The bounce has been faster and more comprehensive than I expected. I was thinking that we would top around these levels, but by summer or fall, not early May. I have continued to scale into distant-expiry SPY and QQQQ puts, favoring ITM and ATM, and have now deployed about 1/3 of the money I am willing to allocate to shorts. I also have a smidgen of shorter-term positions in certain ridiculously high-flying restaurant and other consumer stocks.
The bond sell-off and commodities rally indicate that inflation fears now have the upper hand, as most people still believe deflation will be a short-lived phenomenon. The aforementioned movements are setting up nicely for long and short replays, respectively.
Notwithstanding a long-overdue correction, I suspect that stocks have further to run, and am no longer such a skeptic of certain Elliott wavers’ target of S&P 1050. Bullishness is now at 80%, up from 2% in March, but judging from attitudes on TV, there is still a great deal of skepticism to be overcome before we can call a top. That said, the speed and evenness of the advance leads me to expect much more choppiness for the remainder.
Shorting precious metals has been frustrating, and I suspect that we are repeating the pattern of last spring, when we had to work our way through several months of chop after receding from manic levels (1030 gold that time, vs 1007 in February).
It is important to keep in mind the real situation, not just the current market mood (though you can’t trade on fundamentals alone). We can’t work off the greatest credit bubble in history in 18 months and just a 57% loss in the stock market. The real (private, productive) economy is not going to stop shedding jobs, let alone add them, for years, and people are so indebted that they cannot be enticed to reflate the asset bubble or return to previous levels of wasteful spending. It will take a generation to work through our debt and lifestyle delusions.
It bears repeating that today’s official headline unemployment number (8.9%) cannot be compared to numbers from before the 1990s, when the Clinton administration changed the reporting methodology to exclude large segments of unemployed. A more useful measure for historical comparisons is U-6 unemployment, which now stands at 15.8% for April. Today on Bloomberg I heard Christina Romer say that things were nothing like the Great Depression, as she compared apples to oranges. In reality, we are at solidly depressionary levels already.
Also bear in mind that stock valuations remain at bubble levels. This is easy to see when you remember that stocks have no intrinsic value other than marked to market book value and heavily discounted future earnings. The major indexes’ trailing PE’s on net earnings will be under 10 by the time this is over. We still need to work off the bubble that was blown in the 1990s, which didn’t finish deflating in 2003 because of the easing of credit. Every kind of credit is tightening now, unless of course you are a bank holding company.