I raised my daughter in Orange County, California. Beaches, boats, palm trees, friends with fancy cars – life could have been a whole lot more difficult.
Spoiled senseless? Not really. She worked three jobs (martial arts assistant instructor, science tutor, husbandry intern at the Dana Point Ocean Institute) while maintaining a 4.4 G.P.A. at her high school. Today, she’s a biology major with a marine minor at the University of California at San Diego.
My kid is nineteen years old now. And even though she hasn’t lived at home for about a year, I cannot say that I am crazy about seeing her one weekend a month. So my wife and I asked her to join us in New York this past week. That’s right. Before heading back to DNA replication in one of her two lab internships – before resuming sorority obligations, hanging out with her surf-loving boyfriend and attending biodiversity lectures – my not-so-little piece of my heart had an opportunity to see her father’s hometown.
“What do you think?” I asked, barely recognizing the area myself. She hadn’t really paid much attention to the east coast slice of suburbia when she visited 17 years earlier.
“Everything seems extremely old,” she replied. She didn’t say “quaint” or “unique,” and it hurt my feelings for some reason. I let her know that not every car is a Tesla. I told her that some brick buildings have character – a whole lot more charm than stucco. I even felt the need to mention that some of the oldest and most successful public companies – Alcoa (AA), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), MetLife (MET), Hess Corp ((HES) – had their headquarters in the state of New York.
Not surprisingly, my kid gave me one of those “you don’t get it” stares. Perhaps if I had brought up names like Facebook (FB) or Amazon (AMZN) or Netflix (NFLX), we would have been speaking the same language. And yet, that’s when it hit me. Pizazz at any price is a hallmark of latter-stage stock market bulls. Indeed, whereas every major sector ETF of the economy trades below its 200-day moving average, First Trust Internet (FDN) trades above its trendline; whereas nearly all of the major sectors are negative year-to-date, FDN is up more than 10%.
I realize that there are a whole lot of folks who believe in the forward growth potential of Internet juggernauts like Facebook (FB) and Netflix (NFLX). I don’t blame you for thinking that they cannot lose 50%, 60%, 70% of their value over the next few years. The thing is, in my 25 years of experience, peaking margin debt is the least kind to the flashiest and the sexist of stocks.
Ever hear the phrase, “everything old is new again.” Well, that’s why I’ve been acquiring Wal-Mart (WMT) in the low $60s for many of my clients. Can’t compete with Amazon, you say? I say that a dividend aristocrat with a 3%-plus yield is paying me to be patient. And what’s wrong with paying 2012 prices while we wait?
Ditto for Hess Corp (HES). I realize that the doom-n-gloom on the commodity has been “spot on.” That said, the U.S. and the global community still depend on oil; that is, whether people around the world are using it for power or a country requires exporting the commodity for its survival, “black gold” will stage a comeback. It follows that an old-timer like Hess Corp (HES) trading at 2012 prices at less than 1x book (P/B 0.75) is worthy of consideration, especially with its 1.8% dividend yield.
Don’t get me wrong. I expect U.S. equities to retest their late August lows. And I would not be surprised to see the corrective activity break to bearish levels of 20% below all time records. The vast majority of the 15 warning signs that I outlined prior to the August-September sell-off are still in play.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with having a “buy lower” value orientation. If a 33% discount on WMT stock is not enough protection, you might choose a stop-limit order to keep a loss manageable. If you fear $30 oil and worry that HES won’t be able to stand the heat, consider dollar cost averaging into a diversified sector ETF like iShares Energy (IYE).
The one thing that you shouldn’t do? Join the biotech bandwagon or the Internet parade without a plan to step aside. Only 15% of S&P 500 stocks are trading above a 50-day moving average. Market breadth this weak tends to beget more selling pressure. Equally disconcerting? The American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) has investor bullishness at a 2-month high of 34.7%. Historically, you will get a whole lot more folks throwing up the white surrender flag before a corrective phase finishes.
Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a web log (”blog”) that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial, Inc., and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs, mutual funds, and/or any investment asset mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial, Inc. or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert website. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationship.