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Thursday, July 10, 2008

"This time its different."

I've had a number of people point out to me that the market consensus polls show an historically high skew to the bull/bear numbers. Cramer had an article yesterday saying people should be buying because of it -- but only people who don't already own stocks. Fresh meat for the grinder.

I think people are bearish for some good reason here. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac act like they're going out of business. General Motors and Ford act like they're going out of business. The airlines act like they're going out of business. The banks are going out of business.

The autos, the banks and the airlines have all flirted with mass disaster in the past... and historically the government has bailed them out and we all lived happily ever after. Never has the government had such a full plate. The Fed has talked of the moral hazard of making federal financing available to shore up balance sheets. I would also cite the moral hazard of running a half a trillion dollar war on faulty intelligence that will likely leave the federal coffers unable to handle so many bailouts at once.

I don't mean to be a bummer. I do see that there are many things wrong and hope that something could go right. I just don't see the scenario that turns them any time soon. I think a lot of people can dislike stocks and they can still go down. I would love to call a turn... but I'm not going to sit here and tell you that people are wrong to be bearish. Not yet, anyway.

I give you Michael Steinhardt (via Bloomberg TV), my former employer and the greatest economist I have ever had the pleasure to learn from:

`This Time It's Different'

``There is rarely a moment such as this where as a contrarian, one sees so many reasons technically, stock market- wise to be bullish. I can't imagine a circumstance where a market is more available, more ripe for a rally than this one,'' Steinhardt said. Still, ``this time it's different,'' he added.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., airlines, banks, mortgage lenders and brokerages, ``companies and industries that heretofore had been sacrosanct,'' are in jeopardy amid higher inflation and slowing economic growth, he said. GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, retreated 72 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average's biggest loss since the measure's record high in October.

``It's an extraordinary phenomenon where that which was the heartland of America is now so, so sick and not easily vulnerable to improvement,'' Steinhardt added.

'nuff said.

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