With the coronavirus spreading panic and a market selloff over the last week, some are wondering how we should position our portfolios in light of a potential epidemic. As is usual under such circumstances, I prefer to take an historical perspective. Though history doesn't repeat itself, it certainly does rhyme and may give us a sound guide of how to proceed going forward. As such, I've attached a chart below which illustrates how the market has responded during the onset of other infectious diseases including SARS, Ebola and Avian Flu among others. Though such epidemics may certainly have an impact on the broader economy and market over the short term, you'll notice that over longer periods of time, the stock market has been "immune" to broader damaging effects.
Ignore the avalanche of TV commercials touting the money to be made using option strategies. The big money they refer to is for them, not you.
Investors are continuously bombarded by discount brokerage commercials urging them to trade, trade, trade. They're exhortations are understandable; getting people to trade is how discount brokers generate income. But what's good for them is not necessarily good for their investor clients, despite their claims that they can teach people how to trade effectively.
Over the past decade, I was continually asked by prospective clients at the beginning of every year what they should do with the cash they have been sitting on as they have been too afraid to get back into the market after the financial crisis. Year after year rolled by with sound returns missed by these individuals who sat on large cash positions. Their usual response was that they were "waiting for the right time to invest and for a 10% or 20% market sell-off to do so". Unfortunately for them, every time a ~ 10% market correction occurred they were still too afraid to get into the market as whatever event was currently occurring kept them from investing. Now that the stock market has sold off more than 20%, one would think investors would be clamoring to finally enter again. However, we know that isn't the case as more investors are currently selling than buying and individuals are again too afraid to purchase equities.
Volatility has been on the rise in financial markets this year, and December seems to be unfolding as potentially the worst month of 2018 for stock market volatility. What’s unusual this year is that just about all asset classes are down at this point, which is a reversal of what we experienced last year in terms of both volatility and the return on our investments. In light of recent market trends, I answer some of the questions clients may be considering about the markets.