Expect more volatility, but avoid letting the headlines alter your plans.
Recent headlines have disturbed what was an unusually calm stock market. The political uproar in Washington may continue for weeks or months, and it could mean significant, ongoing turbulence for Wall Street.
As an investor, a retirement saver, how much will this turmoil matter to you in the long run? Perhaps, very little. There are many good reasons to remain in the market.
Most experienced investors do not fear volatility. Instead, they fear loss. They think of “risk” as their potential for unrecoverable loss.
In reality, most apparent “losses” may be recoverable given enough time. True unrecoverable losses occur in one of two ways. One, an investor sells the investment for less than what he or she paid for it. Two, some kind of irrevocable change happens, either to the investment itself or to the sector to which the investment belongs. For example, a company goes totally out of business and leaves investors with worthless securities. Or, an innovation transforms an industry so profoundly that it renders what was once a leading-edge company an afterthought.
The earnings recession has ended, and the economy has strengthened. This past earnings season was a superb one. The first quarter of 2017 saw the biggest annualized leap in corporate profits in five years – nearly 15%, according to S&P Capital IQ. The good news hardly ends there. We may be at or near full employment – both the headline jobless rate and the U-6 rate measuring underemployment are back to where they were before the Great Recession began. Inflation has, at last, picked up, and the manufacturing and service sectors have been growing.1,2
The market is still having a good year. At this writing, the S&P 500 is up more than 5% year-to-date; the Nasdaq Composite, about 12% year-to-date. Given the economic trends mentioned in the above paragraph – and the possibility of more dovishness from the Fed – these indices could certainly see further 2017 gains.3
Remember that many investors come to regret emotional decisions. Emotions drove many people away from equities in the 2007-09 bear market, and they paid a price; after sinking to a bottom on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 appreciated 100% in just four years. Some of those who sat on the sidelines as the bull market started ended up buying high after selling low.4
Here is another dramatic example: the S&P rose 15.2% in a month (in terms of total return) after hitting a low on October 9, 2002. So, just as the market can drop quickly, it can also recover quickly.4
Breaking news should not dissuade you from pursuing your long-term objectives. Your retirement savings effort is not momentary, but lifelong. The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 have climbed higher through all kinds of disruptions in their long history. The S&P has advanced in 72% of the years it has been in existence. Look at the big picture of market performance over time. Understand that pronounced, daily volatility is a disruption of the market norm, not the norm itself.4
JST Investment Consulting does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
1 – cnbc.com/2017/05/12/corporate-profits-just-posted-their-biggest-jump-in-five-years.html [5/12/17]
2 – nytimes.com/2017/05/05/upshot/were-getting-awfully-close-to-full-employment.html [5/5/17]
3 – markets.wsj.com/us [5/18/17]
4 – thebalance.com/u-s-stock-bear-markets-and-their-subsequent-recoveries-2388520 [9/23/16]