When is the best time to invest in equities?

Written by: Sunil Fernandes

When is the best time to invest in equities?
My boss forwarded me a link to a website which more or less suggested it was the best time to invest in equities as falling share prices were not bad.

I had just finished reading another leading money portal that suggested that it was best time to stay in cash, giving “n” number of reasons. Now these are reputed portals with contrasting views and one of them is going to get it right, because the market will either rise or fall (unlikely to stay steady in the medium term). The markets are inundated with so many recommendations that investors are left confused and bemused.

I still remember a noted Goldman Sachs analyst who rightly predicted in 2005 that oil would cross the $100 per barrel mark. In 2008 people shuddered when he predicted that oil would cross the $200 mark, as at that time it was trading at $135. In a few months the Lehman Brothers crisis unfolded and crude oil hit $36 per barrel. His second prediction went haywire.

When the markets had turned buoyant in 2007-2008, people had predicted that the Sensex would cross 30,000. Use a search engine and you'd probably realise how analysts and investment bankers have got it horribly wrong over the years. Everybody's predicting and recommending. The predictions are endless and confusing.

Predicting how markets behave is about predicting how events would unfold and that's an impossible thing to do. Nobody predicted the Lehman crisis, the bedlam in Greece, a global recession, sub prime mortgage crisis or a Tsunami in Japan. Nobody can predict if Spain and Portugal would go the Greece way or if Israel would attack Iran leading to oil prices multiplying and causing economic mayhem. Global markets no longer operate as an "island", and are increasingly vulnerable to unforeseen global events.

Since 2008, when the Sensex scaled a historic peak of 21,000 plus, the markets have gone nowhere. After four years since hitting a peak it has been able to scale that peak just once, but has more or less remained in a range.

There have been hundreds of predictions since then on “Sensex year end targets”, which have gone completely awry.

In May 2009 nobody predicted that the Indian stock markets would be shut for the first time in its history, after rising 20% following a second term for the UPA government.

But, the desire for top-notch investment advice always remains. In my pursuit to make money from equities, I paid Rs 2,500 and subscribed to an equity advisors' newsletter, which every week had equity recommendations based on various criteria. After having bought a few stocks through their recommendations, I am sitting on losses. Each time I ask them what to do with the stock, they say, “Hold it sir, it's a long term bet”. After five years, if you happen to call them (or if they are in business), they will again repeat the same thing. “Long term” is never defined you see.

So, when is the best time to buy equities? I have no idea, since the external environment is so unpredictable. After having covered the stock markets for almost 20 years, and done equity research as well, I have lost money...most of it listening to advice. And after all these years, I more often then not keep writing the same thing, "global cues drag indices lower".


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