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August Doldrums? Keep Your Focus

08/20/2013 9:00 am EST


Kelley Wright

Managing Editor, Investment Quality Trends

For now, the market isn't focused on values, which would be healthy. Rather, the market has become dependent on news to make buying and selling decisions, which isn't healthy, observes Kelley Wright, editor of Investment Quality Trends.

The result is that the markets meander back and forth like a ship without a rudder. That will change when the Fed meets and Congress comes back from recess.

That is when a news-driven market is going to get lively and, of course, the really big news items are going to happen in September and October; the historically most volatile months for the markets on the calendar.

First up will be the battle over the budget. Based on the daily comments from both sides of the aisle, the heels are being dug in and neither side is giving any indication that a compromise is one of their priorities.

The press, of course, will have a field day with this, and you can bet that the entire affair will be blown completely out of proportion; which is how the press sells advertising and makes their money.

Now anyone with half a brain knows that something will get passed, even if it is a continuing resolution, or CR in Washington speak, which means the current law stays in place for another fiscal year. For those who are apolitical, the current law is the Budget Control Act, known more affectionately as The Sequester.

Depending on which side of the aisle your bread gets buttered, The Sequester is either the medicine that no one likes but is necessary, or the end of civilization as we know it.

No matter which side of this issue you come down on, though, the simple fact is that it is the law and, so far, the earth has continued to spin on its axis. My guess is if we have to live with it another fiscal year, that we'll all survive.

Unfortunately, the markets aren't quite as sanguine as yours truly on this matter, so be prepared for some degree of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Once the budget conundrum is put to bed, Washington will fight it out over the debt ceiling once more. Again, does anyone really think the US is going to default and not pay its bills?

Okay, so our dutifully elected representatives aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, but come on, no one, not even this mangy lot, is so dangerously stupid.

The above being said, of these two major impending issues, however, the debt ceiling fight is the one that could make for some trouble in the markets.

With valuations less than attractive, there are some who may choose to book their gains and step to the sidelines until the dust clears and there is greater visibility for both monetary and fiscal policy.

Not to beat a dead horse, but nothing in this missive about the current environment speaks to the singularly most important issue that stock market investors should be focused on, which is earning a return on investment.

When everything you read, watch, or hear is about macro economics or fiscal and monetary policy, the day-to-day focus of either finding new high-quality stocks that offer good current value to add to your portfolio, or ensuring that current positions are still worthy of keeping in your portfolio, can get lost in the shuffle.

Put simply, don't become a slave to the news and lose sight of your goals and your objectives. Just because the markets get excited and react to all sorts of nonsense, doesn't mean you have to play along; stay focused and monitor your portfolio.

You own individual stocks, so monitor them individually. If you have to add new positions, do so judiciously. If you've wrung all the value out of a position, declare victory and move on.

Do these things and you will keep the value proposition in your corner, and therefore, the risk versus reward equation on your side.

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