Seriously, what on earth have market movements to do with you, oh humble stock investor? Marcus Padley asks.
From the low on June 4 to the high of a couple of weeks ago, the market had jumped 29.56 per cent and clearly a lot of people are now thinking that enough is enough.
Volatility is up, the S&P ASX 200 Index has moved more than 50 points eight times in 25 days and has crossed the 5000-point level seven times. A sure sign of a herd that has had its run and is now pawing the ground, wondering where to charge next.
And while it makes its mind up, I and every other commentator are talking and writing endlessly about "the market".
In the past month we have all rather laughably become experts on Cyprus, making one profound declaration after another from a position of no insight or knowledge beyond what everyone else has read. Regurgitating what's just happened and why and icing it with a bit of harmless commentary and utter guesswork about what's going to happen next.
The market debate absorbs untold hours of financial effort. The newspapers are full of it, the TV commentators obsessed with it, the economists talk about nothing else and even I find myself obliged by my members to constantly refer to "The Market" and what is going to happen to it next.
When investment boils down to what stocks you hold when and whether they are going up or down you have to ask, are we all wasting our time taking about the market?
Really. If all the kings and queens, presidents and heads of state, the central banks, banks, investment banks, regulators, CEOs, brokers, fund managers, financial planners, accountants, investors and even the taxi drivers didn't know there was going to be a global financial crisis, then what hope have you or I of making an accurate call on what happens next?
Yet this is what the market debate implies, that we are building up to some big decision to either buy or sell the market.
But let's be realistic, making that 'big call' is almost impossible for the average investor. Are you really going to make a decision to sell all your stocks at once or to invest all your cash at once. It'll never happen. The magnitude of the decision means it never gets made because its too onerous, its too big a decision; and because of that, despite endless hours of high brow about the market, most investors are constipated by inaction, or, more likely, acting far too late, like selling in the depths of the GFC or buying on the all-time high.
Sorry, but anyone who allows themselves to be distracted by a potentially valueless macro debate hasn't really worked out what making money from the stockmarket is all about. It's about the stock codes on that spreadsheet, the number of shares, the current price, their current worth and that number at the bottom that adds them all up and tells you what you're worth. The market is bunkum unless you actually trade the index, which few people do. In which case your time will be far better spent dealing with 'stocks', with the stocks that you hold, and through that you'll find the market calls are made for you.
By listening to the charts on individual stocks, selling individual stocks as their up trends end, or buying individual stocks as their down trends reverse, you are incrementally going to make a call on 'the market' without having to. You don't have to make a 'big call"; it is made for you. And by the time you hear about a market correction on CNBC, a correction which leaves all the 'moron portfolio' investors in a cold sweat about whether they've left it too late to sell, you will have sold everything already.
Turns out that the way to time the market is not to try to time "the market" but to try to time individual stocks and, in so doing, "the market"; then your portfolio timing will take care of itself.
It's a heck of a lot easier to break the big decisions down into a lot of little ones.