Unless we get a major shock like war or something related to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, I don’t think the stock market is going to experience a lot of further downside. Stock prices might drift and then trade range-bound for a couple more months, but stock market valuations are fair and this provides a lot of cushion.
I do think there is more downside potential in gold, silver and oil prices and it’s not just related to slower growth in the global economy. A lot of the price weakness in these commodities is related to strength in the U.S. dollar, which experiences renewed enthusiasm every time there’s an uncertain development in the eurozone.
There remains, in my view, an underlying strength to the stock market at this time. Institutional investors want to be buyers in this market; they only need a reason to do so. I fully expect that large-cap companies that pay dividends will continue to be the market leaders going into 2013, because, in a slow growth environment, dividends income is crucial. I think it’s fair to conclude that expectations for capital gains are fairly low among all stock market investors, so dividends become the only way to beat the inflation rate.
Because we’re now in the lull between earnings seasons, increased dividends announcements are reduced. I think we’ll get another round, however, during second-quarter earnings season, largely because companies can and want to keep shareholders happy. The cash hoard among most large-cap companies remains substantial.
When share prices go down, yields for dividends go up of course. Most of the stock market’s leaders haven’t actually pulled back in price to a very large degree and this contributes to my view that there is solid underlying strength in this stock market. (See Stock Market Correction’s Here—Put Dividend Paying Stocks on Your Radar Screen.) And the fact that stocks are fairly valued suggests to me that further downside will be modest.
Practically, the only thing that equity investors can really count on in this market is dividends income. Things could blow up in Europe, China’s economy could slow even further, or there could be another war in the Middle East. In any scenario I consider, I just don’t see GDP growth accelerating very much. This is why I’m so pro-dividends. Dividends income is the best bet for new investible money in the age of austerity. Everything else, like gold or oil stocks, you have to get timing right in order to make money. With large-cap dividend paying stocks, all you need is the patience.