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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the market in recent years, it’s that it has selective amnesia. Consider the current rally since Friday that’s seen the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) , and S&P 500 (INDEX:^GSPC,) rise 2.3% and 2.7% after today’s gains of 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively. Sure, economic data on Friday was better than expected, and sovereign borrowing rates have fallen in Spain and Italy, but it’s like the market is in denial regarding the true state of the world. The eurozone is an abject disaster, and the U.S. consumer, who we rely on for two-thirds of GDP, is looking increasingly strapped for cash. Today’s consumer credit numbers from June confirmed that prognosis, with revolving credit, the kind that comes in the form of small plastic rectangles, declining by $3.7 billion.
“Who cares about the consumer?” said Dow component and enterprise IT provider Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , who led all blue-chips with a 2.7% gain today. Shares have rebounded nicely since approaching their 52-week lows in late July. The company reports earnings next week, and has caught a few fans on Wall Street, despite the headwinds it’s facing in Europe and from smaller competitors.
On the other hand, memories of pharmaceutical lawsuits and steep government fines are deeply embedded in this market’s forgetful psyche. That’s why nothing was going to keep shares of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) above water today, after announcing a $60 million settlement with the SEC and Justice Department related to bribery allegations. Also weighing on shares was an announcement that it was suspending development of an Alzheimer’s drug that it was working on in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer shares fell 2.1%, and dragged down fellow Dow pharma stock Merck (NYSE: MRK ) , which is dealing with its own government investigations.
Making sense of it all
The thing to remember when watching the market is that you, like the market, probably won’t remember much of this short-term noise in a couple of weeks, let alone ten or twenty years down the road. Instead, buying quality stocks for the long-term is a strategy that has proven itself time and time again. The key is to avoid the urge to jump ship when things look horrible because, oftentimes, that’s the point of maximum opportunity.
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