Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alphabet Soup Spells Blah

I'm getting lost. There's old programs like the FDIC insurance program to protect bank depositors. There's the new Obama Stimulus Package. And then there's TARP, TALF, EIEIO (no, wait, that's a song from kindergarten), along with seemingly dozens of other new catchy-named programs emanating from the nation's capital. All are intended to reverse the economy from its current downward death spiral.
Yesterday, Warren Buffett was pontificating on CNBC that the economy had "fallen off a cliff" but would eventually recover. Well, duh ... yeah, even Jimmy Buffett could have said that.
There's universal agreement that the stock market is a leading economic indicator. It almost always starts its recovery six months prior to economic upturns. So the question that I would have liked Warren to answer is "When will the recovery take place?". Once we know that magic date, a monkey could throw darts at the stock market listings and pick winners, just as long as he tosses those darts six months earlier.
An old stock market adage is: "They don't ring a bell at the bottom (or top)". This is really too bad; it would make things a whole lot easier. As I write this, the stock market has just rallied for the first time in weeks. Is this the bottom or just a "dead cat bounce"? Who knows? Check back in several years and we'll be able to figure it out.
So what's the average investor to do? Just listen to the experts and when you think that enough of them agree on a common course of action, immediately do the opposite.
Failing that sure-fire piece of advice, it seems to me that the Obama Administration and Congress can help jump-start the economy and the stock market with one simple action above all others. Reduce or eliminate the taxes on dividends and long term capital gains. This single action will pump huge amounts of cash into start-ups and the stock market, revitalizing the economy and creating jobs.  Obama is scaring the bejesus out of potential investors worldwide because he's talking about raising these taxes instead of lowering them.
One other thing. It might be a good idea to hold gold or some other hard assets in your portfolio. While I know that the current concern is deflation, at some point, the massive creation of money is going to set off a jumbo-sized round of inflation.
No! I don't have any idea when that magic date will occur. I sure wish I did.