Readers of this blog know I have cautious on the market since the S&P 500 broke through the 1,400 level, but stock prices have continued to rise (about 3 percent more, in fact). January marked the eighth straight month of gains, the longest monthly winning streak in a decade.
Traders will likely try and play the momentum until it fades, but keep in mind that rallies like this are rare, and will end. The first quarter is typically a seasonally strong one, leading up to tax day in April when 2006 IRA contributions are due. The old saying “sell in May and go away” usually spells trouble for the market in the summer, before the historically strong fourth quarter begins.
I can’t tell you how many more months we will see gains for the U.S. market, but the streak will end, so just make sure you are not blind-sided when it does. It is very easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when things are going well, but they often will turn on a dime. We will see a pullback this year, and it will feel painful. Just be prepared for it, so you make rational decisions when the time for action is upon us.