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Careful Stock-Picking in Wildly Oversold Market

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Trading despite weakened investor confidence.

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An avalanche of worse-than-expected economic and earnings data again put pressure on Wall Street during the past month, resulting in four straight down-weeks and the worst performance of the major US indices for January on record.

"As January goes, so goes the year" is one of the most frequently quoted sayings about seasonal trends in the stock market. With the Dow Jones Industrial Index down by 8.8% and the S&P 500 Index 8.6% lower, the year is not off to a promising start.

Despite frantic actions by the Fed and other central banks to unclog credit markets and restore confidence in the world's financial system, the MSCI World Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell by 8.8% and 6.6% respectively during January.

The performances in the table below are given in local currency terms for different measurement periods ended January 31.


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From the highs of late October 2007 until the November 20 lows, mature markets have outperformed developing markets, as shown by the declines of 54.1% for the MSCI World Index and 65.3% for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. The relative-strength graph below clearly shows this outperformance (i.e. declining trend), but the period since the November lows has witnessed emerging markets reclaiming lost ground (i.e. rising trend).


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In local currency terms, the best-performing bourses since the November 20 lows have been Russia (+23.8%), Oslo (+18.8%) and Brazil (+17.7%). However, the two markets still in the red -- Helsinki (-2.2%) and France (-0.2%) -- have much less to cheer about.

Considering the month of January, the top 3 performers were all BRIC countries, namely China (+9.3%), Brazil (+4.7%) and Russia (+2.5%). Although India closed the month on a strong note (up 8.6% during the fourth week), the Bombay Sensex 30 Index still lagged its BRIC counterparts for the month. The year-to-date performances of these countries, together with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, are shown in the graph below.


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It should be noted that the Chinese stock market has been closed over the past few days in celebration of the Lunar New Year. It will be interesting to see how this market starts the Year of the Ox on Monday as the chart pattern shows arguably the best base formation of the major market indices. The Shanghai Composite Index (1,991) is also challenging its 3-month highs and is within close reach of the roundophobia level of 2,000 for the Shanghai Composite Index.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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