Ritholtz on the Not-So-Abnormal Rally

Barry Ritholtz of FusionIQ and The Big Picture blog says that as long as the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates near zero, it’s unwise to short stocks.

“As I’ve told some of our institutional clients, you can’t be short in the face of 0% rates.” Ritholtz tells Forbes.com. “There’s just too much liquidity around to say, ‘I’m betting stocks go lower.’ So far, its been a losing trade to bet against ZIRP (zero interest rate policy).”

Ritholtz says that the rally we’re seeing isn’t atypical. Historically, he says, the median secular bear market has lasted about 29 months, and involved a 56% drop — just about what we hit in the recent bear. Then, on average, a 70% rebound has followed over the next 17 months.

“Since we fell much quicker than that, it’s not a surprise that we have bounced 60%, 65% in just 12 months,” Ritholtz says.

After the rebound rally, Ritholtz says markets “typically encounter a substantial correction, not as bad as the bear market … but a 25% correction that takes about a 13 months”. After that, a five-year period of a wide trading range typically follows.

Ritholtz says he’s not predicting the pattern will occur in just that way this time. But he says the numbers put this rally in context — i.e., that it’s not unprecedented.

Ritholtz says he thinks the post-rally correction won’t occur too soon, but he does think it could be “a quarter or three away”. It likely won’t happen until the market sees signs of rates rising and quantitative easing ending.

Three main groups are currently piquing Ritholtz’s interest: “bailout bet” firms — those that aren’t good companies, but which are riding a wave of government support; airlines; and tech stocks.

Ritholtz also talks about why he relies heavily on stop-losses.

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