Gosh, the last couple of months have been a drag, haven't they?
I'm not talking about the downsizing of our investment portfolios per se. I'm talking about the news, the thinking about it, the gloom and doom.
Bailouts. Bank collapses. Layoffs. Budget cuts. Disappointing stock performance from Akamai
For a few days, it seemed like everything was going down the tubes. Fortunately, the bit about Berkshire, at least, looks like it was just a rumor. That leaves ... well, almost everything going down the tubes. I bet that doesn't make you feel a whole lot better.
Is there anything we can celebrate this holiday season?
It's easy to get so lost in the gloom and doom that you get completely overwhelmed. Trust me on this -- I spend my days writing and thinking about the markets, and lately I've had to make a big point of reminding myself to go outside and look up at the blue sky every now and then just to stay sane.
But if we take a step back, we can find plenty to celebrate. Consider:
- Mortgage rates just came down. The latest chapter of the Never-Ending Bailout of 2008, announced earlier this week, involves (among other things) the Fed buying some $600 billion in mortgage-backed securities. Whatever the minuses of that deal, one positive effect was that mortgage rates fell almost immediately after the announcement. Speaking as someone trying to sell a house, anything that gets the housing market moving again is a very good thing indeed. If you're looking to buy, those sweet deals just got a little sweeter.
- Gas and oil prices are at multiyear lows. While many will say that these are mixed blessings -- as energy prices fall, so do incentives for alternative energy research -- I suspect that most of those self-righteous souls who are ostentatiously moping about the popping of the oil bubble are not among those who will be heating their houses with fuel oil this winter. Oil heat is common in the Northeast where I live, especially in older houses -- the kinds of houses retired and elderly folks tend to live in, if you get my drift. Helping those folks -- and everyone else -- stay warm this winter is a clear-blue-sky good thing from where I sit. And if it helps you put off replacing your paid-for SUV with something smaller while money's tight, I say that's a good thing too.
- Wow, the discounts. Need a new pickup truck? A new fridge? Sales of all sorts of big-ticket consumer items have all but ground to a halt as people put off optional purchases... but if your purchase isn't really optional, or you're in a good financial position at the moment, there are some spectacular bargains out there. Many retailers placed their holiday season orders before the awfulness of October, meaning that they are now sitting on what now looks to be an uncomfortably large inventory. The fact that big discounts are already being offered as I write this (at 9 a.m. on the morning of Black Friday) is a sign of their desperation. Take advantage, if you can do so prudently.
Great stocks are on great sales. I know, I know, the stock market may go lower. I hear it from readers every time I talk about buying stocks. But regardless of where the market goes in the near term, there are already some terrific values out there. I mean, Microsoft
(NASDAQ:MSFT)for $20? Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)for $16? General Electric under $17? Rumors and competitive challenges notwithstanding, those are all potential "30-year" stocks, the kind you buy and hold for decades, the cornerstones of any stock portfolio. And those are the kinds of deep-recession sale prices you might someday tell your grandkids about. Think about it.
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Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the companies mentioned. Zumiez is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Pfizer, Microsoft, and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Akamai Technologies is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Pfizer and Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.