Just Don’t Panic

On days like this the best advice I can give is, don’t panic. Panic selling just because the market gets a little scary will, more often than not, prove to be a big mistake. Every once in a while the psychology of the market takes over. Regardless of fundamentals, stock prices simply move in irrational ways. The best thing to do is simply sit tight and wait it out.

This is not to say that every stock’s move lately is irrational, but a company can post strong earnings, have a good conference call, get a nice stock price bump, and then a few days later the market tanks and the shares are much lower than they were before. In the short term, psychology always trumps fundamentals.

However, if you’ve done your homework and are confident in your investment thesis for particular names, just wait it out. You can add to positions if you want, but that can be hard in a tape like this. Selling into the panic most likely will cause you to have called the bottom and not profited from it.

Are there any real contrarian buys out there? I would not try to bottom fish in the mortgage area. There will be a point in time where Countrywide (CFC) is a buy, but I think we have a long way to go. It looks like the housing market won’t improve much, if at all, in 2008. I think it’s too early to jump in.

That said, the reason why CFC will be a buy at some point in the future is because of the valuation. Unlike the brokerage stocks, which could be facing peak earnings, Countrywide is staring at trough earnings and the stock still trades at a 10 P/E. It could certainly get worse before it gets better, so CFC’s recently reduced 2007 guidance of $3.00 per share might be too high. Who knows, maybe they’ll earn $2.00 when it’s all said and done, which means there is plenty of downside left. Until housing stabilizes for a long period of time and inventories diminish, I would stay away.

All in all though, just don’t panic. We’ve gone through periods like this before (earlier this year in fact), and things always wind up being okay longer term. Unless we see serious and sustainable ripple effects in the economy from the housing market, I am not overly concerned. However, patience is required during times like these more than others.

Full Disclosure: No position in CFC at the time of writing

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