Happy Presidents Day. The market is closed, so there is no column. Here is tomorrow’s column:
TIME TO BUY REAL ESTATE?
Maybe not. This sobering assessment is worth your time. I would argue that our bubble never reached the heights of the Japanese bubble (with its 100-year mortgages), so the parallels, while real, may be exaggerated. But I think home prices could fall back close to pre-bubble levels, which in many parts of the country would mean a lot more pain to come.
TIME TO BUY STOCKS?
Maybe not that either. Especially if the deflating real estate bubble has the kind of related consequences one would expect.
But my friend Tom Byrne, in his latest client letter, notes: ‘In late January, the earnings yield on the Value Line Index got to 2.5 times that of the five year Treasury note. When this occurred in October of 2002 and again in March of 2003, it proved to be a great buying opportunity even though it was against the backdrop of declining corporate earnings and other bad economic news. The last time this ratio was higher was at the end of the 1974 bear market when it reached 2.8. Nothing says it can’t get there again, but I think the economic backdrop was worse in 1974 than it is now.’
So maybe we’ve seen the bottom in the stock market. I doubt it. Things could get much worse. But I’d sooner buy a few shares of a company like Trailer Bridge (say) than buy the house next to mine. (The one that sold for $105,000 in 1998, then $765,000 in 2005, and is now a ‘bargain’ at $495,000.)
There is a fresh TRBR presentation to analysts here. (Where it asks for ‘company name,’ just enter ‘self.’) It closed at $10.70 Friday. If it gets back down to its $6 low for the year – and if at that point I have any money or nerve left – I’d likely buy more.
TIME TO WORRY?
One of our best public servants, David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, has resigned. This can’t be good. (“There were ‘striking similarities’ between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, he had said. These included ‘declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government.'”)
Maybe after all that we need a smile. This short video starts slow – but builds.
Quote of the Day
A veteran Massachusetts politician not so long ago was horrified at the conduct of a less savvy colleague who was indicted for bribery: 'Imagine taking money from a stranger.'~Wall Street Journal, 10/14/93
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