There are many of you 'standing by'...
...with your hands full of "buy" tickets. I know that feeling of wanting to get back in at the bottom, so you can recoup all those loses. Been there, done that. Only time I got "lucky" with my timing was in the late 60's.
As Mr. Bonner sez: "Be careful...very careful." UB
Gird up your loins, dear reader. Put wax in your ears and lash yourself to the mast. You are about to be tempted.
"Lead us not into temptation," says the famous prayer. The old timers knew we were weak. They knew we couldn't resist. They didn't pray that we would "just say no" to temptation. They knew that wouldn't happen. Instead, they prayed to God to keep temptation away from us.
There's nothing like a little temptation to get the juices flowing. A roulette wheel that seems to stop just where you thought it would...a pretty woman who smiles at you on the cross-town bus...a pastry as big as a sombrero and as rich as El Dorado - oh...Heaven forefend!
But the hardest temptation to resist is the temptation of getting something for nothing.
"Investors begin dipping toes back into stocks," reports a Reuter's article.
"While economies keep contracting, stocks may have already started pricing in the end of recession and the beginning of a recovery."
Last week, the stock market showed a little leg. Yes, prices rose 12% over a 4-day period - teasing us with the prospect of a little fun. Finally - a rebound. Maybe.
The Dow rose again on Friday - up 53 points. The index is still down more than 15% for the year...and down more than 50% from its all time high. It is rare to see such big losses without a major rebound. Our guess is that we're finally ready for one.
On that basis, we have taken down our "Crash Alert" flag. If we're right, we're going to see stocks go up 20% to 50%. And we're going to hear more people talking about the end of the recession...and a new bull market.
GM said it really didn't need an extra $2 billion last week. Two of America's biggest banks said they were running in the black again. Even the retail sales figures were not as bad as people expected.
Houses in some communities - such as Riverside, California and Miami, Florida - are selling for only about half of what they brought three years ago. Surely this is the bottom of the housing slump, right? And sales of existing houses - at bargain prices - rose almost 50% in January, from a year before.
Our advice is to listen politely - but don't take it too seriously. This is a depression. If it follows the form of previous depressions, it will seem for a while that it is not a depression at all...but a recession, and one that is ending.
Many - probably most - people still believe that the crisis is merely a pause in an otherwise healthy economic model. They wait for the bailouts to take effect...and for the U.S. consumer to begin buying again. That is the fondest hope, by the way, of the Chinese government. The Chinese hold $1.4 trillion worth of U.S. dollar assets. They're worried that their stash of cash may lose value. But, so far, it is the only thing that is NOT losing value.
The poor Chinese began spreading their cash around just before Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall. A number of their high-profile deals went bad:
"China loses billions on equities bets ahead of markets' collapse," says an awkward headline in the Financial Times. By the end of June '08, the Chinese held more than $100 billion worth of U.S. equities. Bad timing. But the collapse of the U.S. stock market makes Beijing's other dollar holdings look good. The dollar has gone up. So, the lesson the Chinese have learned is this: the safest thing you can do is to continue lending to your biggest deadbeat customer.
It is a dangerous strategy. But the Chinese think that if they extend enough credit to the U.S. consumer, he'll come back in the shop. And Ben Bernanke, another dreamer, said last week that the recession could end this year.
Stocks will probably rise for a few months. The economic news will be better. The Dow could rise to above 10,000. Then, we will be tempted to think that all the king's horses and all the king's men are actually better at putting things back together than their reputation suggests. We'll be tempted to think that those bailouts and giveaways actually did the job...and that now, rather than turn our backs on temptation...we can safely give in to it.
Be careful, dear reader. Be careful.
The Daily Reckoning