What the Market's Missing

In last week’s market, you could almost feel portfolio managers reacting to the prospect of missing a rally. Career risk drives many irrational investing decisions. And missing out on a rally is a cardinal sin for portfolio managers. This goes a long way toward explaining this week’s rally.

The consensus seems to be looking for a return to something resembling the environment before the credit crisis. They’ll be waiting for a long time. Sure, there are still lots of wealthy people. But the essence of the financial crisis has to do with most consumers and businesses stretching their budgets and capital spending plans in unsustainable fashion. The next few years will reverse this trend, and we’ll continue to see economic development in emerging markets maintain pressure on commodity prices.

Mr. Market is now testing the conviction of the bears. But through the rest of 2009, the momentum favors the bears. The stock market is far below its peak, but this is justified by long-term fundamentals. In fact, the recent rally has priced in very rosy earnings for many sectors and stocks, including our short ideas.

Remain patient with your short positions. This rally will end soon enough, probably by the time the fourth branch of government — the mega banks — are done reporting their paper trading profits and we learn more about the bleak outlook for earnings in the real economy.