Weekly Market Commentary

June 15, 2020

 

The Markets

The Nasdaq Composite dipped its toes into record territory last week before retreating.

Stock indices in the United States rallied early last week on optimism about the reopening of businesses across the country. The Nasdaq Composite rose to 10,000 for the first time ever, before tumbling lower.

On Wednesday, the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) economic projections showed U.S. economic growth declining 6.5 percent this year with unemployment receding to 9.3 percent. In 2021, the Fed expects economic growth to improve, increasing by 5 percent, while unemployment ebbs to 6.5 percent.

News that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen in several U.S. states, as well as other countries, coupled with the Fed’s modest outlook for the pace of recovery, appeared to kindle investor anxiety and U.S. stocks got weaker later in the week.

How does volatility impact your choices? When it comes to investing, people tend to have short memories. During bull markets, as stock values push higher, many investors want to increase their exposure to stocks. Why wouldn’t they? When volatility is relatively low, it can be difficult for investors to recall why they limited their exposure to higher risk assets.

Similarly, when a bear market arrives and volatility increases, investors often want to retreat to the safety of more conservative investments. After all, when volatility increases and stock values fluctuate dramatically, it can be difficult for investors to recall why they chose to invest any portion of their portfolios in stocks.

The fact is, investors often fall prey to a phenomenon known as recency bias. People tend to believe what is happening now will continue to occur in the future. The data does not support this. The economy tends to cycle from expansion to contraction and back to expansion. Stock markets tend to cycle from bull markets to bear markets and back to bull markets. Periods of high volatility tend to be followed by periods of low volatility.

We are all susceptible to recency bias and other behaviors that can undermine investment success. In their research paper, The Behavior of Individual Investors, Brad Barber and Terrance Odean concluded:

“The investors who inhabit the real world and those who populate academic models are distant cousins. In theory, investors hold well diversified portfolios and trade infrequently so as to minimize taxes and other investment costs. In practice, investors behave differently. They trade frequently and have perverse stock selection ability, incurring unnecessary investment costs and return losses. They tend to sell their winners and hold their losers, generating unnecessary tax liabilities. Many hold poorly diversified portfolios, resulting in unnecessarily high levels of diversifiable risk, and many are unduly influenced by media and past experience.”

If recent volatility has caused you to question your comfort level, please get in touch. Together we’ll review your goals, strategy, and portfolio allocation and see where we go from there.

Focus on the Positive

“The psychology of individuals must be a central consideration in the formulation of any practical investing approach. The good news here is that others’ misbehavior will consistently and systematically create opportunities for you. The bad news is that you are prone to all of the same quirks and are just as likely, in the absence of strict adherence to the rules, to create the same opportunities for others.”

–Daniel Crosby, Psychologist and author

 

Best regards,

Bill Spalding