Things We Lost In The Fire

Over the last month, US markets have been burned to a crisp.  Blame it on Europe, blame it on a softening of our own recovery data, blame it on the end of earnings season, blame it on the end of quantitative easing, blame it on the Gulf spill, blame it on the engineered cool-off in China.

Is it too soon to eulogize the March 2009 – April 2010 bull market, a 78% performer that even the most bullish never really believed in the entire way up?  Depends on which support lines and moving averages you happen to be fixated on at the moment.

But it is certainly not too early to lament the Things We Lost In The Fire – the idiosyncrasies of the Impossible Rally that we may have lost for good.  These include:

Apple as the Michael Jordan of the NASDSAQ– Steve Jobs had us from hello, we clamored around the television for each product release and conference, and Mr. Jobs did not disappoint.  Nor did Apple stock, which seemed to go up 3 to 5 points a day for what seemed like an endless stretch of time.  It was a reminder to stockpickers everywhere that ETFs didn’t control everything– that you could get one right on research.  The release of the iPad and the move toward shattering the $300 per share mark epitomized the release of our pent-up optimism and will always be remembered as a special time in market history.

Cree Research, Green Mountain Coffee and Baidu– The hottest of hot stocks, they seemingly defied gravity.  The news continued to break in their favor day after day.  When Google announced its Chinese pullout, Baidu didn’t rally tens of points or even dozens of points; it went up hundreds of points.  Green Mountain’s ascent toward triple digits (pre-split) confounded anyone who hadn’t already gotten a Keurig Cup device in their home.  The K-Cup owners knew what was up.  Cree’s run was so monstrous that to this day, there are still shady tipsters telling investors that they recommended the name to them.

Mutual Fund Mondays– Sunday nights didn’t seem quite so depressing knowing that the next morning billions of dollars would come pouring in over the transom up at the mutual fund complex in Boston.  This cash would be driving up your holdings the next day like a big, dumb flood tide lifting Chevrolets on the banks of the rain-swollen Mississippi each spring.

The Grind – Even before the data began turning out anything even slightly resembling an economic expansion, there was The Grind.  If you were there, then you know exactly what I mean.  Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars – before you knew it, over the course of a few weeks, your stock had put on 15 to 20% with an ebbing and flowing action one could only compare to tiny but persistent waves charging their way up a sandy beach.  And this in the absence of any news, sometimes.

Wall of Worry – Before it toppled on us in the harsh light of Europe’s hangover morning, the Wall of Worry was a fantastic thing to climb, ample footholds and grip-worthy crags at your fingertips the entire way up.  Many investors are now trapped beneath its rubble, but man, what a workout while it was still available for the climbers.

We may have said goodbye to some of these aspects of the snap-back rally for good.  But they will not be forgotten. 

On to the next phase.

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