In his latest later, Raymond James strategist Jeff Saut argues that even if there is something like a bubble in stocks, everyone has to keep buying into it, or else they lose their jobs.
Thus, the trend remains your friend.
Nevertheless, we think the upside should continue to be driven by “game theory,” which suggests that the under-invested institutional portfolio managers have to buy stocks into year-end driven by their under-performance, their subsequent “bonus risk,” and ultimately their “job risk.” Verily, many of the portfolio managers we know remain under extreme pressure to commit their outsized cash positions in an attempt to “catch up” to their benchmarks between now and year-end (see the nearby Credit Suisse institutional cash versus retail cash on the sidelines chart).
Reinforcing that game theory point Jeremy Grantham notes:
“In markets where investors hand over their money to professionals, the major inefficiency becomes career risk. Everyone’s ultimate job description becomes ‘keep your job!’ (Manifestly) Career risk-reduction takes precedence over maximizing the client’s return. Efficient career-risk management means never being wrong on your own, so herding, perhaps for different reasons, also characterises professional investing. Herding produces momentum in prices, pushing them further away from fair value as people buy because they are buying.”
Jeremy goes on to note a couple of insightful points: “Refusing, on value principal, to buy in a bubble will, in contrast, look dangerously eccentric. And when your timing is wrong, which is inevitable sooner or later, you will in Keynes’ words – ‘Not receive much mercy'” – he sums up what that means to the folks who try not to go with the herd and do the right thing, “Today the challenge is not getting the big bets right. It’s arriving back at trend with the same clients you left with . . .”
Plainly, we agree with Mr. Grantham, which is why we continue to think the improving fundamentals, and earnings, will serve as the “carrot in front of the horse” to keep investors chasing stocks even if we do get a near-term pullback.