Monday, March 10, 2008

SPY at a crossroads

The stock market has been in a downtrend ever since we hit an all-time-high of $157.52 back on October 11, 2007. This downtrend is characterized by consecutive lower highs and lower lows in the stock market index. Once SPY broke down below their December lows of $139.92, the price has been unable to exceed that level for the majority of the past two months. The rally off January lows for the SPY was capped right at the December lows. Currently the ETF is rapidly approaching its January lows at $126. A break below that level will bring more downside action for SPY and will signal an official bear market. A break below January lows could easily cause a drop to at least $116 - $118 in the SPY. If we do not experience a closing price of below $126 though, it is likely that we would have a double bottom formation from which the market can start building the next bull market.
So what should an investor do if we break below $126? A winning strategy since July 2007 has been to stay in cash rather than be invested in equities. Investors could spread their purchases rather than invest all at once using dollar cost averaging. This strategy is most effective during markets like the one we are in nowadays. Investors could also temporarily increase their fixed income allocation in order to be fully prepared for the decline in prices. Once we get a capitulation from the bulls, most stocks will be selling at super attractive bargain prices and yields. Furthermore, once prices start forming higher highs and higher lows this will be a good time to be fully invested in US equities again. If you do not have time to watch the market every day though, there are many other ways for you to react to event in the current market.
A different strategy could be to simply ignore all the short-term market fluctuations and focus on the big picture. By spreading your risk among many industries and not investing all your money at once, you will be better off than the average Joe investor in 2008. Furthermore by investing in dividend growth stocks you will be paid to actually own the shares- and your dividend income will likely increase at the same time. When prices fluctuate wildly the only stable thing for investors is their monthly/quarterly dividend check. Buying stocks when nobody likes equities is one of the best contrarian strategies out there. So go out there, do your homework and stay invested. Good things will happen to you.

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