From late April to mid-June, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 900 points. That 7% stock-market decline, which included a six-week losing streak, accelerated talks of a new bear market and a double-dip recession. But just when it appeared the bottom was going to fall out of the U.S. stock market, the Dow did an about-face: It soared nearly 650 points in just five days and, like a vaudeville magician, seemed to make the bear-market worries disappear.
But don't be too trusting, says Money Morning's Keith Fitz-Gerald. In a market like this, stock-market survival is all about careful research, attention to detail and risk management. "Like any investor or trader, I'll take a rally however it happens to come -- and no matter why it comes," Fitz-Gerald said. "But I remain very concerned with what I see. It won't take much to spook this market."
Although there are many reasons to worry about the current market, Fitz-Gerald said the following three factors are a particular cause for concern:
- The Greek debt crisis is much more than it appears, and could have broad implications for the world economy.
- Although both sides are trying to downplay the issue, the looming debt-ceiling debate figures to be a real donnybrook.
- Corporate profits could be a concern, leaving investors to feel the pinch later this summer
But stock market survival doesn't mean that investors should steer clear of stocks. In fact, energy, resources and some defense technology plays are worth a look -- especially those that pay a dividend, Fitz-Gerald says. Just be sure to pick carefully and keep your holdings "on a short leash" through the use of trailing stops.
Energy and resources plays "help preserve wealth if things go to heck and will benefit from increased demand if they don't," he said. As for the high-tech recommendation, "the one thing that the recent spate of IPOs suggests is that tech has become a real value-added proposition in our lives."
One stock that exemplifies some of the stock-market survival attributes that Fitz-Gerald looks for is defense-electronics heavyweight Raytheon Co. (NYSE:RTN), recent price $49.63. Although defense budgets are certain to feel the squeeze of the massive U.S. debt load and federal budget battles in the years to come, Raytheon is actually poised to be a beneficiary. There will be an increased emphasis on "retrofitting" and updating existing weapons systems that are already paid for; a strategy that usually means modernizing the electronics systems of an aircraft, shift or military vehicle -- just the kind of work at which Raytheon excels.
And the new systems that come on board will emphasize so-called "video-game warfare" and standoff engagements. Raytheon also has a broad product line in this area and will benefit from international demand.
A recent pullback has this stock trading at a bit more than 10-times earnings. And Raytheon's shares feature a hefty 3.5% dividend yield. The trends "should benefit this stock," Fitz-Gerald said.