Friday, May 14, 2010

An unreported participant in today's market sell-off

Today's across the board sell-off in equities everywhere was the result of the crisis in European captital markets and it hit almost all U.S. markets, led by declines in the energy and financial sectors. Beneath that reasonably accurate story line was a scene of significant give-backs among stocks that had surged in March and April and had led any of you who owned them into doing fist pumps at your screen, by early May risking a case of fist pump elbow.

A phenomenon mainly related to a select group mid-cap and small-cap companies that had lagged the 2009 rally but that had decent businesses and balance sheets, the March/April increases in many cases were easily 50% or higher. This related to no one industry, but technology, infrastructure related, and materials stocks certainly participated. The event was seemingly just individual stock related, overlooked, undercovered companies with low volumes that caught a wave and went right on up and up.

Today was give-back time in some of these stocks. Whether profit taking, margin selling, the double edge sword of low liquidity or, unlikely on a day like this, a realization that valuation had moved ahead of itself, there were some big hits taken in many, if not all, of stocks that fit this description.

The catalyst for this was the broad market sell-off. In a one day event, it has no meaning to the market and shouldn't to the unmargined investor. That's easy to say.


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