The Bear Market is here. On Wednesday, March 11th, the DOW closed in Bear market territory. The S&P 500 is not far behind. This is defined as a decline of more than 20% from the peak. So, where do we go from here? What will happen to the economy and the market as we deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), an upcoming Presidential election, Brexit, and plummeting oil prices?
The quick answer is that nobody knows for sure on any of the above. Here is what we do know. We know that economies around the globe, including the U.S. will slow due to the fears surrounding COVID-19. Fewer people will travel, dine out, attend sporting events, and in general consume. This will inevitably cause consumer spending to slow, which will impact company revenues and earnings. Oil has dropped to nearly $30 per barrel as the demand will contract as fewer people fly and drive. But for how long?
If you cancel your spring break trip, will you not go later in the summer? If you don’t go to Lowe’s this weekend to buy a grill for the season, isn’t it probable that you will eventually buy one? Your demand and desire for traveling, a grill, and the latest tech gadget is still there, but the logistics of attaining those items has become complicated.
The initial drop in consumer demand will impact the economy in the near term. It is possible that we enter a recession in the U.S. over the next few months. It is important to remember that an average recession lasts 9 months and we have not had one for almost 11 years. They typically occur every five years, so we are overdue.
As for the market, equities have pulled back in very quick fashion in anticipation of this economic slowdown and recession in earnings that will inherently arrive. The average contraction for the S&P 500 is around 30% leading up to an economic recession. Therefore, given the already realized 20% pullback, it is possible that a good portion of the correction has already occurred.
If you have been to our office for a meeting in the last 4-6 months, you are aware that we have been warning clients that a pullback in the market was inevitable given valuations. In fact, we spent a lot of time in 2019 trying to reduce risk in the portfolio. We shifted to a more conservative bond allocation and we changed some of our equity allocation. So far, the changes have been effective in minimizing the downside correction that we are experiencing. We are still long-term investors and believe in ignoring the short-term market fluctuations. We don’t know what the next few weeks will bring for the markets, but we know that a diversified portfolio is the best way for clients to stay ahead of inflation, while minimizing risk, over the long-term.
The average investor has earned a 1.9% annualized return over the last 20-years. A 60% Equity 40% Bond portfolio has earned 5.2%. The average investor makes emotional decisions leading them to buy and sell at the wrong time. Keep the focus on making sure that your investment allocation is in line with your financial plan, so that you can achieve your long-term goals.
Liz Ann Sonders (Chief Market Strategist for Schwab) said the following in a letter this week to advisors: “Panic is not an investment strategy.” We agree and encourage remaining steadfast in your long-term strategy with a diversified portfolio.