Index Valuations and (Subtle) Timing
The index funds article suggests a strategy that some people call "mindless" buy and hold;
the idea is to choose a sensible portfolio strategy and then stick with it no matter what the market happens to do.
An alternative strategy would be to take valuations of different index styles into account, and then make subtle adjustments accordingly.
The key word there is "subtle": if one style looks overvalued you probably still don't want to sell out of it entirely; but you might consider looking for an alternative place to invest your new contributions.
Example: Small Caps in 2005
By mid-2005, small caps had enjoyed a remarkable run; and on July 20 the Associated Press ran an
article containing this frightening quote:
"[Active] Small-cap managers have faced an unusual challenge over the last several years: They've had too much money to invest."
Too much money chasing a limited supply of anything can mean price inflation;
and a quick check of P/E ratios suggested that small caps had in fact become pricey relative to the rest of the market:
P/E ratios from iShares as of 7/19/2005.
See the styles page for a description of these indexes.
The popularity of small caps had even affected Small Value stocks, making them look less value-y than a few other value choices:
||Russell 1000 Value
||Russell 3000 Value
|D.J. High Yield
||Russell 2000 Value
What this suggests is that if you normally like Small Value, you may occasionally want to look into alternative value choices, such as large- or TSM-value, or high dividend yield indexes.
Update: December 2005
This page first appeared in July 2005, and the timing wasn't particularly good: small caps continued to do well for the rest of the year.
That means that in 2006, large caps are definitely poised to... no, wait - we don't make predictions here, we just explain things.
Keep working on that long-term plan, amigo.