13 June 2007

Stocks to correct 15% by year end

If there is a single salient truth about the U.S. stock market, it
is that 2007 is a record setting year from almost every aspect.
While there are a few rare exceptions that place either 1929 or 2000
in the spotlight instead, our overall impression is that the mania
for stocks appears to be at least as emphatic now as it has ever
been. We have repeatedly illustrated margin debt extremes and the
historically low mutual fund cash-to-assets ratio as evidence, but
the best picture of the continuing mania for stocks remains the
sheer volume of trading. Not only is the volume of trading at a
historic high, the velocity of transactions have exceeded the
previous highs with such ease that one's only choice is the
assumption that a veritable mania is still in progress, and in fact,
never really ended. Apparently, the collapse and bear market that
endured from March 2000 to March 2003 was only a corrective phase to
the greatest stock market mania of all time.
We make the distinction of a "corrective phase" rather than a bear
market due to the observable fact that we cannot find one instance
of back-to-back stock manias in the past. Perhaps the semantics and
definitions do not work for some, but nevertheless, we find it
extremely difficult to dispute that the mania never really ended.
Even at the nadir in 2002, Dollar Trading Volume was still at a
level that equated to a 18.3% rate of growth in velocity from 1995,
when we posit the mania actually commenced. This seven year path
would have been extraordinary sans the final manic peak and
subsequent collapse!

As it now stands, DTV has grown 18.1% from last year's record total
and exceeds the fateful year of 2000 by 28.1%. Compared with Gross
domestic Product and total stock market capitalization, we are close
enough to record extremes to posit the possibility that a similar
outcome to 1929 and 2000 should eventually be at hand.
DTV is more than three times the size of GDP
for only the second time in history.
DTV versus market capitalization is 223%, only nominally lower than
the 228% registered in the Roaring Twenties.
If there is only one salient truth about the stock market today, it
is that the mania remains largely unrecognized by professionals and
the public, who blithely continue without concern, taking larger
risks with greater exposures than ever before, while denying
investments in favor of trading, per se.

We define Speculative Fervor as the one-year differential in DTV
compared with the level of GDP. A market that trades an additional
$2 trillion while GDP rises by 3% is more speculative than a market
that trades an additional $1 trillion while GDP rises the same 3%.
Although Speculative Fervor has not reached the levels registered in
1999 and 2000, this indicator has remained at "Roaring Twenties"
levels for four full years. It is easy to posit that recent high
levels have reinforced the notion that stocks can do no wrong, hence
the game is still played to the hilt. We believe it is imperative
to note that Speculative Fervor remained between +15% to -10% for a
stretch of 64 years (!!!) from 1933 to 1996, equating to the
historic norm. A return to these levels will result in a huge
dénouement for traders and investors. In our view, this outcome is
inevitable. We do not
expect an identical collapse such as occurred
from 2000 to 2003, but an initial shock followed by a consistent and
steady disenchantment with the inability of stocks to recover over
the long term.

Stocks are overowned and clearly, overtraded.

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