where to from here?

In overnight trading, futures on the major US indices all dipped slightly below their mid-June lows. That’s probably significant only to someone like me who thought that was probably not going to happen. Arguably, then, we haven’t yet set the lows for this bear market.

It may be that we’ll end this down market with a whimper–that is, without a clear-the-air selling panic that, in dramatic form, purges negative sentiment and puts the world on notice that the next big move is up. Or we could do things the old-fashioned way, with a big downward move.

Clearly, I’ve demonstrated that I have no feel for what might happen. That’s the way it goes sometimes. The important conclusion to draw, though, is that calling overall market ups and downs can’t be the centerpiece of my strategy.

I have one positive thought and one worry to work with:

–A bear market is sort of like the movie Groundhog Day, in that investors rehash the same, usually negative, news over and over, without being willing to recognize and pay for possible future positive profit gains.

I thought the recent Ford news was indicative. The said it had a bunch of mostly-assembled vehicles that needed semiconductors to be installed before they could be shipped to dealers. Those chips weren’t going to arrive in time for 3Q shipment. Full-year profits would likely remain the same; 3Q would be less profitable than expected, with the difference being made up in 4Q. F, which had been cut in half, ytd, before the announcement, and trades at less than 5x earnings, yielding about 5%, fell another 12% on the news.

I thought this was a bit much. Although I’m no fan of the auto industry, I’ve begun to think that F might turn out to be the best of a bad lot of domestic EV entrants. So I bought a little bit, to force myself to research the company.

–inventories. This is my worry.

In May, WMT and TGT, both very well-run companies, both announced that they had a big inventory problem. Basically, they were up to their ears in stay-at-home merchandise, like TVs, kitchen equipment… at a time when the pandemic was coming under control and customers were no longer interested. It took TGT a little while to figure out that the highest priority for it should be to turn this stay-at-home inventory into cash as quickly as possible (my wild guess is that this amounts to $6 – $7 billion)–and before other merchants start to do the same thing.

Anyway, if the best of the best have made such a mess in making a huge bet on what were once shortage items, what companies are still lurking out there with big inventory problems they haven’t owned up to yet.

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