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Losing money ? – Don’t get stressed!

Thursday, 17 Jul 2008 | 8:44 AM ET

According to a new report 73 percent of UK workers experience stress at work. How do they deal with it?

- 47 percent get angry

- 43 percent eat more

- 34 percent drink more

- 23 percent smoke more

Let’s face it, we all have bad days in the office. Whether you are boss or worker, self-employed or company owner there are some days when you just wish you hadn’t bothered. According to the same report, stress can lead to higher blood pressure which is one of the major causes of strokes – and this is now the third biggest killer in the UK.

Bottom line – workplace stress is bad and should be avoided.

Ironically, the campaign to combat rising stress levels is being led by Siemens – which is in the middle of laying off 17,000 workers and restructuring operations. That has to be the definition of employee anxiety.

Hats off to Siemens anyhow for highlighting a serious issue and for putting the CEO of NorthWest Europe up to talk about it this morning. At least some of his UK employees should feel happier about his view that the UK order book is still holding up well. They are through a late cycle business so it may be a little early to count chickens...etc.

My inbox is full these days with feedback from viewers who just cannot believe how low these markets have fallen. Well, finally some relief appears to be in sight. For the first time in a while the technicians and the fundamentalists are on the same page about the likelihood of a strong tradable rally. Bear market rally it may be, but it will offer a breathing space for investors to take stock of their holdings and reassess their goals. That has to be a good thing. Right now we are operating in nano-speed market time – and that is obscuring the bigger picture.

The swings in stock prices are an expression of panic rather than calm rational analysis. Sentiment conditions have become extreme. But, the bottom line has to be the bottom line – i.e., are company earnings stable or deteriorating as we progress through the second half of the year? Long-term investors believe to their core that stock prices must be a reflection of profit growth. Push aside oil, inflation, Iran, the credit crisis, and subprime – all the issues that are creating distress – and try and refocus on the underlying economic cycle.

Behavioral investor work long ago identified herding – and the easy-money momentum investing of the last couple of decades has only reinforced this behavior. For example the explosion of index products suggested all stocks only go up or only go down at the same time. So being long or short the index was a smart thing to do. Well, the rules are changing as the leverage is getting beaten out of this asset class. Suddenly we are again talking about markets of stocks rather than stock markets.

As the normal economic cycle becomes defined, there will be increasing clarity about the winners and losers. The clues about market direction are in the reaction to news flow. With sentiment this pessimistic, small pieces of good news have a disproportionately positive impact – see how Wells Fargo’s better-than-expected second quarter delivered the biggest one-day gain in financials for decades.

The SEC, FSA, FED, BOE, ECB et al are on the case – which will stabilize the oil, inflation, Iran, credit crunch and subprime problems.

Our task is to decide which stocks to buy and which to leave behind as the smoke on the battlefield starts to clear – this is not a time to get stressed about losing money – but to refocus on who is still generating sustainable earnings.

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