Look both ways
We are at a pivotal period and caution is advised
By Jim Van Meerten
We are at a very pivotal time in the market. Half of the pundits are saying that we are headed higher and the other half think we are in for a big correction. What are we to do?
You know what to do, your Mom and Dad taught you before you were six. Always look both ways before you cross the road. That road is the stock market. Should you stay where you are and wait for the traffic to clear or is it now safe to go ahead and cross to the other side?
I look at the signs. Yesterday the ValueLine Index -- an index of 1700 stocks -- closed below its 20 day moving average. BarChart's market momentum showed 61% of the stocks closed below their 20 day moving averages. The ratio of stocks hitting 20 day new highs to 20 day new lows was 537/1066 = .5 , another sign for caution. No one will fault you for sitting out a day or two.
What is happening and where are we headed? The easiest way to explain where we are is to share with you my recent experience on a trip to Florida down I-95. Traffic would speed up and everyone was flying along above the speed limit. All of a sudden red tail lights flashed and everyone slammed on the breaks.
This caterpillar or accordion effect happened over and over but there were no apparent accidents causing the slamming on of brakes. What's this got to do with the financial world? Let me explain.
Picture the financial world as 3 groups of cars: the stock market, the economy and company earnings. They are all traveling down the same highway in the same direction but occasionally they bunch up and the brakes get slammed on. You would think that drivers would not bunch up and everyone would just put the cars on cruise control at 70 and travel along like a train but that's not how the drivers think and neither do our 3 cars.
The stock market usually leads the way, it's a leading economic indicator, the economy is in the middle and earnings because they are reported after the fact usually follows the pack from behind. That's what is happening with our little convoy.
The stock market got too far out in front. The economy is trying to catch up and its leading economic indicators are catching up but its coincident indicators have been flat for 3 straight months.
Earnings are being reported now and seem to be verifying that the stock market and economy are correctly headed higher. The stock market is slowing down and allowing the rest of the convoy to catch up. We will space out again in a week or two and the stock market will get out in front again.
On my Wall Street Survivor portfolio none of my stocks are trading below their 20 day moving average so I haven't trimmed out anything and I'm fully invested. I'll just stay on the curb right now, wait for the traffic to clear and be patient.
Jim Van Meerten is an investor and blogs on financial matters here and on Financial Tides. Please leave a comment below or email FinancialTides@gmail.com
Disclosure: I do not hold any stocks that are in my Wall Street Survivor portfolio at the time of this publication.
MORE ON MSN MONEY
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Thomson Reuters (click for restrictions). Real-time quotes provided by BATS Exchange. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Interactive Data Real-Time Services. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by SIX Financial Information.
Try as the bears might, they couldn't break U.S. stocks. But investors still face frothy prices and considerable headwinds.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.
Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.
Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.