Investing during the month of December was like traversing an icy mountain stream. It delivered a staggering shock to the senses that triggered the instinct to, “Get Out!”
When it comes to investing, that instinct is called loss aversion. For many people avoiding a loss is more important than realizing a gain. Simply put, not losing $100 is more important than gaining $100.
Erica Goode of The New York Times talked with psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky about a series of experiments they had conducted to measure loss aversion. The pair found relatively few people would bet money on a flip of a coin unless they stood to win at least twice as much as they might lose.
The desire to avoid losses is the reason many people sell stocks when the value of the stock market is declining. Unfortunately, it may be a poor choice for a variety of reasons. For example,
While past performance is no guarantee of future results, understanding the history of gains and losses in bull and bear markets is critical because it can help investors avoid potentially costly mistakes.
However, if you’re experiencing a high level of discomfort as the stock market fluctuates, it may be important for you to re-evaluate your risk tolerance and make any changes necessary to your asset allocation.
One of the most important aspects of our work as financial advisors has little to do with asset management or investment selection. It has everything to do with helping our clients make better financial decisions. We try to provide information and advice – coaching, if you will – that may help our clients avoid mistakes that may make it more difficult to achieve their goals. We also encourage clients to embrace choices which are likely to help them work toward their goals.
If you find yourself debating whether to hold your investments or sell them, please give us a call before you do anything. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about what’s happening and offer some context which may help set your mind at ease.
If changes are necessary, we can help you identify options and weigh the pros and cons of each. Our goal is to help you work toward your goals.
It never feels good when the stock market heads south, and that’s what happened last week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500), Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite all moved into correction territory, which means the indices have fallen 10 percent or more from their previous peaks.
If you look at corporate earnings, the decline in U.S. stock values may seem a bit of a head scratcher. During the third quarter of 2018, almost four-fifths (78 percent) of companies in the S&P 500 were more profitable than analysts expected, according to FactSet Insight. Earnings grew by 25.9 percent – the fastest growth rate since 2010.
When you remember the stock market is a leading indicator, the mystery is resolved. Share prices reflect what investors expect will happen in the future, and third quarter earnings are in the past.
So, what moved the market last week? Investors’ concerns included slowing global economic growth. Dave Shellock of Financial Times reported:
“World equities closed out the week on a soft note as disappointing economic reports out of China and the eurozone heightened concern over the outlook for global growth…the big focus was on China, where activity and spending data confirmed that the country’s economy had a dismal November.”
Monetary policy and geopolitical issues, including the possibility of a U.S. government shutdown and ongoing Brexit follies, contributed to investor pessimism. The American Association of Individual Investors Sentiment Survey showed a 17-point decline in bullish sentiment and an 18.4-point increase in bearish sentiment.
When stock markets leave you feeling like Santa dropped coal in your stocking, it may be helpful to remember the words of Warren Buffett, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
We’re off to a slow start.
December is usually the best month of the year for the stock market. It has been since 1950, according to Randall Forsyth of Barron’s, but not so far this year.
Two issues made investors particularly uncomfortable last week which helped trigger a sell-off that pushed major U.S. stock indices lower.
Historically, these maturities have inverted seven times. In one instance, the country was already in recession. On the other six occasions, recession didn’t occur for more than two years. Barron’s reported the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained an average of 20 percent over the 24-month periods following these inversions.
Investors’ negative response to last week’s news may have been overdone. Financial Times reported European and Asian markets firmed up a bit Friday “…as buyers stepped back in after some savage falls on Thursday.”
Hold on to your hats!
Recently, stocks have delivered a wild ride. During Thanksgiving week, U.S. stock markets took investor uncertainty on the chin, suffering a 3.8 percent drop, which was the worst performance in eight months. Then, last week, stocks reversed course. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite delivered their strongest weekly gains in seven years, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
So, what changed?
Two things appear to have influenced investors last week:
“Powell on Wednesday said that rates were ‘just below’ the level that would be neutral for the economy – meaning they would neither speed up nor slow down economic growth. The comment diverged from a previous remark from Powell that rates were a ‘long way’ from the bank’s aimed neutral level.”
Some analysts have pondered whether recent rate hikes have been a mistake that will lead to recession.
“The best case that can be reasonably expected is for a truce to be declared between the United States and China, to allow talks to continue over the thorny issues of trade barriers and intellectual property. And, equally important, to avoid the consequences of the imposition of even more draconian tariffs on the world economy.”
There is little doubt volatility feels a lot better when share prices move higher than when they move lower. While uncertainty remains elevated, we may see additional jolts up and down. It may be a good idea to ensure your portfolio is well allocated and diversified. Holding diverse assets and investments won’t prevent losses during downturns but it can help minimize losses as investors pursue of long-term financial goals.