Although the mainstream media is busy downplaying the recent volatility in the equities market — focusing heavily on the so-called “rebound” as opposed to the six consecutive days of losses — the plain truth is that speculative activity was murdered. Despite the +6% run-up in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the August 26 and August 27 sessions, the venerable index is still down more than 900 points. That means that the rebound in stocks still produced a net negative — a $1 trillion loss of market capitalization.
How big of a loss is that? To put matters into perspective, the red ink is the equivalent of losing Exxon-Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) — twice! Another way to think about it is that the net losses incurred since August 18 is roughly 6% of U.S. gross domestic product.
True, the world will now focus their attention on the U.S. Federal Reserve — will Janet Yellen continue pressing interest rates to all-time lows or will she pull the plug on quantitative easing? However, the supply of U.S. Treasuries in the open market may in the long run not have as significant of an impact as is widely assumed. The issue is demand — China, the emerging markets, the health of the U.S. consumer. Unless these issues are addressed, quite frankly, it may not matter what the Fed does.
However, human beings are creatures of habit and it can be excruciatingly difficult to break out of a routine, especially one that is immeasurably ingrained within the collective psyche. But if one absolutely had to invest in the stock market, where are the best deals?
Naturally, recession-proof — or more accurately termed, recession-resistant — stocks would be an ideal choice. Think secular (non-cyclical) industries like food, utilities, certain forms of entertainment — stuff that either people can’t live without or provide a form of escapism during tough times.
Not surprisingly, companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG) weathered the market storm better than most other publicly traded names. Fundamentally, the fast-casual restaurant is making strong gains in both annual and quarterly revenue, has no debt, and has been a reliable investment for its shareholders lucky enough to have gotten in before the big wave.
But as is the case with many “good” stocks, Chipotle’s upside momentum is waning. Positive, yes, but demonstrating rapidity of growth, no. Future prospects for CMG stock — and for virtually the entire blue-chip index — depend upon whether the Wal-mart jobs created following the onset of the Great Recession is enough to spark a broad and substantive recovery.
Of course, we have our doubts. But if one absolutely had to invest in the stock market, the “seculars” would be the place to go.