The stock market is presently a roulette wheel with dimes on black and dynamite on red. We continue to have extreme concerns about the extent of potential market losses over the completion of the present market cycle. At the same time, we have very little view with regard to short-term market action. If one reviews market action surrounding major pre-crash peaks such as 1929, 1972, 1987, 2000 and 2007, you’ll observe a sort of “resilience” in the major indices on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis even after market internals had already corroded. In 1987, for example, the break following the August bull market peak was largely recovered over the course of several weeks before failing rapidly in October. In 2000, the market actually experienced a series of 10-12% corrections and recoveries before a final high in September that was followed by a loss of half the market’s value. In 2007, the initial break in mid-summer was fully recovered, with the market registering a fresh nominal high in early October that marked the end of the bull market and the start of a 55% market collapse.
As economic historian J.K. Galbraith wrote about the advance leading up to the 1929 crash, the market’s gains “had an aspect of great reliability… Indeed the temporary breaks in the market which preceded the crash were a serious trial for those who had declined fantasy. Early in 1928, in June, in December, and in February and March of 1929 it seemed that the end had come. On various of these occasions the Times happily reported the return to reality. And then the market took flight again. Only a durable sense of doom could survive such discouragement. The time was coming when the optimists would reap a rich harvest of discredit. But it has long since been forgotten that for many months those who resisted reassurance were similarly, if less permanently, discredited.”
None of this implies that the market will or must collapse in short order. Stocks remain strenuously overvalued, overbought and overbullish, but those conditions have persisted uncorrected much longer in the present instance than they have historically. That doesn’t encourage us to abandon our concerns, but it does make us less aggressive about investment stances that rely on any immediate unwinding of what we continue to view, along with 1929 and 2000, as one of the three most reckless equity bubbles in the historical record.