As I write this on Friday, May 14, at 3:25 New York time, the Standard & Poor’s 500 has climbed 1.61% for the day to 4178.91. That puts it within 56 points of the close for the index of 4232.60.
So after all panic in the early part of the week, the index is down just 1.32% on the week.
Not insignificant. But hardly the stuff market collapses are made of.
Of course some of the early drops in the week were indeed scary. The 2.14% tumble for the index on May 11 was scary enough to put thought of selling in everyone’s head. Or at least thoughts to hedging. The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX), the so-called “fear index” that measures how much investors and traders are willing to pay to hedge risk in the S&P 500 soared 19.73% that day.
And the damage to many portfolios for the week was greater than that suffered by the index.
Especially for high momentum, high multiple favorites.
Square (SQ) was up 5.05% as of 3:25 today to $207.09 but that’s still a significant dip from the May 7 close at $233.35.
Apple (AAPL) was at $127.33 this afternoon with a 1.89% gain but it is still below its May 7 close of $130.21.
The stocks that look to have done best to fully recover from the week’s damage are those that I’ve been calling post-vaccine economic recovery plays. So, for example, MGM Resorts International (MGM) stands at $39.03 at 3:25 p.m. this afternoon. That just a tad below the $39.92 close on May 7.
I’d like to think that the volatility of last week is all over and a thing of the past. But I don’t think it is.
This is a transitional market with sentiment moving toward value, cyclical, and post-vaccine stocks and away from technology momentum plays. And it’s also a market trying to figure out how to reprice all assets in light of a potential move to lower stimulus bond-buying and to raise interest rates at some point in the future.
These kinds of transitions don’t occur smoothly and I think we can expect more volatility.
The VIX seems to agree. While the “fear index” has dropped 16.60% today as of 3:25 p.m. at 19.29 it’s still well above the 16.69 at the May 7 close.
My general advice is
1) be sure that you really want to own any high multiple stocks in your portfolio now for the long term. Sell now if your conviction isn’t enough in your estimation to keep you on board during the next week like this one. The last thing you want to do is hang on into a big down day or two and then sell at the low.
2) make sure that you have added some value, cyclical and post-vaccine stocks to your portfolio. If the market is moving toward these kinds of stocks, you would like to own some. It’s a very different experience to look at your portfolio when the high multiple momentum technology stocks are selling off and see nothing but red because that’s all you own, and looking at a portfolio that’s down but that has slashes of green. If this sounds like advice on how to manage your own emotions so you don’t make bad decisions, well, that’s because it is.
3) when you sell any high momentum position or take profits in any hedge position or decide to get out of a risky stock after a big gain, consider using a third/third/third rule for that cash. Keep a third of the cash in cash–I think there’s likely to be a buy on the dip opportunity sometime during this transition market that’s a bigger opportunity than even this last week presented. Put a third toward adding post-vaccine recovery stocks to your portfolio. And use a third to buy high conviction, long-term holds when you think you see a big drop present a buying opportunity. (But remember that a big drop can be followed by another drop. So don’t buy anything you don’t think you can hold through a correction. If we get one. And the problem, of course, is that no one knows if or when.)