What’s beating the market down?

A lot of things are coming together to cause the market to go down, recently.

One issue is lower earnings forecasts for the 3rd and 4th quarter. Companies reporting 2nd quarter earnings are saying things don’t look that great for the rest of the year. This is knocking down stock prices. As investors optimistically begin to look forward to 2009 this fall, I expect the stock market to rally.

Another issue is uncertainty over upcoming elections. Markets hate uncertainty, and until it becomes clear who will win upcoming elections (both Presidential and Congressional) and what those elected will do, the market will do poorly. As that uncertainty clears up this fall, I expect the stock market to recover.

A third issue is the housing market. Housing inventories are very high, home sales volumes are low, and home prices continue to decline. Not only is housing an important part of our economy, it’s also a major part of most consumers’ wealth. Depressed consumers spend less, and that is reducing stock prices. When the housing market shows concrete signs of recovering, and I have no idea when that will happen (although I’m guessing late this year or early next), I expect the stock market to resume its climb.

A fourth issue, strongly related to the third, is the financial services sector. Banks are seeing their loans to consumers and businesses sour. At the same time, consumers and businesses need the money they put with banks as deposits to cover their needs as the economy slows. This perfect storm is hurting banks in a major way. After the housing market, and thus consumers and businesses, begin to recover, so will the banks.

A fifth issue is energy prices. Although energy prices have pulled back, no one is certain whether they will continue down or climb again. My guess is that high energy prices have both brought more supply online and reduced demand, so I expect energy prices to continue to decline in the short run. If such a decline becomes more clear, I think the market will rebound.

The way I see it, there are both short and long term issues at hand.

One short term issue is the market’s transition from looking at 3rd and 4th quarter earnings to looking forward to 2009 earnings. Another short term issue is election season. Those two issues are relatively easy to predict and should tend to lift market prices some time this fall.

Two long term issues are the housing market and financial services sectors. I don’t know when these two will recover, but when they do it will be a major and longer term lift to market prices.

Energy is both a short and long term issue. In the short run, I believe energy prices will come down and tend to support the economy and market prices, especially this fall. In the long run, I don’t believe it will be easy to find supply to keep up with growing demand, and higher energy prices will tend to undercut the economy and market prices. This dynamic is very difficult to predict.

I expect market prices to continue to decline into early fall, as investors focus on current economic conditions and election uncertainty. Such a decline will be tempered by declining energy prices and accelerated by rising energy prices.

In the longer run, the market will not begin a long term climb until the conditions in the housing market and financial sector improve. I can’t predict when this will happen, but it may happen this fall or some time next year.

In the much longer term, as the economy recovers and demand picks up, so will energy prices. This will dampen the market’s rally to some degree.

Although I don’t use market predictions to time the market, I believe an understanding of market dynamics are useful for investors who are trying to understand what is happening and when it will improve.

The best time to buy is when things look terrible, and the best time to sell is when things look great. Whether the market rallies this fall, next year, or 3 years from now, I believe this is a great time to invest.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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