There is an old axiom for content providers that they must promote or perish. Promoting is not simply an advertisement to sample content, but also an inducement to continue to consume the content. Wall Street and the financial media have turned promotion into an art form, and truth be told, they are really good at it. That can be dangerous for investors, counsels Kelley Wright, editor of Investment Quality Trends.

In the Wall Street lexicon, two words in particular rev up investor's motor like no other: Bull market. What’s not to love about a bull market? Prices move ever higher, creating more wealth, which allows one to acquire more stuff. I mean seriously, I get the warm fuzzies just thinking about it.

Take a recent cover of Barron’s. This Market Has Legs. The Bull Is Back. Why More Stocks Could Join the Tech Leaders. “Wow, did you read that honey? Let’s back up the truck and buy, buy, buy!”

Barron’s knew exactly what it was doing with that cover, as does CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, et al with the guests they bring on. Keep telling the story because investors like it and they will continue to subscribe and tune in.

These media folks have gravitas, they’re believed to be knowledgeable, and therefore trusted. So, when they say or write “bull market,” investors feel good about the project because it suggests legitimacy, but more importantly, sustainability, as in it’s going to be around for a while.

Okay, so I’m old school, which means you can’t have a new bull market without surpassing the old high-water mark. When having moved 20% above the low point became the new line of demarcation for a new bull market beats me, but it does serve promotional purposes well.

My observation is that the S&P 500 has moved to within 10% of its 2022 bubble high. Whether it gets back to, or surpasses, that high isn’t as important as to where the market is in the cycle. From a valuation perspective, using historically reliable measures, we’re still at or above the extremes reached in 1929 and 2000, which exceeded every historical level prior to the early days of the pandemic.

Now consider the current environment, and ask outside the high-tech darlings...which frankly remind me of the mindset of the 1960’s Go-Go period, or the Nifty Fifty...what is so compelling about this market? Go ahead, take your time, I’ll wait.

My opinion, which is a horse of an entirely different color, is that the advance off the October lows has all the earmarks of a late-stage bear market rally. The breadth is so thin you can see through it. The concentration into the FAANG stocks seems kind of desperate in a way. “Please dear Lord, don’t let me miss out again.”

This current two-tiered environment of the high-tech “AI” stocks going to the moon while everything else is meh to declining, could last who knows how long.

In my experience, however, the piper eventually gets paid. Duct tape works wonders, until it doesn’t. When the music stops, you don’t want to be the last person standing without a chair.

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