Way back in the Summer of 2003, I wrote a report that analyzed the Contrary Indicators 2000 – 2003 Bear market. It consisted of both internal and external signals that strongly suggested that the 2000 crash was over, and it was safe to get back into equities.
The second of the external signals was that PIMCO’s Total Return Bond fund had surpassed the Vanguard S&P500 fund to become the largest mutual fund (as of October 2002) in the world.
I bring that up this morning, with futures solidly to the upside, as a similar (if more modest) contrary signal has appeared: Last week, “bond and money market assets at Boston-based Fidelity now total $848.9 billion, more than half of the company’s $1.6 trillion in managed assets.”
What makes this so noteworthy was that for most of its history, Stocks were king at Fidelity Investments. Recall the days of Peter Lynch‘s Magellan fund. The thought of investing in a bond fund was almost laughable back then. It was an era of stock picking, the residue of which remains a misplaced and nearly obsessive focus in the media even today.
The PIMCO vs Vanguard observation was noteworthy in October 2002, when Bonds surpassed Equities as the bottom of a brutal crash was occurring. The technical types will point out markets were tracing a double bottom, with March 2003 holding near the October lows setting up the start of the next leg higher.
Now that Stocks have been eclipsed by bonds at Fidelity, are we approaching a very similar moment? The key difference is that markets are up 100% over the past 3 years, not down 81%, like the Nasdaq was in October 2002. Regardless, this is an interesting contrarian sign; it suggests to me we are closer to the end of the secular bear that began in March 2000 than we are to the beginning.
My best guess? This is the seventh inning stretch. If we get a recession in 2013-14, you will have one terrific chance at a low cost, lower risk entry point into equities. If only the markets were so accommodating . . .
Fidelity’s stock funds eclipsed by bond and money market assets
Reuters, Sep 26, 2012 7:45pm EDT