Less is More
Work Now, Prosper Later
My Top Ideas … On Video!
Anyone paying attention to the market during the past few weeks knows that the bulls aren’t exactly putting on a good show. Starting in early April (earnings season), many leading stocks began to sag, and a few broke down in violent fashion. Now the weakness has spread to the major indexes, most of which decisively penetrated their 50-day moving averages this week on renewed European debt scares.
In other words, the market is in some sort of correction here–the sellers are taking control. Now, when I say correction, I don’t necessarily mean the indexes must fall at least 10%, or follow any other common “definition” of a correction; I don’t predict that sort of thing. I’m simply describing a general down period for most stocks, lasting at least a few weeks.
My experience is that, when the market heads lower, it’s almost always accompanied by a pickup in volatility, both among the indexes as well as among many individual stocks. What does this enhanced volatility prompt most investors to do? Increase their trading activity, both to respond to the action of the stocks they own (usually damage control) and to take advantage of perceived opportunities (bargains, baby!!).
Thus, the investor that might average a trade or two per week suddenly makes four or five moves every week. And more likely than not, the only one making money during this period is his broker!
I’ve seen this play out time and again. It’s part of the natural market cycle for an investor to make decent money during an uptrend and then lose some of that during the first couple of weeks of a market decline. Then, during the decline, instead of hibernating in cash and cutting back on new buying, he loses his cool and starts churning his account in a big way, losing most of the profits he garnered during the bullish period.
The fact is, being an investor is not like any other profession. At any job, you head into work every day and you try to get things done–you attend meetings, make presentations, put together sales pitches, work on marketing, troubleshoot product development issues, and so on. If you don’t do this, you’ll likely end up losing your job!
On the other hand, a good investor will have periods when it’s difficult to keep up with what’s happening in the market–stocks setting up, breaking out, following his indicators, setting stops, knowing the earnings dates for stocks he owns or wants to own, etc. But there will be other times when it’s appropriate to do nothing. Sometimes for weeks at a time!
I understand such inaction is hard for the average Joe to be content with, especially when his day job consists of getting things done. But in life as in investing, circumstances sometimes emerge when less is actually more–and I think that’s the case in this market, at least until the bulls re-take control. Right now, you need to stay calm, control your emotions– and embrace the wisdom of non-action.
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Besides, during these down times, you’re not actually doing “nothing.” Sure, your trading activity should fall way off, but you should work on building and (just as important) maintaining a shopping list of potential new buys so you can jump back in once the market begins a new uptrend.
Now is the time that truly separates the great investors from the run-of-the-mill investors. The great investors pare back their trading and build a watch list; the mediocre investors up their trading (and likely loses more money than necessary) and, because they’re so busy, they have no idea what the new leaders will be when the market gets going again.
Ironically, the more work you put in today in creating and massaging a watch list, the less work you’ll have to do when the bulls return, and the better results you’ll have. I heard a good analogy about two people running a marathon. One is completely out of shape, while the other has been training for months.
Not surprisingly, during the marathon, the one who hasn’t prepared expends all sorts of energy, but can barely get past a mile or two! The well-trained athlete, of course, not only runs effortlessly but posts a great time as well.
That’s the idea today; while you shouldn’t be “active” in the normal sense of the word, you should prepare for the next upleg. My experience tells me that’s the hardest thing for investors to do; when the news is bad and their portfolios are down, the last thing most people want to do is hunt for new, potential big winners.
But if you’re looking to truly take advantage of the next bull move, I urge you to trade less today, and instead, focus your energy on some research and watch list-building during the market’s soft spot.
Normally this is the section where I’ll write about a stock or two that I’m stalking. But in this Wealth Advisory, instead of writing about the stocks, I’ll let you listen to me talking about it! Earlier this week I was interviewed by Yahoo Finance’s Breakout segment, hosted by Matt Nesto and Jeff Macke (two former CNBC personalities). There are two segments–the first covers my take on the general market, while the second homes in on some of the stocks on my watch list; I also delve into a bit of our philosophy, which might be helpful if you’re newer to our investing system. So take a listen, and let me know what you think!
All the best,
Editor of Cabot Market Letter
Editor’s Note: Mike Cintolo is VP of Investments for Cabot, as well as editor of Cabot Market Letter, a Model Portfolio-based newsletter of the best leading growth stocks in the market. It’s been over four years since Mike took over the Market Letter, and during that time he’s beaten the market by 13% annually (up a total of 60% since then, compared to a loss of 5% for the S&P 500) thanks to top-notch stock picking and market timing. If you want to own the top leaders in every market cycle, be sure to give Cabot Market Letter a try by clicking HERE.