The Odd Thing About This Stock Market

It’s a funny stock market right now. Perhaps it always is. I was amazed that the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita didn’t hurt stock prices more. Moreover, the Main Street economy is showing incredible resilience in spite of the constant shocks from Mother Nature, oil and gas prices, and rising interest rates.

Just the other day, the closely watched Institute for Supply Management released data showing a significant boost in manufacturing activity. Economists were impressed, but the stock market was more reserved in its reaction.

It’s and odd thing to get used to as an investment analyst. There’s good economic news, but the stock market goes down. This is the reality of the market’s ability to analyze and discount the future. You see, when economic data like strong manufacturing numbers hit the market, institutional investors say that’s great, but then ask, “What’s the bad news?” In this case, the bad news for the stock market was that any perceived new strength in the economy means that the Federal Reserve would be even more likely to keep raising short-term interest rates.

So, in this case, the net reaction to all this data is nothing. And this is why the stock market remains flat in the current environment.

Of course, there are many stocks going up in value right now. Just last week, we brought to your attention to two great companies, Joy Global, Inc. (NASDAQ/JOYG) and ENSCO International Incorporated (NYSE/ESV). In just one week’s time, Joy Global’s stock price has appreciated more than five points and ENSCO’s stock price has appreciated more than six points.

In today’s market, the broad-based indices aren’t going to experience much of a tailwind. This makes it all the easier to outperform when you own the right stocks. As we expect the current market malaise to continue over the near term, the energy/commodity sector remains the most attractive part of the economy in which to be invested.