Aside from extending our warmest wishes to you for a Happy Thanksgiving, we want to remind you that there is something else happening this time of year. We’re entering the strongest part of the year for the stock market as well as one that historically has the best chance to surprise everyone to the upside now that the midterm elections have passed.
In a year where the stock market has provided zero safe places to hide…you may have changed, the markets certainly have, but one thing has not; the Permanent Portfolio.
We’ve reviewed the Permanent Portfolio before but believe it’s time to check in and provide an update on how it’s doing relative to the broad markets now as well as chime in on whether the strategy still has merit going forward. For some quick background, our first original review was written in June of 2013 (click here to see that). Most recently we revisited the topic with an update in November of 2020 (click here) as we climbed out of one of the wildest years in world history amidst a global pandemic.
If you didn’t hit the embedded article links above, the Permanent Portfolio is pretty simple at face value. The Permanent Portfolio is a seemingly basic portfolio allocation strategy created by investment advisor Harry Browne in the 1980’s and outlined in his book Fail-Safe Investing back in 2001. Here’s the secret (simple) sauce and how each asset class should do during repeatable economic cycles:
Everyone following the markets is aware that we’re dealing with global economic stresses, a bottle necked supply chain, geopolitical tensions, 40 year highs with inflation, rising rates, and literally the worst start to a stock market year since 1970. It’s got the entire crowd nodding their heads in agreement that these are some brutal times. We’re also clearly in an environment with much groupthink and division…but more on that later.
That’s exactly where we’re at right now. We’re not going to wait for the financial media to announce it or tell us that it’s only a bear market if we officially drop -20% or more. The intent of this article is to explain not only what a real bear market is, and how this one has behaved differently, but also what to do next.
We’ll open this letter to our friend “Mr. Market” by stating one thing that will be very obvious in six to 12 months. 90% of people reading this article will have gotten it wrong. It’s not your fault though…it’s the way our minds are wired and the content we’re constantly being fed.
Regardless of your current market strategy it’s times like this that will test the most patient of long-term investors. We’ve written about this countless times but no matter what the sage counsel or stock market adage is, you should be rattled right now. We could be like most “perma-bull” financial advisors and try to data mine for all the reasons to stay calm or share positive anecdotes to convince you that now is the time to invest; it won’t matter though. Putting “lipstick on a pig” won’t help you nor the current market environment. Bad news and reasons to panic will be the headline for the weeks to come and there will seemingly be no safe place to hide.
Does the old stock market adage of “sell in May and go away” make sense? We’ve actually written about this one spring about nine years ago where we actually advocated taking some chips off the table, however it had less to do with a cute stock market rhyme and more due to profit taking. Where are we at now going into May and is this allegedly poor seasonal time of year appropriate to sell or perhaps not?
Have we started off the year with enough things to worry about? The 2020s have seen more than any horror script one would ever want to draw up. We’ve had an unprecedented global pandemic, a massive stock market crash, and now a war….and we’re just two years in! We’ve constantly reminded people that the stock market always has a boogey man hiding in the darkness. Even in the proverbial “good times” people have a natural tendency to feel as though the party will end at some point. To that point…they’re partly right; the party doesn’t necessarily end but it certainly takes a break before resuming.
Today’s article will be rather short, even though there is much behind it (and of course more to come as this story develops). We often talk about people having short memories but don’t think that the Ukraine and Russia conflict just started last week. Click here if you need to catch up on a conflict that’s been in flux since February of 2014. The point of our “letter to Mr. Market” today, however, is on what to do with your investments.
Much like Baskin-Robbins ice cream and their 31 flavors, we found a chart that you need to take a look at; it may not be as soothing as an ice cream cone but it can do wonders for how to put things into context. Below we’re sharing a chart that really want you to take some time to zoom in and reflect on each incident. How did you feel during each one? Were there any that you completely blew off or thought they were overhyped? Conversely, which one scared you the most into actually selling?
The investment world has not given us much of a break lately. Everything is down….everything…..except gold and emerging markets, but you saw that coming, right?!? Before we dive in, let’s just post some quick year to date numbers and then get to the football banter. Large Caps are down -5.4%, Mid Caps -4.2%, Small caps -5.9%, International -8.1%, and Bonds (which are supposed to shelter us from some of this near-term pain) are down -3.2%. Again, the only thing that is up YTD is Gold at +0.10% and Emerging Markets at +2.5%. Switching gears, allow us to lighten the mood and focus on something mildly entertaining (yet related to the stock market). Why should you be rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday during Super Bowl XVI?
All kidding aside, and at the risk of upsetting any Los Angeles Rams fans, the AFC teams winning lately have been good for the bulls. What we’re talking about here is the Super Bowl Indicator. At a minimum this is a helpful article for you if you don’t have a “dog in the hunt” and your team lost weeks ago, never made the playoffs, or you could care less about football yet might be around people who do on Sunday.
In 1978, Leonard Koppett, a sportswriter for the New York Times, came up with the Super Bowl Indicator and for many years it was never wrong! Up until that point the results pointed towards NFC teams winning being the one that seemed to help the stock market the most.
Yesterday seemed like the start of the Great Depression for some pundits and nervous nellies. Fear sells, and negative prognosis appears smarter than positive outlooks for whatever reason. The reality, and key reminder we wish to bring up again, is that the long awaited correction has yet to come. As of this writing, we are literally only -3.91% off of all-time S&P 500 highs in the market.
It should be noted that AAII Bearish Sentiment reading is as high as its been since the last most major S&P 500 sell-off.
The “fat lady is singing”, the alarm bells are ringing, and you are literally the last dunce in the room who decided to get into the market at the all-time high. Now Mr. Market shows you what real pain looks like and sells off like nobody has ever imagined.
Let us preface this article by stating it’s worth bookmarking and revisiting for those times when you may be rethinking your investment time horizon or just how much risk you truly are able to take on.