We sold our shares in Jardine Strategic today (500 shares at US$21.22), despite the much anticipated sell-off in the stock market following huge losses on Wall St last Friday. Nonfarm payrolls were poorer that expected, renewing fears that the recovery in the US isn't going to plan. Also, a curious statement from Hungary's ruling party indicating that Hungary would go the way of Greece in terms of its debt problems further fuelled investor worries.
As we have described in a previous post, European debt problems are unlikely to simply disappear, and the likely result would be a sovereign default by one or more European economies. We have yet to see a selling climax, despite the sharp YTD falls in some markets.
While we reiterate that valuations are attractive for the stock market in general, we have to acknowledge the unfavourable market technicals - the Dow Jones and S&P 500 have both fallen below their 200 day moving averages, and the moving average now appears to be a resistance for both indices. With such bearish market technicals coupled with the fact that we have yet to see the market capitulate (or a failure/near-failure of one or two European banks), we have little choice but to err on the side of caution. With our sale of Jardine Strategic Holdings, we have raised the cash level of the portfolio to about 19%. We will also be looking to dispose of SGX to increase cash to about a quarter of the portfolio.
There is a good chance that we may be wrong in our reading of the market, which is why we will remain largely invested, but our larger cash holding will help us to buffer risks to the downside, and will be a useful source of ammunition should distressed opportunities appear.