There really is no good news that will motivate the current stock market. Investor sentiment is so weak that the market’s trading is now based on degrees of bad news, not whether there’s any hope in a particular story.
One thing that I always worry about is the tendency for bad economic news to become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the marketplace. Even if, for example, industrial production numbers show a surprise increase that beat expectations, the market just isn’t interested. No; we’re in a hard-core bear market and no one can predict its outcome.
As an analyst, it’s fascinating to consider all the great values that are developing in the stock market. There are a lot of blue-chip companies that are very attractively priced right now and, not surprisingly, yields are going up.
The small-cap sector of the stock market is having a very difficult time attracting the attention of investors. Just like in most bear markets, the more speculative securities always suffer from a lack of interest. This sector is also suffering from terribly weak sentiment, as any good news from earnings or other corporate developments is basically ignored by the marketplace.
There is a real reckoning in our midst right now. It began with the housing market, moved to the credit market, killed the brokers and severely handicapped the bankers and the insurers. Now, the retailers are hurting and the automakers are almost in bankruptcy. The whole thing is snowballing into a severe economic downturn that will take a lot of time to right itself. There is no sector of the economy that is immune from the current reckoning.
A handful of industries are less prone to severe economic weakness. These include agriculture (which is used to hardship), the pet-care industry, and the human healthcare industry. But, the current contraction is so pervasive that people’s spending behavior is changing radically. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to take a long time for us to get out of this mess.