January 31, 2014 Comments

This morning the Dow had been down 225 points but then recovered and is currently down 117 points or 0.7%.

With the market gyrations this weak and with some reports of lower earnings, difficulties in retail and given that market P/E ratios are somewhat above historic averages, it is wise to be aware that markets can go down as well as up.

It’s difficult to know if one should sell down their equity position. Over the past five years there have been many market scares where it would have turned out be a mistake to sell. No one can say for sure if the market will now decline or instead will go on to new highs.

I would say that anyone in the market has to prepared for the possibility of losses. The price investors pay for getting 30% on the S&P 500 last year is that in other years it will surely decline.

My strategy this past year has to been to have some cash on hand and to be prepared to buy on dips. And if there was a major correction I would ultimately end up with an equity exposure of close to 100%. I might even use margin if stocks got cheap enough. Over time this sort of strategy has worked very well for me. But it’s not for everyone.

Certainly I have considered this week whether I should trim even stocks that I like such as Wells Fargo and Toll Brothers and Bank of America. So far I have not done so. I reserve the right to decide to do so at any time. Right now I do have an order to trim Toll Brothers by a small amount at $37.50. I have not considered trimming Canadian Tire or Melcor despite my large positions there.

Canadian Western Bank was briefly out with one of these five year rate reset preferred shares that are non-cumulative and that may be converted to common shares (by the Bank) under certain adverse conditions. These pay 4.4%. I have placed an expression of interest with TD Waterhouse for some shares for an RRSP account. (I am a bit worried I am using up my cash surplus here but I suspect I could sell these to raise cash later and am not likely to suffer much loss to do so). Very soon after I placed my order the offering closed. Some subscribers may wonder why I don’t send an email about something like this. However, that has never been my practice and also I don’t really like the idea of getting in a big hurry in the markets. In fact my buying even preferred share IPOs seems a bit dangerous, it involves making snap decisions which has never been my approach to the markets. Also, in terms of sending an email, it turns out that the offering was about to close by the time I say it. To access these offers you have to sign up for IPO alerts with your broker.

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