Saturday, June 22, 2013

The two F's - Or - An ever-growing force...

Clearly, the "experts" see two separate forces---the fundamentals and the Fed---presently driving the stock market. Some are entirely committed to one, some tell us it's both. I'll dispense for now with my too-many-moving-parts-to-know lecture and narrow today's commentary down to the two F's.

Few would deny that the Fed, by essentially killing the competition for stocks, has contributed to these record levels in equity prices. Thus, anyone who bought stocks solely owing to the can't-fight-the-Fed mantra, would---considering the recent taper-talk---be a seller. Hence, the sell off to the tune of 600 Dow points (so far). These are the folks whose portfolios live and die on the surface. Their investment decisions are driven by the winds (or whims) of policy. Easy or tight monetary policy, the raising or lowering of taxes, and the spending of governments inspire their actions. Life is a roller coaster for the Fed watcher.

The fundamentals-driven investor, on the other hand, searches beneath the surface. He looks beyond the end of the trading day, week, month and year. He's concerned with earnings, margins, balance sheets, management, macro trends, etc. If the fundamentals are strong he's a buyer, if not, he's not.

(Yes, I'm ignoring [for today] the technicians [the chart watchers]. Those who are guided by volume, heads and shoulders, moving averages, clusters, waves and bands. Not familiar with those terms? Good!)...

We could surmise that, given relatively strong (in my estimation) fundamentals, the present selloff will be limited to the extent it takes to kick the Fed watchers to the curb. Of course the $85 billion (per month) question is, will exiting QE negatively impact the fundamentals?

As for the rest of us, we're simply investors. We don't trade stocks---we own business. Businesses that create the goods and services that cater to 7 billion people---of whom 6 billion live in developing nations. We believe that, as the years unfold---debt, deficits and dumb-headed policies notwithstanding---we'll be forever amazed at how far we've come.

My point; the unwinding of QE will be telling, but only as it relates to the F's debate. Beyond the inevitable pricing distortions born of political intrusion onto the marketplace, beyond P/E ratios and profit margins, capitalism will remain an ever-growing (global) force to be reckoned with.

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