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It's a cool autumn Sunday in Minyanville, and the Menagerie gathered at Boo's pad for their weekly football, barbeque and beer fest. A smoky aroma filled the air as the game played loudly on the big screen. Daisy, wearing her silver and black sweatshirt, sat in the big chair, while Sammy and Snapper spread out on the couch. Boo, clutching a football between his hands and pacing excitedly, was clearly enjoying the company of his friends.

Come on, ya friggin' zebras!" Boo yelled at the television, "Are you kidding me?" The rest of the critters looked at each other in mock surprise--and then suddenly burst out in laughter. There was nothing better than football with your friends and the libations seemed to be seeping in. It was at that moment they saw a sullen Hoofy leaning against the back wall lost in deep thought.

Snapper spoke up "Yo, big fella...what goes on?" A startled Hoofy looked up and scanned the friendly faces, pausing when he saw Daisy's concerned expression. He walked over to the group, let out a deep sigh and began "Guys...I just don't know what to do anymore. It seems as if the economy is fine, yet the market continues to slide lower. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I'm totally stressing...and it's Sunday!"

Sammy cleared his throat, removed his glasses and addressed the bull. "Hoofy, you need to understand that there's a difference between a good economy and a good stock market. People are operating under the assumption that an economic pickup, if and when, will translate into instant profits. This is a flawed approach, in my opinion. First, the stock market is a leading indicator, so by the time we see a discernable uptick in the economy, the averages will already be higher. Second, we're experiencing a classic profit recession as margins get squeezed in corporate America. There's simply no pricing power, Hoofy, and another down year for the market isn't helping the cause."

Boo, who had been focusing his attention on the bowl full of peanut M&M's, looked up and chimed in. "Bro, do you understand how massive the stock market bubble was? The unwinding of that excess and a new bull market isn't going to happen overnight. That's a pipe dream! Think about all the fuss that was made over the interest rate cuts last year. Traders bought the market each time Elmer lowered rates and got whacked in the teeth every time. Now everybody is talking about the dreaded "double dip"...Uhh, exsqueeze me, but when did the economy ever undip?" He paused to grab a paw full of chocolate, and then added "You wanted a new paradigm? Well, how's it taste now?"

Daisy glared at the young Bear from across the room as she didn't appreciate his smug tone. Always composed, she took a deep breath and spoke up. "Boo, don't you know that it's always a new paradigm...until it isn't. It may take a while, but I will tell you that there will be better times for Hoofy." She looked at her Bull and gave him a wink. "The markets, like life, are cyclical and there will be troughs as well as peaks. Yes, the magnitude of the bubble will likely exacerbate the downside pressure, but for the patient and disciplined, there will be opportunities when we get through this mess. The goal is to factor in all potential scenarios and preserve enough capital to stay in the game."

Hoofy smiled and his heart warmed. Man, did he love her. The halftime show was in full swing on the TV and the critters paused to watch the highlights from the other games. There was a collective cheer when they saw that the dreaded Broncos were losing once more. Sammy, sensing that the mood in the room had softened, broke the silence. "I think it's important to remember, guys, that the market offers different strokes for different folks. Before making any decisions, it's first necessary to determine what risk profile you're comfortable with and, perhaps more importantly, what your time frame is. Traders and investors are two totally different pun intended, of course."

The critters nodded their heads in agreement as the Raider's trotted onto the field for the beginning of the second half. Snapper, who was feverishly working through his second helping of food, stopped chewing and looked at Sammy. "You touch on an interesting point, captain. The difference between a trading rally and a cycle turn is all the difference in the world. You know I'm all about the upside mojo, but nobody's ever accused me of being an investor. Every time the market starts to lift, some "pundit" wants to be the first to call the bottom. It's possible to have bullish phases within a bigger bear cycle and we need to recognize this."

Sammy slithered to the couch and positioned himself comfortably in his seat. "You're right, Snaps, and it's also important to remember that the opposite of love isn't hate, its apathy. There's still a tremendous amount of emotion in the marketplace and entirely too much talk of THE bottom. When will we ultimately bottom? Probably when everyone stops focusing on it and nobody's paying attention. That's what marks true bottoms...indifference."

The teams lined up for the kickoff and the critters readied themselves for the second half. The Menagerie loved to talk tape, but they knew that without balance there is no clarity. There would be plenty of time to debate the merits of the market in the week ahead. The reason they worked was so they could afford to spend quality time with their friends and family...and they appreciated every minute. As the whistle sounded and the game resumed, Boo walked over, sat down next to Hoofy and gave him a playful punch on the arm. They looked at one another, smiled, and turned their attention back to the big screen. It was Sunday, and despite their variant views, they were together, happy and healthy.

It could be worse.


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