Bullish. Bearish. Brokish!

Bullish. Bearish. Brokish!

By Vitaly Katsenelson CFA, author of The Little Book of Sideways Markets and Active Value Investing. Vitaliy’s website is Contrarian Edge

Though the market keeps raging to the upside, I keep seeing bearish signs in market sentiment – the VIX is hitting multi-year lows, NYSE short interest is hitting a four-year low, the ratio of insider selling to buying is running at what John Hussman calls “panic level,” 8 to 1 (for every share bought eight were sold).  With that said, I really have no idea if market will go higher or lower in the short run (and no one does!).  I am sure there is plenty of contrarian bullish sentiment as well.  For instance, most mutual fund inflows are going to bond funds, while US equity funds are seeing outflows.  Even for those who don’t believe in market timing, the stock market seems to have this incredible ability to turn you into a market timer.  Every time I get the inkling to time the market I remind myself of Milton Berle’s saying: “I used to be bullish, then I was bearish. Now I’m brokish!”  The solution is simple: analyze and value individual stocks; and the cash in your portfolio should not be a byproduct of your view on the market, but a residual of your individual buy and sell decisions.

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I was born and raised in Murmansk, Russia (the home for Russia’s northern navy fleet, think Tom Clancy’s Red October). I immigrated to the US from Russia in 1991 with all my family – my three brothers, my father, and my stepmother. (Here is a link to a more detailed story of how my family emigrated from Russia.) My professional career is easily described in one sentence: I invest, I educate, I write, and I could not dream of doing anything else. Here is a slightly more detailed curriculum vitae: I am Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates, Inc (IMA), a value investment firm based in Denver, Colorado. After I received my graduate and undergraduate degrees in finance (cum laude, but who cares) from the University of Colorado at Denver, and finished my CFA designation (three years of my life that are a vague recollection at this point), I wanted to keep learning. I figured the best way to learn is to teach. At first I taught an undergraduate class at the University of Colorado at Denver and later a graduate investment class at the same university that I designed based on my day job. Currently I am on sabbatical from teaching for a while. I found that the university classroom was not big enough for me, so I started writing and, let’s be honest, I needed to let my genetically embedded Russian sarcasm out. I’ve written articles for the Financial Times, Barron’s, BusinessWeek, Christian Science Monitor, New York Post, Institutional Investor … and the list goes on. I was profiled in Barron’s, and have been interviewed by Value Investor Insight, Welling@Weeden, BusinessWeek, BNN, CNBC, and countless radio shows. Finally, my biggest achievement – well actually second biggest; I count quitting smoking in 1992 as the biggest – I’ve authored the Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley, 2010) and Active Value Investing (Wiley, 2007).