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Stocks: Back on Top–For Now

Stocks are up slightly across the board this afternoon after yesterday’s plunge, raising questions—yet again—on what moves to make before year’s end.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 81 points following yesterday’s 162 point drop. With many analysts expecting the wild swings to continue well into the new year, investors are looking for different ways steer through the volatility. Though some advisers are urging investors to sit tight, others are taking more drastic moves.

For example, Jim Heitman, a financial planner in Alta Loma, Calif., says any moves he makes in the last few weeks of the year will be tax related. “December is all about cleaning up the portfolio for taxes,” says Heitman. He plans to sell exposure to areas that have taken a beating this year, like small cap and international stocks, in order to claim losses for tax purposes. But he plans to rebuild those positions by buying up other exchange-traded funds that provide similar exposure.

Other advisers say they are being much more tactical, but urge clients to make moves based off of trends over a few weeks or months, not day-to-day swings. Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors, recommends selling bonds to buy stocks over the next six months or so. He’s urging clients to use downturns to snap up stocks but he warns against making drastic moves daily. “I’m not about playing these 200-point moves,” says Wren.

One strategy is to make bets on specific sectors. Since the market gyrations began in full swing this summer, stable stock sectors are outperforming more aggressive ones, according to Yardeni Research. As of Monday, utilities, consumer staples, health care and consumer discretionary were the biggest winners this year out of the 10 S&P 500 sectors, while industrials, materials and financials were down.

James Dailey, manager of the Team Asset Strategy fund (TEAMX), has about 40% of his portfolio in mining stocks. With economic growth expected to slow next year, the Federal Reserve may be urged to do another round of bond buying, says Dailey. Such action, along with other stimulus, could cause the dollar to lose value and push commodity prices up. If that happens, mining companies that extract metals like gold and silver should reap the benefits, he says.

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