The Stock Market is a Roller Coaster: Prepare for the Ups and Downs

IT'S REMINISCENT OF THE OLD children's tale about an old Chinese farmer who tells his friends his story, and they enjoin with "That's good" or "That's bad" on alternating lines:

Farmer: My horse ran away.

Friends: That's bad.

Farmer: She came back with a majestic stallion by her side.

Friends: That's good.

Farmer: My son tried to ride the stallion and broke his hip.

Friends: That's bad.

Farmer: The emperor came through town that week and took every able-bodied young man away to war. My son was spared.

Friends: That's good, et cetera.

Recent market trends bring this story to mind. On this emotional roller coaster, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. For all practical purposes, the war is over. That's good. But the battle to win over Iraq has just begun. That's bad. The markets in the U.S. have been cheered by the quick success. Good. The Japanese market has hit a new 20-year low. Bad. We could go on. It's been a wild month for news.

Fears of the SARS epidemic have hit economies in East Asia and Canada and further injured an already-weakened airline industry. A bigger question is how devastating the epidemic will become, and will it hinder an already weak recovery, or worse yet become a worldwide epidemic. Embezzlement charges caused a temporary bank run among recent immigrants who weren't aware of FDIC insurance at Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York's Chinatown. Earnings news is rather positive, despite a few negatives. Many big names have provided surprises on the upside, while fewer companies are disappointing analysts, it seems.

Despite the recent uptrend in U.S. markets, most investors aren't particularly cheered. Most still wonder how long it will take to recover what was lost in the past few years. That focus, however, won't make the recovery come any sooner. We need to be happy with 10% growth, a substantial positive trend for those who aren't carrying any baggage. Too, for those who put their money in, instead of following the crowd and taking it out, 10% growth ought to compensate for twice the losses. The real question is whether individual investors will continue to run for the exits, hold their ground, or redouble their efforts to save and invest more.

I'm continually amazed how investors put more money in when markets are topping out, and pull money back when markets are at or near bottoms. Described in that way, virtually no one would do it, but when we add the emotional component, it is really quite easy to understand. Market bottoms come after drops, which often come with reduced portfolio values and emotional turmoil. In addition, drops come when the economy is weak, and many people need to use their money for personal or family needs while income is temporarily reduced. This underlies the primary weakness of the buy-and-hold strategy. This solid strategy is only successful if held to consistently. However, most people cannot or will not follow through on it in difficult times. Thus, it may be less effective than we traditionally imagine. No, the strategy itself is not flawed, but practically speaking, it may not be viable for real life.

Each investor needs to consider his/her own investing patterns. If you are inclined to disinvest during downtimes, a thorough re-evaluation may be in line. Re-evaluate both your strategy choices and your ability to maintain them. If you are unable to keep focused or are likely to have circumstance which prevent you from following your strategy when its most important, you need a different approach. There's no benefit to having a wonderful game-plan that you can't follow. Imagine a basketball coach whose plan includes putting in Michael Jordan when the team gets behind, but Michael Jordan isn't on the team! If you are unable to follow a buy-and-hold strategy, your ability to profit in downtimes is severely restrained. Sadly, this is when the greatest opportunity is available. Thus, a compensating strategy must be developed.

Investors must realize, however, that increasing returns often comes with higher risk. Thus, if one cannot buy and hold when one finds it unpleasant, the other alternatives involve taking on greater risk. No one really wants to hear that, but it is hard truth. High returns require higher risk, and if you are unable to "weather the storm" in times like this (what I call easy risk), you'll need to take larger short-term risks (hard risk), or else consign oneself to lower returns.

Easy risk is a long-term safety play. We risk that valuations will fluctuate, but over the long term we have confidence that they will be relatively stable. We give up our ability to observe high valuations, knowing that what we own is still the same.

Hard risk involves taking real, serious, short-term gambles. It is not a strategy that I advise, nor is it the wisest approach to investing, but it is a corner that people sometimes paint themselves into. That's bad!

We continue to advise our readers to stick with the buy-and-hold strategy. While there is obviously risk of fluctuating prices, these tend to balance themselves out in the long-run. If you have a long-run focus, buy-and hold is still the safest approach. That's good!

To send comments or to learn more about Scott Pearson's Investment Advisor Services, visit http://www.valueview.net

Scott Pearson is an investment advisor, writer, editor, instructor, and business leader. As President and Chief Investment Officer of Value View Financial Corp., he offers investment management services to a wide variety of clients. His own newsletter, Investor's Value View, is distributed worldwide and provides general money tips and investment advice to readers both internationally, and in the U.S.

In The News:

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27-year-old rule changed: Disclosure limit on MF, stock investment up for bureaucrats  Economic TimesGroup A and B officials had to intimate government if total transaction in shares or MFs exceeded Rs 50K.
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Why it is a bad idea to always look for outperformers while investing in mutual funds  Economic TimesOne of the most important features that any investor, wealth adviser or anyone in the financial media looks for in an investment product is its track record in ...
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Which mutual funds are good to invest Rs 25 lakh for 10 years?  Economic TimesWhich is the best way to invest Rs 25 lakh in a mutual fund. I don't need the money for the next 10 years. I am happy with 12% returns. And what are the funds I ...
How income from stocks and mutual funds are taxed for an individual  Moneycontrol.comCapital gains from transfer of unlisted share are considered as STCG where period of holding is less than or equal to 24 months, and LTCG when holding period ...
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Quantum Mutual Fund uses cash pile to buy stocks cheap  Economic TimesQuantum Long Term Equity Value Fund, where value investing is the pronounced fund allocation theme, has brought down the level of cash at its plan to the ...
Top 30 stocks that fund managers bought & sold in March; do you own any?  Moneycontrol.comData for equity flows into a mutual funds for March came as a breather after a weak February. Increase in net inflows in equity and income category led to the ...
2019 is the year of SIP, says S Naren of ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund  Economic TimesNSE Nifty 50 price-to-earnings ratio reached the highest level of 29.24 on April 2. Does it mean markets are overvalued? Should new investors enter in the ...
Quant-based mutual fund schemes are coming. Should you invest?  Economic TimesMany mutual fund advisors believe quant-based mutual funds are the future of the Indian mutual fund industry.
At least 100 MF schemes own these stocks; that should mean something, right?  Economic TimesDomestic institutional investors have become one of the key market drivers in recent years.
Three large mutual funds opposed to L&T’s takeover of Mindtree  Economic TimesMUMBAI: Three large mutual funds holding shares of Mindtree are opposed to L&T's hostile takeover attempt of the mid-sized software company.
Is it time to invest in mid cap and small cap mutual fund schemes?  Economic TimesMany market pundits believe this is the right time to enter in small cap and mid cap segments.
How your mutual funds played the balancing act during stocks crash  Economic TimesBy Bhavana Acharya The last three months has been a bumpy ride for largecap stocks. The year so far has been unkind to the midcap and smallcap set.
Why stock market volatility is beneficial for mutual fund SIP investors  Economic TimesWhile investing through systematic investment plans, you make more money precisely because the markets are facing volatility.
Should you shift from large-cap mutual funds to index funds?  Economic TimesThe index fund category of mutual fund schemes is slowly gaining traction among investors. The fortunes of index funds are changing as not only are they being ...
Best mutual funds to invest in 2019  Economic TimesEveryone wants to invest in the best mutual funds. In fact, it is the sole reason why many investors keep on postponing their investments forever. Most mutual ...
Best small cap mutual funds to invest in 2019  Economic TimesHere is the monthly update on our recommended small cap mutual fund schemes. We are happy to inform you that there are no changes in the recommendation ...
Sebi issues new format for mutual funds' monthly report  Economic TimesFrom April 2019 onwards, AMCs will have to submit the MCR to Sebi in the new format by the third working day of each month.
The dangers of high mutual fund inflows  LivemintMutual funds have put ₹2.4 trillion into markets in the last two years.Equity mutual funds receive ₹8000 crore monthly through SIPs.
Shariah-compliant investments through mutual funds  Economic TimesWithin the mutual fund industry, investors have a choice of two equity-oriented schemes and one gold scheme that are shariah compliant.
Top 8 most common mutual fund investing mistakes and how to avoid them  Business StandardMutual funds garnered Rs 8,022 crore of its assets by way of SIPs in December 2018, 29 per cent higher than the previous year | Illustration: Binay Sinha ...
Best multi cap mutual funds to invest in 2019  Economic TimesHere's the monthly update on our recommended multi cap mutual funds. In May, there is a small change in the recommendation list. Since Mirae Asset India ...
What is Smallcase? Should you invest in stocks via these?  Economic TimesOne invests in the market either by buying individual stocks through a broker or by putting money in equity funds or exchange traded funds. Brokerages are now ...
The road to wealth creation is paved with smart investments  Economic TimesEquity, hands down, is the best asset class to help you create wealth.
These stocks see mutual fund inflows for 8th straight quarter; are they worth a look?  Economic TimesAt least 20 listed stocks on the BSE have been major beneficiaries.

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