While there are definitions for what constitutes a recession, for example, an individual may have a very good sense of personally being in one before anyone else recognizes or confirms its existence.
Certainly, there's also a distinction between a depression and a recession, but it's not really necessary to know the details, because you'll probably know when you've transitioned from one to another.
The same is probably true when thinking about the difference between a market crash and a market correction. While people may not agree on a standard definition of what constitutes either, a look at your own portfolio balance can be all the definition that you need.
I've been waiting, even hoping for a correction for over two months now. That hoping came to a crescendo as a covered option writer with the expiration of many May 2013 contracts and finding more cash than I would have liked faced with the aspects of either being re-invested at a top or sitting idly.
Then came Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's congressional testimony and the mixed signals people perceived. Was it tapering or not tapering? Was it now or later?
What came as a result was what some called a "Key Reversal Day." That is a day when the market reaches new highs and then suddenly reverses to go even lower than the previous day's low. It's thought that the greater the range of movement and the greater the trading volume the more reliable of an indicator is the reversal.
On both counts the aftermath of the reaction to Bernanke's words, or as the "Bond King" Bill Gross of PIMCO called "talking out of both sides of his mouth" was significant.
Was that the beginning of the long overdue correction? After all we are now in the 52nd month of the current bull run, which has been the duration of the past two.
With news that the Japanese market lost more than 7% overnight following our own key reversal day was the sense that the correction may take on crash-like qualities, but instead our own markets almost had another key reversal day, but this time in the other direction. After an early 150-point drop and subsequent recovery all that was missing was to have exceeded the previous day's high point.
Correction? Crash? That was so yesterday. It's time to move on, dummy
While hopeful that some kind of correction might bring some meaningful opportunities to pick up some bargains, the correction was too shallow and the correction to the correction was too quick.
So this week is more of the same. Nearly 50% cash and no place to go other than to be mindful of a great 1995 article by Herb Greenberg that has some very timeless investing advice in the event of a crash, having drawn upon some Warren Buffett, Bob Stovall and Jeremy Siegel wisdom.
As usual, the week's potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or the "PEE" category (see details).
Already owning shares of both Deere (DE) and Caterpillar (CAT), as I often do, a frequent companion is their more volatile counter-part, Joy Global (JOY). Always sensitive to news regarding the Chinese economy, Joy Global reports earnings this week, as well, which certainly adds to its risk profile. Most recently the news coming out of China has pointed toward slowing growth, although historically the Chinese data have demonstrated as much ability to contradict themselves longitudinally as the US data. I believe bad news is already incorporated into the current prices of the heavy machinery sector and all three of these companies are trading within a long established price range that provides me some level of comfort, even in a declining market. For that reason, I may also add shares of Deere, particularly if it approaches $85.
Morgan Stanley (MS) has gone along the uphill ride with the rest of the financial sector in recent weeks. It was among the many stocks whose shares I lost to assignment at the end of the May 2013 cycle, but it too, has been a constant portfolio companion. It tends to have greater European exposure than its US competitors, but for the time being it appears as if much of the European drama is abating. Over the past year its shares have traded in a wide range but has shown great resilience when the price has been challenged and has offered very attractive premiums to help during the periods of challenge.
Unlike the prior week, this past week wasn't very good for the retailers. With earnings now past, one of the elite, JW Nordstrom (JWN) goes ex-dividend this week. While it still has downside room, even after a 3% earnings related drop along with the rest of the more "high-end" oriented retailer sector, it will likely outperform other lesser retailers in the event of a market pause.
Also in the higher end range, Michael Kors (KORS) has been one of my recent favorites, although I must admit I didn't see the reason for the excitement on a retail level during a recent early morning trip to the mall. No matter, I'm not in their demographic. What I do know is that their shares move with great ease in either direction, other reversing course during the trading session and it offers an appealing option premium. That premium is a bit more enhanced as it reports earnings this week and I may look to establish a position after having shares also assigned recently.
I approach any purchases in the Technology sector with some concern for being over-invested in such shares. Although Cypress Semiconductor (CY) is now trading 10% higher from where I had shares recently assigned on two previous occasions it continues to offer a reasonably attractive options premium and trades in a stable price range.
Lexmark (LXK) is now well above the strike price that I had shares recently assigned. Its appeal is enhanced by being ex-dividend this week and the knowledge that it appears to have gotten beyond the initial shock that this "printer maker" was getting out of the "Printer maker" business. Thus far, it appears as if the transition to a more content management and solutions oriented company is proceeding smoothly.
Also going ex-dividend this week is one of the little known, but largest owner of television stations around the nation. Sinclair Broadcasting (SBGI). It may be in position to pick up a rare gem as an ABC station in Washington, DC is rumored to be available for purchase. While it has appreciated significantly in the past two months, its shares are down approximately 7% from recent highs.
Not that I would suggest lighting up one of their products while watching a fine situation comedy being broadcast by Sinclair, but Lorillard (LO), which assuages some of its health related guilt by offering a rich dividend, does go ex-dividend this week. It too, has been trading higher of late, but is down just a bit from its recent high.
Finally, Salesforce.com (CRM) reported earnings after this past Thursday's (May 23, 2013) closing bell. The market assessed an 8% penalty for its disappointing numbers, but that should just be a minor bump in their road and not likely a deep pothole. Unfortunately, I didn't execute the earnings related put sale trade last week as I thought I might, which would have returned 1% even in the face on an 8% drop in share price, but this week brings new opportunity, only on the share purchase and option sale side.
Traditional Stocks: Cypress Semiconductor, Deere, Morgan Stanley, Salesforce.com
Momentum Stocks: none
Double Dip Dividend: JW Nordstrom (ex-div 5/29), Lexmark (ex-div 5/29), Lorillard (ex-div 5/29), Sinclair Broadcasting ex-div 5/29)
Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Joy Global (5/30 AM), Michael Kors (5/29 AM)
Additional disclosure: I may initiate positions or sell puts in CRM, CY, JOY, JWN, LO, KORS, LXK, MS and SBGI