Friday, April 10, 2009

"Long term? You must be kidding !"

Yesterday, when the Sensex closed slightly above 10,800 mark (Nifty at 3342) I squealed with delight. After a long time, pretty long time that is – I made some money. In the normal course I, a not so sophisticated investor – would have lingered on. But not yesterday, especially since it’s been way too long since I’ve booked some profits.

All kinds of news flows abound. There are the general elections, the March quarter earnings and the good ol’ talk of markets bottoming out. The weather beaten ones like me would not buy any of it, they’d rather be happy if the portfolio doesn’t crack any further. Neither would they invest any fresh funds towards equities. Nobody is in any tearing hurry to abandon caution and get back into equities that have cut and carved them up right down their middle.

But then what’s fueling this rally? Nifty closed at 3033 at the beginning of this year, now stands at 3343 – a surge of 310 points or 10.22%. What has changed in just three months? Have we picked up on some signals that tell us our worst fears of a recession are misplaced? Have the foreign investors – that made and marred our markets – returned? In their own backyard, Wells Fargo sent the stock market on a dizzying rally on Thursday when it revealed that its mortgage applications surged to $190 billion in the first quarter, a sharp increase that would lead it to a record $3 billion profit for the period. Like other big banks, Wells appears to have benefited from a surge in mortgage refinancing because of ultra low borrowing rates engineered by the government and an exodus of competitors. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial and others have had similarly strong performances and are expected to post improved profitability when earnings reports are issued next week. Or so, they’d make us believe for now, until another wave of disclosures would tell the world they’d gone horribly wrong again.

As I admitted earlier, I am not so sophisticated to make any sense out of this. I hear a lot of bull crap - investors, mostly foreign institutions, are initiating trading strategies through equity options to bet on the likely rise in volatility blah, blah – but I am in no mood to buy none of that. When I see my stocks rise, I go out and book profits. To hell, with long term. Who knows how long is long term?

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