The Standard & Poor’s 500 briefly inched above 2,600 today before ending at 2599.03, up 0.65% on the day and the highest close on record.
Traders and investors will have much of the rest of this week off–time they can spend contemplating where they should put their money when they return on Monday, November 27.
It’s hard for me to see them concluding to do anything except chase stocks and indexes higher through the end of the year.
It’s not that I don’t see danger lurking out there. The Republican tax bill could fail, which would disappoint all traders and investors counting on a cut in the corporate tax rate to boost earnings. We do face a December 8 deadline for passing something that will fund the government and keep the doors open. OPEC meets on November 30 and it could, I suppose, decide to cut its own throat and abandon its production cuts.
But I think U.S. traders and investors will look past all those potential problems and decide that through the end of the year they really don’t have an alternative to chasing stocks higher. I look for momentum “successes” to draw even more money. To take just one example, biotech Nectar Therapeutics (NKTR) tacked on another 7.72% today even though it is now up 107% in the last month. (Nektar shares are a member of my Jubak Picks Portfolio and Nectar call options are a pick in my Volatility Portfolio.)
The hope, of course, of any money manager facing the end of 2017 is that he or she can pile into the big winners over the last month and beat the indexes for the year. That’s not a trivial challenge since the S&P 500 is up 16.22% for 2017 as of the close today, November 21. (Matching the NASDAQ Composite is an even tougher task since that tech-laden index is up 27.5% for the year to date.)
The difficulty of the task, however, doesn’t look likely to deter money managers from trying. Today, for example, Apple (AAPL) shares were up 3.16%, even though the company is not exactly having the best run of news lately. Microsoft (MSFT) was ahead 1.1%. Facebook (FB) closed higher by 3.12%. Alphabet (GOOG) moved up 1.58%.
The challenge right now is participating in this end of the year rally (or potential rally if you prefer) without getting so over-extended on risk that you get badly hurt by any pull back in early 2018.
Professional money managers and traders are addressing this problem, the activity in options markets suggests, by buying cheap, out of the money put options to protect against a big decline without disrupting their current portfolio positions.
What’s your strategy for early 2018?