July was the worst month for the S&P 500 since September 2001.  Few stocks were spared abuse.  Most of the best performers were stocks bouncing off oversold bottoms as telecommunications and technology stocks were among the leaders.  As mentioned in last weeks’ Brief, short covering accounted for most of the gains in stocks.  Lately, though, market specialists say they are seeing some real buying.  It may be due to money managers re-balancing their portfolios towards equities as bonds have become over-weighted during the past couple of years. 

In April of 1991, the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that a recession had begun eight months earlier in July of 1990.  They later announced that same recession had ended in March of 1991.  The recession was actually over and recovery in progress before the recession was officially declared.  The same official body recently declared that our economy entered a recession in March of this year. The economy contracted at a 1.1% annual rate between July and September as consumer spending slowed, business spending slumped, and companies slashed inventories. It is the largest decline since the first quarter of 1991, at the end of the previous recession. 

Bear markets turn investor strengths into liabilities and this insidious beast is no exception.  The aftershocks of the ‘Internet Bubble’ make this crash all the more difficult.  What we held as strengths before the collapse in confidence have become liabilities.  During Bull markets, long-term investors are rewarded for holding good companies in spite of brief stock pullbacks that occur when short-term investors are frightened off by negative news.  Investors with longer views snap up the bargains left behind, believing that the news has limited or no long-term relevance.  Alternatively, bear markets lack clarity or visibility of the future, making it difficult or impossible to know whether the effect of negative news is short lived or has longer implications.