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The Death of Equities?

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Investor psychology in a crisis.

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Investors must feel like they're watching a young Mathew Broderick in the movie War Games. Remember his computer talking to him in that monotone voice, saying: "Strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

Faced with uncertainty, markets have been acting like that hysterical airplane passenger who needs to be slapped. The past few weeks have put investors on an emotional roller coaster.

We're hearing numerous reports of credit-card companies taking down credit lines for millions of Americans. I had a frantic call from a friend whose $5000 credit line was cut to $3500 -- his current balance -- leaving no buffer. Another call came from a small jewelry business, whose $15,000 line was cut to the $10,000 outstanding.

Both of these individuals have perfect payment histories. This is an important point, because many Americans, already burdened with too much debt, judge their net worth not by how much they own, but by how much they can borrow.

Inflation is no longer the Fed's concern, as demand destruction has brought the commodity run to a halt. I fully expect we'll see coordinated rate cuts around the world - but on their own, it won't be enough. The process has only started; much more lies ahead. If we stop here, it will just mean you get turned down on a 6% mortgage instead of 6.5%. Getting the credit markets functioning and banks lending money again is the grease for the gears of our economy.

I'm not going to waste your time with a stock pick this week, because the odds are against me, to say the least. Let me instead leave you with the following thought:

Every bear market has a different cause. However, they all have one thing in common: At the bottom, investors become apathetic. They just don't care about stocks any more. "Equities" becomes a dirty word.

Let's not forget that the cover of Businessweek in August 1979 was "The Death of Equities." The Dow that year ended at 844.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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