The market’s up 20% since the election. Here's why it's time to lock in some profits

  • The market has jumped 20 percent since election night as traders anticipated a pro-growth agenda coming from Washington.
  • But the Trump agenda is running out of time to happen this year. Congress has just 60 days left to legislate.
  • Stocks could be headed for a big fall if we don't get expected reforms, and quick.
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Back in the fall of 2015 I was asked to do a segment on CNBC's Closing Bell. I had been on the show countless times over the years and found myself fighting bearish sentiment as the market climbed higher and higher. I remember getting into 'loud conversations' with my good friend Rick Santelli about the bond market giving investors the wrong signal for stocks thus keeping investors out of equities. But this day was different; It was the first time in years I became openly concerned and called for caution.

There were certain variables coming into play which were creating, in my mind, the perfect storm. Not only had the market been fighting the anti-business sentiment coming out of DC but it had to deal with high valuations, an expanding multiple and a strong, unhealthy correlation to crude oil. As crude started to become a larger problem for the market, it became clear that the capital markets were going to experience serious volatility. Eventually, we witnessed equities lose almost 20 percent in a couple months.

It was the Trump election that transformed me back to the 'Optimistic Armenian' (As the late Mark Haines called me!) once again. A week later I was asked to do Closing Bell yet again and called for the 'all clear' for the stock market. The sweep in DC changed everything overnight and the market was poised to move significantly higher, and it did. We were all waiting for the return of Ronald Reagan and supply side to save the economy! But now we find ourselves at an inflection point. The question we should now be asking is; What if DC is the problem, not the solution?

As I write this piece, congress has 60 days left this year to legislate. That means they have 60 days to carve out a tax reform bill, work out a deal for repatriation of capital and reform health care. Assuming health care gets pushed out another year, that still leaves two huge pieces of legislation left with very little time.

"With a market that has moved about 20 percent higher since election night, the time has come to take some money off the table and say 'thanks' for the year."

Understand, the forward earnings for the S&P have factored roughly $15-$20 per share for repatriation and tax reform. If neither happens, it will leave the equity market way over what the street would consider 'fair value' or a sustainable multiple. It would leave corporate America in a holding period for capital expenditure increases. Listen to Randall Stephenson, AT&T CEO, who said AT&T would spend over $22 billion if there were meaningful tax reform.

Bottom line: If we don't get the tax reform and repatriation, which are desperately needed, stocks could be in big trouble for the remainder of the year.

There's an old saying from the floor of the exchange: "You can never go broke taking a profit.' Being a trader, it's one of the first lessens to learn. With a market that has moved about 20 percent higher since election night, the time has come to take some money off the table and say 'thanks' for the year.

Think of it this way, a 20 percent return on a portfolio is a great year and it happened in six months.

That's not to say that the market is no good. On the contrary, this could be the start of the biggest bull market we have seen in 30 years. The problem is that we have had too much, too soon. If our lawmakers don't step it up and start to pass some real pro-growth legislation then the market could be poised to pull back, erasing that 20 percent gain.

There are many factors which drive my caution now, like central bank tightening, geopolitics and disinflationary pressure for starters. Yes, I'm worried about North Korea and the lower prices of crude, but what bulls should worry about most is the lack of action this year out of DC. There's so much that needs to be done and time is running out.

Some, including Larry Kudlow, have called for Congress to stay in session rather than taking an August recess to work through the legislation. I couldn't agree more. If the Republican leadership doesn't deliver on a deal this year, we could witness the emergence of the 'stock market vigilantes.'

The longer we have a lack of legislative print around taxes and repatriation, the more concerned we should be. It seems that the necessary ideas to free up seed capital, repatriate offshore assets and reform a broken tax system might be delayed. If so, the time has come to monetize some of this year's huge gains or hedge out equity exposure.

2017 has this congress for another 60 days and counting. Without real pro-growth reform, the next 60 congressional work days will start sounding like the clicking of a roller coaster going up the hill. It could be a rough ride down, so make sure you're buckled up!

Commentary by Jack Bouroudjian, CEO of Index Futures Group LLC, a registered independent broker, and CIO of Index Capital Partners, a registered commodity-pool operator. He was also a three-term director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and founder and advisor of UCX (Universal Compute Exchange). Follow him on Twitter @JackBouroudjian.

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