report may say March, those numbers really might be from February (or even January). Reports of Q1 activity might actually be data from Q4 at the end of the previous year (this became glaringly obvious in the 3rd quarter of 2005 when hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. economy and the GDP figures for the quarter then came out higher than had originally been expected, but the 4th quarter GDP was much lower). People get confused when the stock market is already going up when the news is at its worse, but this makes perfect sense. The economic news you are seeing may be from two quarters in the past, while the market is being priced for what it it thinks is going to happen two quarters in the future. When making investing decisions you too should always look forward.

To make investing even more difficult for the average investor, the media constantly inaccurately states that the stock market (or oil market or some other market) can't go up until the economy improves. Historical analysis indicates that this is simply not true. Liquidity drives stock prices. The more money available for buying stocks, the more the market goes up - and this can happen when the economy stays in bad shape for a long time. Liquidity almost always revives the economy as well so eventually a recovery takes place there too (a hyperinflationary depression would be the one exception). The amount of liquidity being pumped into the financial system currently is massive by any historical standard. This is going to be reflected in the stock market first and much later on at Starbucks, where you will be paying $50 for a cup of coffee.

No matter how bad things are, markets also can't go down forever. Eventually there comes a point where everyone who is going to sell has sold. When that happens one little piece of even insignificant good news can drive the market up suddenly and sharply (look for this behavior in the natural gas market in the future). This type of rally is short-covering or if it takes place around an important support level (it doesn't have to) will be called technical. For extremely oversold markets like the one we have now, a rally to the 200-day moving average is common. You should certainly consider taking profits around that level. Also watch for stocks or sectors with a lot of stocks that manage to break through and stay above the 200-day. These are the leaders for the future.

History (something completely unknown to most U.S. financial reporters) tells you a lot about how to successfully make money in the market. Go back and read the news from June 1932. You will see the worse economic news imaginable. The U.S. economy and banking system were in total collapse. And the banking crisis didn't finally bottom until the spring of 1933, when many insolvent banks were closed down during the banking holiday, and the system wasn't stabilized until the implementation of deposit insurance in 1934. Should you have bought stocks in July 1932? If you did, you would have made around 100% in a few weeks.

NEXT: Bull Markets Climb a Wall of Worry

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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