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Troubling Market Thoughts Ahead of My European Trip

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Friday, October 23, 2015
Money and Markets
Troubling Market Thoughts Ahead of
My Annual European Trip
by Mike Larson

Dear ,

Mike Larson

Every year around this time, I have the pleasure of traveling to Europe for an annual investment conference. It's hosted by our business partners who publish the German-language version of Safe Money Report.

The good news is that I've been able to mix business and sightseeing. Past trips have included stops in Munich, Prague, Bonn and Berlin, and this year, Hamburg and Amsterdam are on my agenda.

The better news is that I get to interact with our foreign subscribers, and also with everyday people around town. I share my thoughts on U.S. markets and the U.S. economy. They tell me what's happening in their neck of the woods. And in the end, I believe we become better investors for it.

During my European investment conference, I'm able to mix business with sightseeing, interacting with everyday people along the way.

I don't want to steal too much thunder from my presentation just yet, since I'm not delivering it until next week. But I can say that I'll be conveying one of the most bearish messages since I first traveled to Germany in 2010.

Why? Look all around you. Even as the broad markets rallied the first few weeks of October, several sectors lagged. I'm talking about everything from financials to biotechnology to small caps.

Other sectors that did experience sharp bounces, such as energy and materials, only did so because they were in dramatically oversold territory. They still remain far, far below their highs, too. Energy stocks are down more than 12% year-to-date, despite the rally, while materials are off by around 8%.

Then there's the ongoing turmoil in the junk bond market, and the problems that's creating for the buyout and buyback bubbles.

As for Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), they've been flopping left and right. First Data (FDC) priced below its projected range, then kept falling in the days afterward. Plus, the Albertsons mega-deal was postponed and still hasn't been rescheduled. Only the Ferrari (RACE) transaction came out of the gate strong.

How weak is the IPO market overall? Consider this: Only a handful of IPOs priced below their expected range earlier this year. But 50% of September's offerings missed the mark. That rose to 75% in October. Moreover, IPO volume in the year through last week was running at only $30 billion. That's less than half the $82 billion raised in the same time period of 2014.

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Then there's the disappointing earnings picture. S&P 500 profits are now forecast to decline at a single-digit percentage rate in the third quarter, then fall again in the fourth quarter. Not too long ago, analysts were expecting them to rise. But they've been forced to revise their projections downward at the fastest, most consistent rate since the tail end of the Great Recession.

You catch my drift? There are several reasons to worry about the outlook here, and plenty of evidence that we're back in bear market territory. So I'd be doing our foreign subscribers — and you — a disservice if I didn't tell it like it is.

My advice? Outside of a handful of select, highly rated, low-volatility, non-economically sensitive stocks, you're better off getting out of many stocks. Take advantage of short-term market rallies to raise cash or add hedges, depending on how aggressive you want to be. And by all means, stay tuned to Money and Markets for my latest insights — based on what I see happening here and what I learn when I hit the road next week.

Until next time,

Mike Larson

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The investment strategy and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of any other editor at Weiss Research or the company as a whole.

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