What a difference in the complexion of the world markets from last year where at the end almost every market was down 50% with no exceptions. This year as of March month-end the world markets are down a mere 10% and there are exceptions galore, notably Israel up 15% and Russia up 31%. All over, anomalies exist. Norway up 10%. Pakistan and Taiwan up 17%. Indonesia up 10%. All over South America markets up from 10 to 30 % in Peru and Venezuela. Venezuela up 40% from 1999. Recapping the wisdom of Maturin during the French Revolution advising Sophie to buy stocks, a stridency relevant to today shortly.

George Parkanyi writes:

Many a financial network talking head these days pronounces that "buy-and-hold" is dead. Here, or somewhere around here, is the perfect time to initiate a buy-and-hold strategy. This is from where the $3 AMDs and Motorolas of the world go back to $30 or $40 in the next bull market. And what of it if it takes 10 years, not that it's likely to take that long. That's still 100% per year non-compounded. My ex-high-school teacher and stock market mentor Omar Sheriffe Vernon-el-Halawani in the last two decades of his life (he passed away in 2005) did just that for most of his portfolio — buy good companies on the incredible cheap when the opportunities arose, and just put them away. He introduced me to "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator" long long ago, and in his last few years kept admonishing "George, why bother to sell?" (Though he wasn't inflexible either — he did sell Sun Microsystems once it got to $200. A couple of his closer friends rode Nortel back down to nothing.)

Paolo Pezzutti replies:

What if in ten years from now Motorola and AMD do not exist any more because a Chinese or Taiwanese corporation has wiped out these companies in an already mature market of telecoms and semiconductors? Sort of a General Motors and auto industry fate in 2015? In the meantime we have to see if the Western countries will manage to lead the next wave of innovation. It is not a given.

Stefan Jovanovich adds:

Motorola may survive as a defense/government contractor like Studebaker did; but its days as a competitor in the mobile dial-tone device market are long over. It has a legacy business in walkie-talkies, but those devices are now commercial products for — oh, happy day! — the construction and events trades. The "next bull market" will be in businesses that do not need the help or money of the academic/finance/regulatory complex. Some pissed off genius who is dropping out of graduate school right now because he can't stand another day listening to a discussion about hockey sticks will be the guy who creates a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. The fact that the next Henry Ford did it because his uncle died and left him enough money to allow him to pursue his dream of racing an electric motorcycle will definitely NOT make the history books. Instead, some not-so-bright but perfect resume student of "economic trend analysis" at Berkeley will write a seminal paper explaining how it was all due to the "convexity of the forces of ecological history" (assuming, of course, that CalPERS has not blown all the money and put the University of California into receivership — which may the wildest of all my surmises). On a happier note, the Cal Men won the national swimming championships this week. Go Bears!

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

"Hardened silo" companies, with strong management, that have survived through and handled multiple, steep cycles over the past decades by mothballing equipment as needed, sending seasoned hands "back to the house" when necessary, and which have high barriers to entry (and negative government support) into the particular business would appear value candidates now. High quality drilling and drilling service companies, over the longer term, are appealing at present prices unless solar, windmill, nuclear, and alternate energy supplant the need for hydrocarbons. There are many other groups and companies that probably fit this undervalued, "tough-times survivor" model that odds would favor moving forward.

Jim Sogi adds:

After such a rally, and now when more and more people and pundits are calling a bottom, and I hear news proclaiming a thaw, and I hear talk of people starting to buy, these are the type of things that put my radar up. It's funny that the news media is somewhat stultified in that despite their steady barrage of bad news, the markets are all up. They actually have to change their copy of bit as it's hard to proclaim, markets up 15% on steady barrage of bad news. Obama did make a good call to buy, the day before the low and gave everyone a chance to buy. He knew what was in the govvy cards of course. That was the time to make the big commitment, not now. There should be more chances before they proclaim the next bull market as the market tops.

Legacy Daily writes:

Given things stay roughly the same, I cannot disagree with any of these comments. The challenge right now is that nothing is given.

For people who trade via systems, I have a question.

At which point does one decide to a) modify the system (and to what degree and based on what), b) discard the system (and why), c) continue relying on the system (and for how long); if such a system is producing losing trades more recently but has worked fine for a long time (definition of time scales not relevant)?

Perhaps the answer contains clues regarding our recent government actions (and market reactions) where the scale of the system and the magnitude of its impact is great. The problem is further complicated by control over one's actions but lack of control over [negative] consequences of those actions in a human system.

The second question that does not leave me alone is whether a game of chess (or any other game) can be won if every few moves, the game rules are modified. Does the player quickly adjust and remain focused on winning the game according to the new rules ("queen can only move three squares at a time" for example) or does the focus shift on guessing what the next set of rule changes may be? After a few set of changes and corresponding adjustments, does the player begin to suspect the rule maker in taking one side or the other?


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