One of the defining characteristics of strong market is that it never lets the dip buyers get long. Since the beginning of the end of the fiscal cliff debacle the market has done nothing but creep, inch, lurch and otherwise climb with little more than momentary hiccups.
Now that the market is hitting the highest levels since December 2007, it's hard to find anyone willing to put their money where their mouth is on the bearish side. With the S&P500 hitting 1,500 and the CBOE Volatility index (^VIX), or VIX, under 13, investors are left with a difficult environment ahead.
"People have to be very, very prudent about how they get into the market here," says CNBC contributor and founder of KKM Financial Jeff Kilburg --the man who was calling for a 5 to 10% rally back when the S&P500 was in the low 1,400's. Kilburg is encouraged by the massive market inflows seen in early January which he says were the largest seen in five or six years, but it's hard to ignore the complacency.
Kilburg notes that the VIX has a long term average of 20 and very rarely falls out of the teens. That's both a warning sign and an opportunity. The VIX isn't a "fear index" as it's so often labelled. It's the price of insurance. A high VIX means traders are expecting an increase in volatility. Below the 13 the VIX is suggesting that traders are buying into the idea that the recent straight move higher is the new normal.
Kilburg sees a 5% move lower coming but not yet. For some that suggests selling some stocks outright. Kilburg instead suggests investors start selling calls, allowing them to stay long stocks unless or until they move high enough to have the stock "called away." If the stock moves lower the trader keeps the premium from his sale. If it moves above the strike price the call seller simply hands over the stock at a higher price.
Bottom line: He's bullish but thinks 2013 is going to be a bumpy ride. If he's right times like this are exactly when you should start thinking of getting some protection.