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?
Finally. It’s here….a bonafide stock market correction. What’s also almost here is Groundhog Day…but more on that in a minute. For those of us with short memories we’ll have to do the necessary preamble and small talk refresher on what this is. For those of you who remember what you did (or were supposed to do/not do) during the last correction, here we go again. Do you remember the fantastic Bill Murray movie “Ground Hog Day”? Click here for the last time we wrote about it but again….people seem to forget what they ate for breakfast so you may not remember what happened in 2018.
Oh… but “it’s different this time“, right? Those are indeed the four most dangerous words in investing. Are there problems to worry about? YES!!!! (but there always has been and always will be)
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.
Last week was a microcosm of how stock market headlines can really lead you to hear one thing yet see another. For a while now we’ve been barking about how the FAANG stocks have artificially propped the market as there are some serious underlying health concerns. As a reminder for our newer readers, FAANG refers to the five major U.S. technology companies – Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), and Google (GOOGL). These household names have driven the markets and camouflaged some warning signs of risk on the horizon for quite some time. If you want a peek under the hood or a refresher on just what their impact, valuation, and market caps are relative to the broad market, please click here. (pay close attention to figure 18 which shows market cap with and without FAANG as well as Figures 13 & 14 for some relative earnings/revenue performance)
So…what happened last week? Why did the markets get hit so hard? It was indeed a rough week but then again not too many weeks feel all that bad when we take a quick look in the rear view mirror. (last year there were some mornings when the stock market was down literally -9% before you had your first sip of coffee) Albeit not a pleasant memory, don’t ever forget that (we’ll touch on why later in this article).
You’ve heard us barking about this before but as the world navigates its way out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it won’t be just the stock market that recovers. In many respects the market has mainly bounced back due to a lot of “sugar in the blood” from massive fiscal stimulus and has still primarily been led by some mega cap names. What’s brewing below the surface and actually could turn into something far more sustainable, is a boom in commodities.
Have you ever heard the expression “Even a blind squirrel find a nut once in a while?”
Why do we bring up this article now? Lots has changed but lots has not! More than anything we believe that our current environment has so many unknowns embedded in it after one of the wildest rides in stock market history. We won’t dig into the weeds too much but one could easily make the case that any of the following scenarios could take place over the next year:
The Stock Market could absolutely continue to defy odds and climb higher.
We could see another market crash like we saw in the spring this year as there are plenty of issues that have not gone away (Covid-19, political unrest, handcuffed economy, geopolitical concerns)
A deteriorating dollar, inflation on the horizon, a ticking time bomb of debt, and more fear of a prolonged recession, negates any appeal for stocks for quite some time.
We trade up, down, and basically sideways as this market consolidates and digests one of the most tumultuous years in history.
Without rehashing all that has transpired in 2020, we believe that being properly allocated and prepared for just about anything that comes our way seems like a wise way to go. The market is almost always unpredictable but there are times when reading the tea leaves and figuring out clear direction is even more difficult; we believe that’s exactly where we’re at right now.
If you didn’t read our old article from 2013, the basis for the Permanent Portfolio strategy is simple at face value: You divide your portfolio into four distinct and fairly uncorrelated asset classes (Cash, Bonds, Gold, and Stocks). Ideally at any point in most economic cycles one of these asset classes will stink it up but the others could compensate and outperform. During prosperous times Stocks should win. When there is inflation a case can be made for Gold. Should the opposite occur and we get deflation you would ideally see long-term Bonds do well. Lastly, during a severe recession Cash is perhaps your best friend. When coupled together you may never hit a home run but this approach can mitigate disaster and still produce modest long-term returns.
We’ve written you hundreds of letters over the past decade and on occasion it’s nice to put a face with the name! Last week, Matt Pixa of My Portfolio Guide, LLC, was given the honor and opportunity to present an Economic Outlook to the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce.
We share it with you here and look forward to your feedback and questions!