This morning I received a call from a wise octogenarian client. Is it time to buy? he asked. What was he thinking?
He described his experience of 1987. In October that year, the S&P 500 index dropped by 30 percent, over 20 percent on that one Monday, October 19. (Sounds familiar.) Soon after, he bought more stock. He remembers it was very profitable.
I answered, “probably not yet”. While the S&P rose by over 18 percent by November 6, 1987, it fell by 14 percent until December 4. The prices of almost everything rise and fall by moves 3 steps one way and 1 to 2 steps back.
Currently we face a crisis of uncertain measurements. The Federal Reserve Board has done almost everything it can to ensure a gigantic supply of money is available. However the facts about the real problem—the virus—will unfold over weeks and months. People are frightened now, but those affected will rise. More people will die. Fear will probably rise. Fearful investors sell at very low prices.
Turn with me to a longer term perspective. What things are most important? We write about the financial matters of life each week. But money is now and has always only been a tool to use in our lives.
It is disconcerting to see some fellow citizens taking little regard for their neighbors. I personally have a really strong physical constitution. But what if by a lackadaisical attitude I were to pass the virus to anyone who might succumb to it? Is not life itself to be valued over our temporary comfort, convenience, and even money? As VP Pence said, I don’t need a test to know this.
Now back to the less vital. Over the next weeks and months, facts will develop about the pandemic’s course. I believe the disease will wane, life will continue, and companies (read people) will do their best to produce goods and services to meet demand and make a profit.
Mr. Market always looks 9 months to a year into the future. He decides whether the future is likely to be better or worse than the present. As I have already mentioned, I think that viewpoint may be worse before it gets better.
I have no crystal ball (Only the one my associates gave me for Christmas a few years ago. It does not work!), but technical indicators will provide clues as to when wealthiest folks are putting money back to work. We will try to provide you with our best observations and thinking.
Consider this. If you live for 15 years or your money will go to those likely to live that long. Suppose you bought the S&P index at its October 2007 all-time high of 1576.09. Suppose you held it until yesterday morning when it dropped to 2,726.73. Pretty bad timing, right? You would have earned 50.1 percent, about 3.3 percent compounded, better than average fixed income rates.
What if you had perfect timing, buying the same index at its 2009 low, 666.79, selling it in February, 2020, at the high of 3,393.52? You earned 4,089 percent, approximately 13.2 percent compounded. Recommendation? Invest for the long term. Use dollar cost averaging. Do something. Do not miss out!