Monday, September 29, 2008

Are we at the bottom yet?

The short answer is no, but...

1. In terms of magnitude, yes it's pretty scaring, some markets are close to 70% from the previous peak, China is down 50%, India is down 40%. But the US, where everything started, is down only 28%, and Footsie down 27%. Developed Asia-wise, STI is also quite resilient, down about 36%. Hang Seng down 46%, Japan down 37%. So magnitude wise, maybe 60%-70% done. There may be another 10-15% downside, and things should pacify. Timeline-wise, things started to unfold only last June or so. We hit 1 year anniversary not too long ago. Bear markets don't last 1 yr. Usually 2-3 yrs, so chances are, we see some rebound then returning to downward trend until fundamental gets better.

2. Fundamentals. The saying few mths ago was that the sub-prime market was US$1trn, so we have seen write-downs of US$500bn, another 50% more to go. But now, it is not just about sub-prime isn't it. The whole financial industry is in trouble. And if you look at all these bad stuff, ie mortgages, CDS, CDOs, we are talking about US$3-5trn, or even US$10trn according to mega-bears' estimates which would be 70% of US GDP!?!! So how far are we from the bottom? Man, I have no idea, but we are nowhere near the end. But then again, the whole financial industry is built on confidence, if everyone thinks that the bailout will be successful, then it doesn't really matter if we still have US$ X trn of bad stuff. Bcos the market will look past all this and start pricing in a recovery.

3. The real economy only just started to slow. US GDP dropped two quarters ago but it is still positive. China GDP growth is still 8%, may need it to go to 6% or something. Usually it takes at least 4-6 quarters before GDP growth recovers. The stock market would be 1 or 2 quarters ahead of that bcos it always looks forward. So based on this measure, recovery is at least a few quarters away.

4. We are only at the bottom when nobody is asking whether we are at the bottom. Everybody stops talking about markets. Maybe this blog gets updated once a year. And this blogger writes about restaurants or cars or girls or something totally not related to investment. And none of our friends are in finance bcos those those that wanted to join freaked out, and those that were in finance got fired or their co. blew up. Think Lehman, Washington Mutual, AIG, Northern Rock!

Conclusion: it is not clear yet if this is the bottom, a lot of conflicting info pointing to different outcomes, my guess is that we are not quite there yet. One thing sure is that this uncertainty will continue. So brace yourselves for more volatility in the markets!