The Market Is Drunk

Like the oaf with a lampshade on his head at the end of a very long party, the market is headed for a hangover -- if, that is, it's not experiencing one already. Just check this chart for all of this year's stomach-churning action, and ask yourself -- given the overall downward spiral we've been on -- whether maybe, just maybe, an intervention might be in order.

Doctor's orders
As any psychiatrist worth his or her couch can tell you, we can only control our own actions. For all too many of us, that can be tough to do. For instance, we may choose to get active during troubled times and double down on AT&T (NYSE: T  ) just as its shares began to slide last May.

AT&T currently clocks in at a level more than 25% below its 52-week high, a low-water mark exceeded by the likes of General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) . Indeed, an investment of $10,000 made a year ago in any of those names would have been worth less than $7,500 after the market's closing bell on Thursday. Similar chunks of change plunked down on the likes of Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) would be worth less than $7,000.

Ouch.

Just the facts, ma'am
Those facts, of course, could be excellent news for prospective investors with time on their hands and the inclination to determine whether this clutch of money-losers has hit bottom -- just sticking with the metaphor here, folks -- and is ready to sober up for shareholders. At these prices, the question is: Are these companies values or value traps?

If it's your passion to get to the bottom of fiscal mysteries such as those outlined above, then it's time to hit the balance sheets, gauging top-line revenue growth (where eBay looks like a strong contender), cash flow (AT&T deserves a look there), and earnings expectations (Cisco boasts a five-year forecast in excess of 15%) against a dicey economic backdrop that could, of course, always become dicier still.

However, if you already have a full-time job -- not to mention friends, family, and a plasma television you'd like to spend quality (and quantity) time with -- you probably want a solution simpler than balance-sheet number-crunching during your downtime.

Am I right? Am I right?
Here's a Foolish proposition: Complexity is the enemy of wealth. Thus, the best portfolio for the vast majority of us is a compact, low-maintenance lineup that can see us through up markets and down, en route to what the game of Life dubbed "Millionaire Acres" back when we were in our Brady Bunch heydays.

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See you in October!

This article was originally published on June 25, 2008. It has been updated.

At the time of publication, Shannon Zimmerman didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.


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  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2008, at 1:49 PM, starz188zs wrote:

    I took a look at the chart that's linked at the top of this article and I don't fret. Why? Sure, in the YTD the market has been in a gut-wrenching spiral downward. I've watched my portfolio sink deeper into the red. But here's the catch. I'm not a short term sort of guy. I'm much more interested in what happens when I buy and hold. So I dragged the time-frame indicator on the bottom of that chart back over to 1990. And you know what - the chart looks a lot different! THOSE are the kinds of results that matter to me, the long term kind. That's why I'm eyeing this painful market downturn with an eager eye. With so many great companies on sale, how much money I can make in the next 18 years is essentially limited by how much I can plunk into those solid companies right now!

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