For the first time since 1997, domestic equities lost ground in the last three months of the year. While this outcome is certainly not unexpected given the problems in subprime mortgages, corporate credit, and housing, both the holiday mindset and end of year buying typically propel stocks higher in the fourth quarter.
A lack of buying interest is troublesome, in my view, because it is evident that the same large players that bid stocks up in the last few weeks of the year aren’t particularly interested in owning stocks going into January. Whether this means lower prices in the first quarter of 2008 remains to be seen, but it seems as though we may be in for a bit more short-term pain.
I’m a bit more sanguine longer-term. There are a lot of bargains to be had in the equity markets. Housing stocks, financial firms, and retailers are trading at historically low valuations, and will eventually rebound sometime next year. Global stocks are still attractive as well, and with the 11% drubbing it took in ’07, I also expect Japan to recover.