Looked at up close and personal, the stock market mini-crash of the past three weeks seems like the beginning of the end, but a Key Bank analyst said Tuesday that while it's not a bull, neither is it a bear.
"There are just too many positives lingering in the economy for me to believe the market has anything more than a scary correction in it," said Charles Crane, chief market analyst for Cleveland-based KeyCorp, parent company of the Key Banks in Utah."It's nerve-racking to watch the volatility, but the positives emphasize that while the economy is decelerating, it's still in fine shape."
Crane spoke with the Deseret News prior to a breakfast speech at Little America Hotel.
He is forecasting a low of 8,300 on the Dow Jones Industrial Average for this year and a high of 9,300. In early trading Tuesday, the Dow had plunged 209.06 points to 8,365.79, putting Crane's forecast to a stern and immediate test.
Crane subscribes to the view that baby boomers, who have been moving from being heavy consumers to heavy savers, should provide liquidity to the market for some time to come.
That would seem to contradict recent government statistics that indicate the national rate of savings is at an all time low. Crane says those numbers are "cockeyed" in that they don't adequately reflect the money invested in equity mutual funds nor direct investment in stocks.
"It's true that consumption trends have been higher than might be expected, but that's because investors' spirits have been lifted by the strength of their portfolios and they are spending their `winnings', so to speak, on cars and nice vacations."
Past market downturns in this decade have been short-lived with most investors seeing any dip in prices as a buying opportunity. That hasn't happened this time.
"I don't expect an immediate bounce-back," from this summer's downturn, said Crane. "Along with the Asian crisis, we have a market that is more bloated in terms of valuation than it was a year ago. We also have investors who are more invested in stocks so the amount of dry powder that's left isn't what it has been."
That means that while he sees no bears on the horizon, the longer term bull market of the '90s won't likely be returning in what remains of this century.
Crane expects positive returns from the stock market over the next three to five years, but nothing like in the recent past and probably not even at the historic average of 10 percent per year.
"Look for returns in the single digits. That's not a bull but it's not a bear, either."
One of the great frustrations for many investors has been the refusal of the big money to move out of the overvalued large-cap stocks and into smaller issues that are more fairly valued. Crane blames foreign investors for the phenomenon, saying they only want to invest in companies whose names are familiar and who have operations in their own countries. If that scenario were to change, it could give small stocks a boost.
Also, said Crane, many U.S. investors are now beginning to realize - thanks to the news media talking about it - that small companies offer better growth potential and have better price/earnings ratios than the big firms listed on the Dow.
"Overall, I think long-term investors would be well-served by ignoring most short-term static."