Keep Calm and Invest On

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-4

We always chide you for having such a volatile temper. Your unpredictability is both alluring yet often makes the most intelligent person seem like an imbecile. What’s your next move? Who will you reward in 2020 and who will you punish?

As an investor, it’s always hard when the market is volatile. Do what you must to relax – deep breathing, a nice long walk, maybe yoga. Try to ignore the talking heads on the financial news channels. You’ll get through this. Now is not the time for rash action based on emotion.

What’s that you say? You’re not worried? Hasn’t the market been up nicely for the last year?

Of course it has, and that soothed a lot of the fears stock investors had coming off a rough end to 2018. But it actually has been volatile. It’s just that upside volatility naturally feels a lot better than downside! However, both can lead to bad decision making.

Think about how you feel as an investor today, as compared to a year ago. Odds are that last year you were questioning having too much stock exposure, and now you may be wishing you had more. Both extremes can be dangerous. Imagine you gave into your fear during the late 2018 correction, and lightened up on stocks “just to wait for more clarity,” or something along those lines. The S&P 500 zoomed out of the gates in early 2019 and was up over 20% by the end of July! Then it finished up better than 30% for the full year. Giving in to fear and waiting for clarity would have kept you from participating in that upside.

Now imagine you were a disciplined investor, following an asset allocation plan for the long-run. Say your target is 70% stocks / 30% bonds, and you (or your advisor) rebalance toward that allocation at set intervals or deviations. After December 2018, you (or your advisor) would have taken money from bonds and added to stocks, since the 70/30 balance would have been out of whack. Yes, you would have added to stocks during a period of high uncertainty! In hindsight it would have looked like a great timing move, but in reality it would have been simple discipline.

Unknown-6That brings us to today. The market has been up and worries seem low. Likely your stock allocation has gotten out of whack again, but this time to the upside. What is the prudent investor to do? Again, ignore emotion and follow your plan. If this means selling stocks to rebalance, so be it. Maybe your gut says, “let the winners keep running.” You could do that, but ask yourself how good your gut has been at timing the market in the past.

From an investor psychology standpoint, staying disciplined when things feel comfortable can be a good exercise for when the market inevitably goes a little haywire. Warren Buffett is credited with saying, “Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.” Good advice…but if you focus more on discipline than market timing, your decision-making will not be driven by either extreme.

Continue reading

Black Monday Revisited?

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown

When we reminisce and think of some of your worst days it would be natural to assume it was sometime during the Great Depression. Believe it or not the worst drop in stock market history (at least percentage wise) was not in 1929 but rather on October 19, 1987.

Click here to see what happened on that day, which is now known as Black Monday.

There were a number of issues underneath the surface that led to that bloodbath of a day but what amplified things was the early practice of program trading. Computers were programmed to execute trades after being triggered by certain conditions and this literally made human traders almost worthless as automation took over!

Two years ago, on the 30th anniversary of Black Monday, we wrote an article and calculated what a drop would be in today’s stock market. Click here to check it out. On that day it would have been equivalent to about a -5,094 points drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If it happened this coming Monday…we would see the Dow Jones go from about 26,965 to 21,033 for a drop of -5,932 points.

Are you ready and what would you do? How is your current portfolio positioned in the event of something even half of that type of drop? We’re not trying to be “doom and gloom” financial advisors but we’re also not so oblivious or positive that we’re “running East in search of a sunset”.

All this being said, get your plan in place now and prepare yourself for such an event. Even if you just let your mind get in front of it and don’t make any portfolio changes, your emotions will at least be more in check. History and reality tells us, however, that most people will read this and not prepare any differently.

PS- Don’t be “most people”!

 

Is the Death Cross accurate?

Dear Mr. Market:Death-cross-2

In all of our letters to you it’s been well documented how volatile and irrational you can be. You clearly have a temper and even when there is an abundance of good economic news you can still make us squirm and sweat with how you may react. What compounds your behavior is how traders and investors label certain charts and patterns. Most recently we’ve been alerted that you have signaled another mess on the horizon with an ominous reading of the “Death Cross”.

Could you (and that description) be any more dramatic?!? Continue reading

What to do if the Stock Market Correction turns into a Bear Market?

Dear Mr. Market:

We typically write you letters about your volatile actions and the erratic behavior you bestow upon us as investors. Many of our letters also try to put certain economic events into perspective so that people don’t let your wild stock market swings force them into making bad decisions. All that said, it’s come to our attention that we can finally roll out the answer to a question that is not always obvious:

What should an investor do if a standard stock market correction turns into a bear market? shutterstock_262478570

First off, let’s revisit the basic definition of a correction versus an official bear market. Click here for an article we wrote during the last correction in February, which incidentally at the time felt like the end of the bull market had finally come. Although the market sold off almost -10% in a short span, it clearly came back to reach record highs until October came around.

So…can we now apply the four most dangerous words in investing? Continue reading

May Gray turns into June Gloom

 

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-3

We have discussed many times how emotionally driven you are. On some days you tempt us with your record setting high wire acts and on others we have our lips virtually wrapped around the barrel of a gun in desperation; the stock market is a wicked playground.

We don’t believe that computers or sophisticated investment algorithms can completely mitigate the perils of the stock market or protect everyone from getting out of their own way, but it can at least be used as a starting point. My Portfolio Guide relies on some very unique tools that assess the stock market each month with a fresh set of eyes. While our method of “reading the tea leaves” is not necessarily a crystal ball, it’s definitely not what most investment advisors use….which is the rear view mirror. Sadly enough, many investment advisors are just like you…they’re human and they chase recent returns and mistakenly look back in history as to what has done well. While this method of analysis is the easiest to sell clients (and themselves) it’s not as effective as taking a completely fresh look at what is happening right now and how that is statistically likely to play out in the near-term. Continue reading

Stock Market : Points, Percentages, and Perceptions

 

Dear Mr. Market:

What do you think about the “largest point decline in history” ?!?pl9401-1-_custom-99c12255409cbb9e488da1fb6ce0900b683cda9d-s6-c30

Last Monday certainly wasn’t fun for anyone watching their portfolio but if you put things into perspective what you end up with was the 138th largest percentage drop for the S&P 500. The financial media predictably goes bonkers when reporting numbers and this fuels the fire for the average investor. Our beef with them isn’t even the “sky is falling” antics which happen on any big volume or down day but the fact that they skew reality.

We’re not trying to minimize the strong move or the fact that we’re finally seeing volatility back in the markets but keep your common sense hat on when digesting the results. First and foremost, when an index like the Dow Jones is almost at 27,000 points, simple math shows that a -5% drop will equate to about -1,350 points. A five percent pullback is not only par for the course but as we mentioned in our most recent article…very much needed and of course long overdue. With a total of just over -10% we finally have (by definition) reached a correction.

Who knows what Mr. Market has in store for us tomorrow but one thing we can almost guarantee you is that the financial media will be far more excited about it than anyone needs to be. Hysterics and click bait sells more than a rational report explaining stock market action that is actually not unusual nor completely out of historic proportion. Speaking of reports…we invite you to read this special update on our Columbus Strategy.

Click here to read the Columbus Strategy -2018 Stock Market Volatility Report

Maintaining-Discipline-in-the-Face-of-Market-Volatility-1What matters most in times like this is to level set things and to have a disciplined strategy firmly in place. Our signature approach for accounts over $100k is the Columbus Strategy and aside from its long-term track record what gives many clients some peace of mind is knowing that it ultimately looks to mitigate large and extended stock market drawdowns. We’re not so much focused on one month but over the course of a full market cycle you will be hard pressed to find a strategy that does better.

Nobody can consistently time the market but there are certain tactical adjustments that can be made to at least avoid longer stretches of market chaos. If we were to be visibly headed for a recession our stance on this recent correction would be much different than it is now. For the time being we’re approaching this correction exactly like we should be since it’s not our first rodeo; we’re nibbling at positions that we’ve wanted to add to and rebalancing any allocations that are not in line with a portfolio’s respective strategy.

Other than that the absolute worst thing you can do right now is act human! While that sounds crass we’re simply reminding you that people tend to have short memories and get way too emotional. If you want more information on our Columbus Strategy please contact us. Beyond that we will leave you with a quote and saying that we came up with many stock market corrections ago….1607859

“Stay disciplined to stay positive”.

-My Portfolio Guide

 

 

No More Groundhog Day for the Stock Market

Dear Mr. Market:b67ec80ba6cb4509b60ab9f52cb984e8

Have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day”? If you haven’t it’s comedy-fantasy from 1993 starring Bill Murray. In this movie he portrayed a Pittsburgh weatherman who was on assignment to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Murray’s character ends up being stuck in a time loop where no matter what he does he ends up repeating the same day again and again.

Until just the past couple of days it feels like the stock market was also trapped in some sort of Groundhog Day paradigm. We have not experienced a correction in over 15 months and no matter what the headline the results on the markets where the same as the day prior; green, positive tickers, and smooth sailing. We just saw the best January in 20 years after a year where the S&P 500 recorded a positive return every single month for the first time ever. All these records transpired with the lowest market volatility ever.  So what just happened?

Did the groundhog pop his head out and cast a different shadow than anyone was expecting? No…not really. Everyone we know (layman or expert) has been saying eventually it would end. Nothing keeps going up forever. While we disagree with lightweight analysis that stocks are overvalued, the bull market eventually has to take a breather in order to make a final push higher. There is no recession in sight so what we’re finally seeing is a long overdue correction.

What is a stock market correction?

It’s been so long that it might be helpful to refresh your memory! First and foremost, you must recall that prior to Groundhog Day (sorry…couldn’t resist!), stock market corrections happened all the time! On average they occur once every 357 days, or at least once a year. They’re part of the economic and stock market cycle and for a healthy market to advance you actually should want to see them pull back every so often. We have strong fundamentals right now and things are trending in the right direction otherwise we wouldn’t be minimizing this recent market action.

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 7.42.35 AM

By definition a correction is -10%. (a pullback being in the -5% range) A full on bear market is where we would see -20% or more from peak to through. With the average correction, not only can it not be predicted, but by the time people figure it out it’s too late and the market is back to moving higher. Continue reading