The Best Stock Market Advice I Know: Get Ahead of the Business Cycle

The timing isn’t quite right yet, but, in the not-too-distant future, there should be a reacceleration of U.S.-listed Chinese stocks. If you’ve been a speculator in these stocks, you’ll know that it’s been tough going. The entire group has been suffering from a lack of investor confidence and a lot of this sentiment is warranted. There remain, however, many very good companies out there whose stock prices have fallen along with the group and that are now excellent values in my view. I think we’re very close to achieving extreme pricing (on the downside) with many of these stocks and speculators should be putting a number of these stocks on their radar screens.

If you watch the stock market long enough, you’ll know that certain sectors experience waves of enthusiasm from investors. It’s like the latest trend in the fashion industry, only the business cycle in stocks changes extremely fast. One year, the darling of the market is solar energy stocks. The next year, silver stocks are soaring. The whole system in my view is about perpetual rolling interest from investors on the Street and getting ahead of these trends is the single most important contributor to making big money in the stock market. It’s not even about owning the right individual stocks at the right time; it’s about owning the right sector. Share prices move in groups and Wall Street takes no prisoners. The stock market isn’t a perfect system and valuations are always relative, but with so many participants on the long and short sides of the marketplace, prices are never true for long.

Stock picking has always been and always will be a difficult endeavor to get right on a consistent basis. Even in a bull market, it’s difficult to make money as a speculator, because sentiment changes so quickly and so do stock prices. One unfulfilled expectation and a stock’s price can be cut in half—in a matter of minutes! If stock picking were easy, there would be a lot more retired stock traders living on your street. Even Wall Street pros don’t last in the game for very long. Most investment banks make a lot more money selling you advice than trading stocks for themselves.

The one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to fight the market. The action is the action. It might not be rational; it might not even be fair. But the stock market is a system that is based on fear and greed, and emotions have more to do with prices than anything else. A big investor like Warren Buffett worries almost solely about valuation, because he is buying an entire company’s cash flow, not just a share. For equity investors (speculators more appropriately), a stock’s valuation is more about perception than anything. Understanding the market’s prevailing psychology usually wins out over the most stringent of analyses.

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Right now, there are several sectors in the equity universe that are not participating in the current rally. If you’re a buy-low/sell-high kind of speculator, now is the time to be looking seriously. Here’s what my favorite stock picker likes to do (Jim Rogers); he waits for securities to achieve price extremes, then he makes his bets.