Dealing With Market Corrections: Ten Do and Don’ts

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A correction is a beautiful thing, simply the flip side of a rally, big or small. As long your cash flow continues unabated, the change in market value is merely a perceptual issue.
invest, stock market, asset allocation, value stocks, working capital
A correction is a beautiful thing, simply the flip side of a rally, big or small. Theoretically, even technically I’m told, corrections adjust equity prices to their actual value or “support levels? In reality, it much easier than that. Prices go down because of speculator reactions to expectations of news, speculator reactions to actual news, and investor profit taking. The two former “becauses” are more potent than ever before because there is more “self directed” money out there than ever before. And therein lies the core of correctional beauty! Mutual Fund unit holders rarely take profits but often take losses. Opportunities abound!

Here a list of ten things to do and/or to think about doing during corrections of any magnitude:

1. Your present Asset Allocation should have been tuned in to your goals and objectives. Resist the urge to decrease your Equity allocation because you expect a further fall in stock prices. That would be an attempt to time the market, which is (rather obviously) impossible. Proper Asset Allocation has nothing to do with market expectations.

2. Take a look at the past. There has never been a correction that has not proven to be a buying opportunity, so start collecting a diverse group of high quality, dividend paying, NYSE companies as they move lower in price. I start shopping at 20% below the 52-week high water mark, and the shelves are full.

3. Don’t hoard that “smart cash?you accumulated during the last rally, and don’t look back and get yourself agitated because you might buy some issues too soon. There are no crystal balls, and no place for hindsight in an investment strategy.

4. Take a look at the future. Nope, you can’t tell when the rally will come or how long it will last. If you are buying quality equities now (as you certainly could be) you will be able to love the rally even more than you did the last time?as you take yet another round of profits. Smiles broaden with each new realized gain, especially when most folk are still head scratchin?

5. As (or if) the correction continues, buy more slowly as opposed to more quickly, and establish new positions incompletely. Hope for a short and steep decline, but prepare for a long one. There more to Shop at The Gap than meets the eye.

6. Your understanding and use of the Smart Cash concept has proven the wisdom of The Investor Creed. You should be out of cash while the market is still correcting. [It gets less and less scary each time.] As long your cash flow continues unabated, the change in market value is merely a perceptual issue.

7. Note that your Working Capital is still growing, in spite of falling prices, and examine your holdings for opportunities to average down on cost per share or to increase yield (on fixed income securities). Examine both fundamentals and price, lean hard on your experience, and don’t force the issue.

8. Identify new buying opportunities using a consistent set of rules, rally or correction. That way you will always know which of the two you are dealing with in spite of what the Wall Street propaganda mill spits out. Focus on value stocks; it just easier, as well as being less risky, and better for your peace of mind. Just think where you would be today had you heeded this advice years ago?
9. Examine your portfolio performance: with your asset allocation and investment objectives clearly in focus; in terms of market and interest rate cycles as opposed to calendar Quarters (never do that) and Years; and only with the use of the Working Capital Model, because it allows for your personal asset allocation. Remember, there is really no single index number to use for comparison purposes with a properly designed value portfolio.

10. Finally, ask your broker/advisor why your portfolio has not yet surpassed the levels it boasted five years ago. If it has, say thank you and continue with what you’ve been doing. This one is like golf, if you claim a better score than the reality, you’ll eventually lose money.

11. One more thought to consider. So long as everything is down, there is nothing to worry about.

Corrections (of all types) will vary in depth and duration, and both characteristics are clearly visible only in institutional grade rear view mirrors. The short and deep ones are most lovable (kind of like men, I’m told); the long and slow ones are more difficult to deal with. Most corrections are “45s” (August and September, ’05), and difficult to take advantage of with Mutual Funds. But amid all of this uncertainty, there is one indisputable fact: there has never been a correction that has not succumbed to the next rally… its more popular flip side. So smile through the hum drum Everydays of the correction, you just might meet Peggy Sue tomorrow.

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Investment Strategy: The Investor’s Creed

The Stock Market is a dynamic place where investors can consistently make reasonable returns on their capital if they comply with the basic principles of the endeavor AND if they don’t measure their progress too frequently with irrelevant measuring devices. Five simple concepts of Asset Allocation, Investment Strategy, and Psychology are summed up quite nicely in the “The Investor’s Creed”.
Investment strategy, investor, smart cash, equities, fixed income investing, value stocks, Wall Street, stock market, finance, individual investors, investor’s creed, money
Fascinating, isn’t it, this stock market of ours, with its unpredictability, promise, and unscripted daily drama! But individual investors are even more interesting. We’ve become the product of a media driven culture that must have reasons, predictability, blame, scapegoats, and even that four-letter word, certainty. We are a culture of investors where hindsight is rapidly replacing the reality-based foresight that once was flowing in our now real-time veins… just like downhill racing, grouse hunting, and Super Bowls.

The Stock Market is a dynamic place where investors can consistently make reasonable returns on their capital if they comply with the basic principles of the endeavor AND if they don’t measure their progress too frequently with irrelevant measuring devices. The classic investment strategy is so simple and so trite that most investors dismiss it routinely and move on in their search for the holy investment grail(s): a stock market that only rises and a bond market capable of paying higher interest rates at stable or higher prices! Just not going to happen?

This is mythology, not investing. Investors who grasp the realities of these wonderful marketplaces recognize the opportunities and embrace them with an understanding that goes beyond the media hype and side show performance enhancement barkers. Simply put, when investment grade securities rise in price [As they are now, with the DJIA finally putting together a successful attack on the 11,000 barrier], Take Your Profits, because that’s the purpose of investing in the stock market! On the flip side (and there has always been a flip side, more commonly dreaded as a “correction”), replenish your portfolio inventory with investment grade securities. Yes, even some that you may have just sold days or weeks ago during the rally. This is much more than an oversimplification; it is a long-term (a year or two is not long term.) strategy that succeeds… cycle, after cycle, after cycle. Sounds an awful lot like Buy Low/Sell High doesn’t it? Obviously, Wall Street can’t let you know that it is quite so simple!

[Note that Dow Jones 11,000 was last breached during the infancy of this century, and that the last All Time High in this much too widely followed average occurred late in 1999. When the DJIA banner is repositioned on that historical peak of 11,700 or so, it will represent no less than six years of zero growth in this, the most respected, of all Market Indicators! Would the media strip the gold medal from this Stock Market Icon if it knew that during these same years: (1) There have been significantly more stocks rising in price on a daily basis than moving lower. In fact, more than two-thirds of the last 68 months have been positive. (2) Since April 2000, there have been 120 more positive days in NYSE issue breadth than negative days. (3) 250% more NYSE stocks established new high price levels than new lows. (4) We are working on our sixth consecutive year of positive issue breadth!]

So understand that your portfolio statement values will rise and fall throughout time, and rather than rejoice or cry, you should be taking actions that will enhance your “Working Capital” and the ability of your portfolio to accomplish your long term goals and objectives. Through the simple application of a few easy to memorize rules, you can plot a course to an investment portfolio that regularly achieves higher highs and (much more importantly), higher lows! Left to its own devices, like the DJIA for example, an unmanaged portfolio is likely to have long periods of unproductive sideways motion. You can ill afford to travel six years at a break even pace, and it is foolish, even irresponsible, to expect any unmanaged or passively directed approach to be in sync with your personal financial needs.

Five simple concepts of Asset Allocation, Investment Strategy, and Psychology are summed up quite nicely in what I call “The Investor’s Creed”:

(1) My intention is to be fully invested in accordance with my planned equity/fixed income asset allocation. (2) On the other hand, every security I own is for sale, and every security I own generates some form of cash flow that cannot be reinvested immediately. (3) I am happy when my cash position is nearly 0% because all of my money is then working as hard as it possibly can to meet my objectives. (4) But, I am ecstatic when my cash position approaches 100% because that means I’ve sold everything at a profit, and that I am in a position to (5) take advantage of any new investment opportunities (that fit my guidelines) as soon as I become aware of them.

If you are managing your portfolio properly, your cash position has been rising lately, as you take profits on the securities you purchased when prices were falling just a few months ago?and (this is a big and) you could well be chock full of cash well before the market blows the whistle on its advance! Yes, if you are going about the investment process properly, you will be swimming in cash at about the same time Wall Street discovers the rally and starts encouraging people to weight their portfolios more heavily into stocks; the number of IPOs coming to market starts to rise exponentially; morning drive radio DJ’s start to laugh about their stock market successes; and all of your friends start to talk about their new investment guru or the 30% gains in their growth Mutual Funds. What are you doing in cash!

This is what I call “smart” cash, because it represents realized profits, interest, and dividends that are just catching a breather on the bench after a scoring drive. As the gains compound at money market rates, the disciplined coach looks for sure signs of investor greed in the market place: fixed income prices fall as speculators abandon their long term goals and reach for the new investment stars that are sure to propel equity prices ever higher, boring investment grade equities fall in price as well because it now clear [for the scadieighth (sic) time] that the market will never fall again?particularly NASDAQ, which could double and still not be where it was six years ago. And the beat goes on, cycle after cycle, generation after generation. What do you think; will today’s coaches be any smarter than those of the late nineties? Have they learned that it is the very strength of a rising market that proves to be its greatest weakness!

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