Today we are inundated with tons of information about the economy, stocks, government agencies and foreign governments. They show us charts and graphs of the increase/decrease in oil production over the last 5 years, the amount of maple syrup produced in Vermont for the past century, the time it takes to bounce a signal off the moon and all kinds of other nonsense that we can live without. The talking heads on the investment programs, both radio and TV, tell us how this is going to affect the price of certain stocks and the market in general. Well, maybe.
When you step back to get a better view of the market because the trees are in the way you really get a different view. No matter what stock or mutual fund you own there is one important factor that is causing all of them to change. It is the mass thinking of all the people who own equities of any type. The stock market is a reflection of this mass thinking and causes changes in human behavior. This mass thinking does not necessarily reflect what the economy is doing at any specific moment.
Take the euphoria of stock buyers at the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000. All the mass psychology was bullish and everyone knew the market was going to go higher. The economy knew better and stocks headed down. The market was a reflection of what we could not see.
Currently many people are becoming bearish and think the market is headed lower, but no one really knows until after the fact. It is dangerous to be either bullish or bearish at this moment. So what is the best course of action when you are not sure of what to do with your money? Keep in mind that protection of your capital, especially your retirement money, is a prime consideration. If you own a stock now that has been going up you don't want to sell it, but you can protect yourself against loss and lock in profit by placing an Open Stop-Loss Order with your broker. Keep moving the stop up as the stock goes higher.
If you have a stock or fund that is going down you must either sell out or place an order to get out if it goes down further. Usually 10% is about right. If your stock is $40 place your stop at $36.
If the mass psychology becomes too negative it can cause massive selling and even the best equities get flushed. All boats go down when the tides goes out. If you do not have a loss limit in place at all times you will lose your investment capital. The example of this was what happened when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Selling was caused by mass psychology and had little to do with valuation.
It is a herd instinct and you don't want to be led to slaughter will all the other dumb animals. Protect your money. Put in a stop today.