If March comes in like a lion then where the hell is my roar? Futures are flattish after a weak close to February on Friday. Here’s what you need to know as we head into March:
Stocks still closed higher for the week and had their best month since October 2011. For the record the S&P 500 (^GSPC) gained 5.5% and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) tacked on a glorious 7.1%. We’re riding high and watching Naz 5000. Over the last 15 years March has been higher 10 times and down 5 with an average gain 1.8%.
Earnings season is pretty much over and it wasn’t all that pretty. With 485 of 500 S&P 500 companies reporting FactSet says the blended growth rate is only 3.7%. Without Apple (AAPL) that number shrinks to only 2% but then again if you take out energy, it balloons to nearly 7%. More importantly estimates were taken down for the entire first half of 2015. Of course it’s not the news it’s the reaction. Also according to FactSet the average stock beating earnings is rising more than the disappointments are getting sold. What’s more, between the port closing out west and the endless snowfall in the Northeast there’s a nice set of excuses built into the tape.
And finally March features some anniversaries to keep in mind, especially in light of the annual Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) letter and it’s traditional dismissal and embrace of market timing. March 10th is of course the 15th anniversary of the Nasdaq’s all-time closing high of 5049. Before that though we have another important date in history: The worst mainstream media unintentionally ironic market bottom call EVER.
I speak not of the famous BusinessWeek “Death of Equities” cover from 1979. That came years before stocks even bottomed. No, it was the sainted Jon Stewart who with a pithy “F— You” to CNBC’s Jim Cramer and the rest of financial media on March 9th of 2009 called the exact lows. Stewart’s rivalry with Cramer peaked a couple days later when Stewart basically held Cramer up as the personification of everything evil, lazy and conflicted with financial media. “You’re in bed with your sources” Stewart shouted. (less than 4 years after giving Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 8 minutes to bring attention to the even-then ludicrous connection between Autism and vaccines.)
It is unfair to criticize Stewart for kissing Kennedy butt. There wouldn’t be any reporters left if that was a fireable offense. But it’s no more unfair than accusing Cramer for not doing enough to save the world from its global housing mess. Do you really think he or anyone else was going to stop people from home flipping? It was a public mania and when it blew-up we looked for scapegoats. When that goat became Cramer the sentiment bottom was in for stocks.
The truth on “Timing” is that it’s better thought of as money management. Plenty of people not only saw the financial crisis coming and warned you about it but they also got you back into stocks very near lows we’ll likely never see again in our lifetimes.
The late CNBC anchor Mark Haines called the exact low on March 10th of 2009. Fast Money’s Guy Adami and I did pretty much the same and there were others. That’s not to celebrate us. It’s to point out that viewers of all media need to consider the agenda of those reporting. Nuance isn’t entertaining. Telling Jim Cramer to “f— off” apparently is. Either way, your money is your own. Neither Cramer nor Jon Stewart is going to kick in to your retirement.
- Jon Stewart
- Jim Cramer