Monday> morning General Motors (GM)
The automobile giant ran out of gas the last year as the economic downturn crimped consumer spending and brought car sales to a screeching halt. The last week the company scrambled to put together several deals aimed at easing its filing and its eventual emergence from the process. Friday, the company reached an agreement with its employees that freezes wages and cuts some retiree benefits. Over the weekend, GM also finalized an accord with its bondholders that give them at least a 10% stake in the company (taxpayers will be the auto maker s largest investor). Sunday night the government announced it will pump another $30 billion into the firm on top of the $20 billion it already got. President Barack Obama was set to show his support for the bankruptcy during a nationally televised speech.
While such an event would be a momentous one in the industrial history of the U.S., for many investors it may come as something of a relief. The last six months investors have sat back and watched a new president take office, the launch of the controversial TARP program, the start and finish of a rocky earnings season, the announcement of the results of so-called bank stress tests, and now the final chapter of the saga playing out in Detroit. With all that in the rear-view mirror, investors now have a sense of clarity that has escaped them for much of this year.
"There were a couple of things we wanted to see happen before we could feel we were more convinced about putting money back to work," says Ron Roge, the chairman of R.W Roge & Co. in Bohemia, N.Y. "We asked clients, 'If this happened and that happened, would you feel more comfortable?' One of those watershed events was the General Motors bankruptcy." Roge says that while the bankruptcy won t fix ailing markets, it may boost investor perception that the worst is over. "The old Wall Street saying is that people can live with good news and they can live with bad news, but they can't live with uncertainty," he says.
The bankruptcy isn t causing Roge to go all-in on the stock market, though. Indeed, his current approach feels more like somebody dipping their toe in the water before diving in head first. He is putting some of his clients money in the PIMCO All Asset All Authority mutual fund (PAUAX)
Jeffrey Phillips, chief investment officer at Rehmann Financial in Troy, Mich., has been giving his clients' portfolios exposure to growth stocks, a niche that tends to do well coming out of downturns. He likes two funds, Amana Growth (AMAGX)
That said, many money managers cautioned investors shouldn t make too much out of GM s fall. In fact, Thomas Nyheim, a portfolio manager at Christiana Bank & Trust in Greenville, Del., says most market watchers probably see it as a non-event, especially since it has long been anticipated. "They couldn't right the ship over a matter of years, so how could they right it in two months," after the Obama administration imposed a June 1 restructuring deadline, he says.
Nyheim, who specializes in large-cap stocks, says he has backed away from the industrial sector because the slowdown will last through the year. But Lowe's (LOW)
Roge warns that while investors may have more clarity about the future after the GM news dies down, it doesn t excuse them from being overly aggressive about stocks either, especially with the prospect of higher unemployment and inflation on the horizon.
"We've had clients call and want to buy Citibank (C),
Did they also call about buying GM? "No. Oddly enough, no."