What is a Bear Market?

We recently stated that this is a “Bear Market.” So what does that mean?

It’s not all that scary, at least not once the market really settles into bear territory. In fact, it can be a great time of opportunity for many investors, particularly away from stocks. It’s worth spending a moment contemplating what a bear market is and why it’s important.

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It’s a Downer Kinda Thang

“Never forget that the stock market is just a market for stocks.”
– Herman Miller, an old accountant I knew when I was a kid

The bloodletting on Wall Street may have paused, but no one is taking any chances. We’re not technically in a bear market yet – the S&P500 would have to break its resistance around 1863 before that happens. But the world is braced for it. Morgan Stanley has told its investors to hold on at least into the third quarter – exactly what Barataria said a few weeks ago.

Why all the negative sentiment? After all, China’s loss can only be our gain if you believe what you hear in politics. Then again, investors aren’t that gullible. It’s one big financial world and what goes ‘round comes ‘round. While there are some good reasons to take a six month or so pause, most of the reasons for this downturn are indeed lousy. It’s time to run through, and over, these arguments.

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Investabots Amok!

You are walking down the street, texting to a friend, when suddenly everything freezes. These things happen all the time, you reason, so as annoying as it is you reboot and carry on.  A desperate text a short time later comes as a call from your friend to please stop bombarding them!  What went wrong?  You have no idea.  You reboot again and keep walking.

Things like this happen to everyone these days and we’re all used to it.  Software glitches.  Bugs.  Crappy software runs amok in the hands of appliance users.

Now imagine that you are a Wall Street trading firm that handles orders for thousands of clients and this happens to you.  Except that this costs $440M in bum trades by the time anyone catches it.  That’s exactly what happened to Knight Capital, the company that used to handle 11% of all trading on Wall Street.  It’s something that was inevitable in a system that is too big to be useful – and the world is starting to realize how dangerous this is.

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