SAN DIEGO – The market's latest gyrations, if nothing else, should shake investors out of the complacency of thinking that what goes up must go higher.
As I said on CNBC's High Net Worth recently, it's a hit-yourself-on-the-forehead as you say, "Gee, I should've had a V-8" moment. That means it's time to reassess your tolerance for risk, especially with rates on money markets funds and short-term CDs hovering closer (and in some cases higher than) 5 percent.
As the market gets more wobbly, there's more chatter about how this does or doesn't resemble the period before the 1987 crash. Barclays Capital recently came out with a headline-grabber showing the comparisons then and now. It certainly was good PR for Barclays!
Beyond that: Best of luck. The Dow isn't even down 5 percent from its highs. In the crash it was down 23 percent. There are plenty of easy comparisons with 1987, such as a weak dollar, inflation fears, a new Fed chief and concerns of a housing bust. Yet bulls are quick to point out that using one metric - the price-earnings multiple for the Standard & Poor's 500 - stocks are cheaper today than they were then, with profit margins at record highs.
Nothing, of course, is quite that easy - and there is more than one way to interpret the numbers.
As John Hussman of Hussman Funds points out in his weekly commentary at hussmanfunds.com, "While profit margins are at record highs, disposable income as a percentage of GDP is closing in on record lows."
(Hint, according to Hussman: With that ratio, the current unemployment rate "and S&P 500 earnings at the top of their 6 percent long-term growth channel, investors should not at all be surprised to see 'surprising' wage inflation, accompanied by disappointing profit margins and weak earnings growth in the next few years." That, in theory, should translate into lower stocks.)
Will Hussman be right? Will he be wrong? Should you buy more whatever you like as the market dips? Or will this, in retrospect, have been a great opportunity to sell?
Who knows, and for clarity: Consult a Gypsy.
All I know is that if you haven't done so already it's time to reassess what you own, why you own it and what your options are. You don't always get a second chance, and this market is handing one to you on a silver platter.
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