A Letter to Clients Regarding Current Volatility

A few of you have contacted me to ask about the current market downturn, which leaves me wondering what everyone else is thinking. Just in case you find the market unsettling, allow this perspective.

You might recall from my email with the 4th Quarter Reports, sent on January 2, I said, “The market appears fully valued and then some, by about 4%.” In January, the S&P 500 gained 5.62% on little fundamental change. That suggests that the market was overvalued by nearly 10%. On February 6, 2018, the market officially entered correction territory by trading at least 10% off its recent high. That puts it about where I suggested it should be.

I believe the market will trade +/- 10% of fair value about 95% of the time. That means that if a 20% correction occurs when the market is 10% over fair value, nothing extraordinary occurred. Someone who just watched a $2,000,000 portfolio lose $400,000 might not share my perspective, but it’s just math.

According to Deutsche Bank, the stock market averages a correction about every 357 days, or about once a year. The one before this was over 2 years ago. The next question is how long they last? According to John Prestbo at MarketWatch, a Dow Jones Company, the average correction (of 13.3%) lasted about 14 weeks.

For long-term investors, corrections represent an opportunity to purchase quality stocks at bargain prices. The price dip is only a problem if you are leveraged or are a short-term trader.
For now, I expect the market to struggle as the 10-year Treasury rate rises. This pattern is likely to continue until 1st quarter earnings are reported, and corporate write-offs associated with tax reform are behind us.

As the legendary North Carolina basketball Coach Dean Smith was known to say to his teams during timeouts near the end of close games, “Guys, we are exactly where we want to be.” The message was to focus on what you can control and execute.

As always, the first step in building a portfolio is to define the liquidity requirement so we are never forced to sell at a time not of our choosing.