This Is Not 2008: Good Opportunity to Upgrade Your Portfolio

by: David Nelson, CFA

Concerns over Europe and fear that the U.S. government is behind the curve helped erase all of Tuesday's gains. The massive decline in equity markets is less a statement on the viability of the US economy and more a realization that investors are shrinking the multiple they are willing to pay for risky assets.

I doubt that business at AAPL (Apple) or KO (Coca Cola) has fallen off a cliff in the last two weeks. The question each and every investor needs to ask is the following. “Is this 1998 or 2008?” Yes, the technical damage is severe and rallies will be met by sellers who own stocks at higher prices but I don’t believe we have the systemic risk that we faced in 2008.

Dylan Ratigan’s rant on MSNBC looked reminiscent of Howard Beale’s speech in the movie “Network” when Beale told his audience to walk over to the window, open it and scream “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” I am sure most Americans feel the same frustration and anger when they see Washington go on vacation while the markets and their retirement goes up in flames.

Putting a number on the downside target has been close to impossible as we have crashed through every technical support level technicians have thrown at us. The machines have compressed months into weeks and days into hours.

If you are already in the market then use this as an opportunity to upgrade your portfolio. Eliminate positions that missed earnings or gave tepid guidance. Take the loss move on. Stop trying to get your money back from the same position. Move those funds into stocks where prospects are better.

Look for high growth companies that reported blow out earnings or dividend plays that have been wiped out in the tidal wave of selling. The key ingredient is revenue growth. Yes, I know PFE (Pfizer) has a great dividend and is very cheap, but I have no interest in a company whose revenue is likely to decline for the next several years. While you may still be looking at lower prices, when this market turns these stocks will offer the best opportunity to recoup portfolio losses.

AAPL (Apple): if you aren’t in, get in. If I give consensus estimates a 15% haircut you are still getting it at 15x earnings, top line growth in double digits and enough cash to buy out SBUX (Starbucks).

MCD (McDonald's): It doesn’t get more defensive than this. Mickey D’s has a shareholder friendly management that is committed to returning capital with rising dividends. Even GS (Goldman) couldn’t resist and put it on their Conviction Buy List on Tuesday.

You DO NOT have to be out here trying to pick the bottom in BAC (Bank of America) or GS (Goldman Sachs). Casino odds are just as attractive, and at least you get to see a show.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL, MCD, KO.

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