Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Economic Pain Forthcoming

I am now completely divested from the stock market and I advise you to do the same if possible. Usually I don't make predictions because of the high probability of looking silly, but a downturn seems imminent.

Why? Because there isn't enough liquidity in the market. From the NYT...

"The pain for hedge funds and banks has been broad, starting in the mortgage market, spreading to the wider credit markets and ultimately the stock market.
The problems have been worsened by the debt that hedge funds have taken on and used to invest to amplify gains.
Now hedge funds are quickly taking off that leverage, responding to tighter lending standards from banks or redemptions from anxious investors.
The casualties have included investment banks like Bear Stearns, which witnessed the collapse of two hedge funds that were invested in mortgage-backed securities, and blue-chip quantitative funds, whose computer-driven trading models did not anticipate recent market movements.
Now the ripples have spread to Goldman, whose stellar results have made it the firm to beat on Wall Street in recent years."

The cheap cash the Fed was showering on us through low rates led to a predictable overextension. People bought houses they couldn't afford while businesses received loans they didn't deserve. If millions of people begin defaulting on their homes (Jim Cramer predicts 7 million possibly) and investment firms don't have money to invest there will be tough economic times ahead.

The saving grace may be that many good companies are sitting on large cash positions. Many corporations learned their lesson from the dotcom market bubble burst and began stockpiling cash. But there is no reason to predict that they would begin investing it if the entire credit market begins to implode. Instead, they may decide that the prudent move is to continue sitting on all the cash. Central banks around the world including in the U.S. have been fighting the situation by pumping cash into the system at an incredible pace (here).

I am not knowledgeable enough to break down the entire situation. I am knowledgeable enough to know that when central banks have to pump billions of dollars into the system to keep the credit market alive that it is time to get on the stock market sidelines. Sell and live to tell.

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