Archives For Investing

Quiz!

Which stocks are riskiest when inflation is high? (Note: stocks in each group are split between Growth and Value, with Value getting the lower Price/Book.)

  1. Value stocks that are priced far above their average valuations.
  2. Growth stocks.
  3. Value stocks.

What is the Impact of High Inflation on Stock Returns?

We are experiencing very high inflation, last seen in the early 1980’s. What is the Impact of High Inflation on Stock Returns?

  1. Negative: It hurts stocks, by reducing stock valuations (Price/Book) to reflect a lower value of future earnings. It hurts growth stocks with high valuations especially hard. Examples are S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
  2. Positive: It ultimately helps stocks, because high inflation = higher prices => higher earnings for the companies.

The bigger the spike in inflation, the more stocks are likely to decline in the short run, because the negative forces can be greater than the positive ones. Once stock valuations adjust to higher inflation and higher interest rates (that are used to combat inflation), the positive impact tends to be much stronger, especially for value stocks.

Key takeaways:

  1. When inflation spikes, you should be especially cautious of stocks with very high valuations. Now the largest tech stocks are priced extremely high, something familiar from past cycles. In the 1970’s, we had the nifty-fifty, also called “one-decision” stocks. Counter to expectations at the time, they crashed badly despite being the most prominent of US stocks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nifty_Fifty). Stock returns adhere to the formula, price = book value x (price / book value). If the valuations (price / book value) are very high, even the best company in the world can see its stock price drop.
  2. Value stocks (with low valuations, or price / book-value) are better positioned for high inflation, for 2 reasons: (1) Immediate: there is no big correction necessary to valuations; (2) Ongoing: more of their earnings are from the near-term, with a smaller needed discount to future earnings.
  3. Even value stocks can be expensive at times. For example, US Large Value stocks are currently very expensive (but still less than the S&P 500 and Nasdaq). In stark contrast, non-US Value stocks are priced low.

Quiz Answer:

Which stocks are riskiest when inflation is high? (Note: stocks in each group are split between Growth and Value, with Value getting the lower Price/Book.)

  1. Value stocks that are priced far above their average valuations. [Correct Answer]
  2. Growth stocks. [Correct Answer]
  3. Value stocks.

Explanation:

  1. While value stocks tend to have low Price/Book, sometimes an entire collection of stocks becomes expensive, including value stocks. A current example is US Large stocks.
  2. Growth stocks tend to have earnings far into the future, that need to be discounted by high interest rates (the tool used to combat high inflation).
  3. Value stocks are priced lower and have nearer-term earnings that not impacted as much by higher interest rates. The increase in income (along with inflation) can become the dominant force.

See article for more explanations.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

What does a dollar far above average do to future emerging markets returns?

  1. It hurts emerging markets returns.
  2. It helps emerging markets returns.
  3. There is no correlation between a very high dollar and future emerging markets returns.

Does a High Dollar Lead to Poor Emerging Markets Returns?

I’ve seen articles explain how a high dollar hurts emerging market (EM) economies. With the dollar recently reaching the highest level since late 2002, some articles gave concerning messages related to emerging markets investments.

Historical evidence for the opposite: The history of EM investments shows opposite results. When the dollar reaches high levels, future returns of EM tend to be stronger than when the dollar is low. For example, the recent time we had such a high dollar (2002) was around the beginning of phenomenal 5 years for diversified EM stocks.

Explanations: Once the dollar is at unusually high levels, the negative effect of the dollar is priced into EM stocks, with lowered valuations (price/book and price/earnings). Given that the dollar is cyclical, at some point we got a reversal, with a declining dollar. Some of the logic of the articles can be used to explain the benefits of the declining dollar, helping EM stocks.

Caveats: This quick read shows counter evidence + logic to many articles you may read in some prominent sources. There are still big unknowns. The dollar may have just peaked, or it may go up further. The goal of this article isn’t finding the exact peak, but looking at odds for further increases vs. decreases. When a cyclical measure is above average, you would expect higher odds for the measure to go lower than higher.

Quiz Answer:

What does a dollar far above average do to future emerging markets returns?

  1. It hurts emerging markets returns.
  2. It helps emerging markets returns. [The Correct Answer, but read explanation]
  3. There is no correlation between a very high dollar and future emerging markets returns.

Explanation: A rising dollar lowers the value of emerging markets (EM) returns as measured in dollars. So, the past EM returns leading to the dollar highs are hurt. Future emerging markets returns depend on the future movement of the dollar. From a level above average, the dollar is more likely to decline in the future. That would lead to above average returns. A caveat is that this simply reflects odds, not guarantees or specific timing.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

What leads to lost decades? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. Wars.
  2. Pandemics.
  3. High valuations, as measured by price/book or price/earnings.
  4. Extreme economic distress.
  5. Euphoria.

The Anatomy of a Lost Decade

In the 2000’s, the S&P 500 experienced a 10-year decline, on a total return basis (including dividends), and much worse after counting the negative effect of inflation. This was not the first time – the decade ending in 1974 had +1.2% return per year, while inflation averaged 5.2% per year. This article describes what may lead to such long declines, and how they look.

What led to lost decades? A diversified portfolio of companies that produces products and services for entire countries is not likely to shrink its production for 10 years. What led to the 2 recent lost decades was high valuations (high price relative to the earnings of the companies or book values) of the companies. During the decade, the valuations declined by more than 50%, to correct (and typically overcorrect) the unusual pricing.

How did they look? The two most recent lost decades involved a series of gain periods followed by big declines, erasing substantial gains.

Can you avoid lost decades? There is no way to perfectly time the market, since turning points vary between cycles, with highs sometimes (but not always) leading to higher levels. There are various approaches with varying levels of success, involving getting out of diversified investments that did far above average for 10 years, or selling when valuations reach extremes. The easiest one is to diversify and include investments with lower average growth. While it involves a sacrifice to the returns, it gets around so many strategies that fail.

Why most people fail at timing? Once you find a strategy that stood the test of time, and has sound logic to it, you still have a major obstacle to overcome. Selling high and buying low involves going against the grain. It involves selling the most loved investment of the time, that people believe will just keep going up, and buying battered investments that underperformed for many years.

Can you avoid lost decades? While it is very difficult to time the market, or at least soften the blow of tough stretches, there are several principles that can improve your odds:

  1. When you hear gloomy news, along with scary predictions, and the investments are very low (low valuations / low 10 year returns), get excited about the investment.
  2. When you see euphoria all around you, with the most positive news, and the investments are sky high (high valuations / high 10 year returns), have the ability pull the trigger and sell and switch to an investment that most people hate.
  3. Whatever strategy you choose, make sure that it passed 2 tests: the test of time & the test of logic. While these are not enough, I would not move forward without these in place.
  4. Don’t expect to successfully time within one day, week, month or even year. Short-term timing strategies are far more difficult than long-term ones.
  5. Have a very robust risk plan, accounting for cases much worse than experienced in the past, allowing you to stick with the plan in some of the toughest times.

Quiz Answer:

What leads to lost decades? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. Wars.
  2. Pandemics.
  3. High valuations, as measured by price/book or price/earnings. [Correct Answer]
  4. Extreme economic distress.
  5. Euphoria. [Correct Answer]

Explanations:

  1. Wars end up leading to increased economic activity. Declines tend to be far shorter than a decade.
  2. Pandemics tended to create short-term shocks, not very long lasting.
  3. High valuations typically get corrected. When valuations reach extremes, such as x2 the typical or more, it takes a prolonged period of poor performance to correct those.
  4. Extreme economic distress can lead to declines, but without high valuations, they tend to get resolved in far less than 10 years.
  5. Euphoria tends to lead to very high valuations – see #3 above.
Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

Can You Make Money Buying Stocks that Declined?

  1. No
  2. Yes, with a combination of a diversified stock portfolio along with very low valuations.
  3. Yes, after a careful analysis of buying near the bottom.
  4. Yes, with diversified stock investments.

Can You Make Money Buying Stocks that Declined?

When you see your stock portfolio decline, is your instinct to double down and invest more, or sell and wait on the sidelines until the sky clears? Knowing whether a recovery at a reasonable timeframe is likely depends on multiple factors. Here are cases that could lead to disappointment:

  1. If your portfolio includes only one or a few stocks, it may never recover. Many companies go bankrupt every year.
  2. If your portfolio reached extremely high valuations, as measured by price relative to book value (or liquidation value), you could make money by holding on until past the recovery, but the recovery could be many years away.

If your portfolio is diversified and has very low valuations, you may enjoy seeing a recovery within a reasonable timeframe, making you money. This is far from guaranteed. Here are steps to increase your chances:

  1. You need a robust risk plan, that accounts for a significant amount of additional declines, with a prolonged timeframe to recovery.
  2. With the right risk plan in place, you need to be 100% committed to your plan. When additional declines occur, you are not likely to see headlines saying “don’t worry, everything will be fine, this is a temporary dip”. The headlines are likely to be between negative and terrifying. Sticking with the plan requires putting all emotions aside, focusing on your risk plan, and following it mechanically – not for the faint of heart!
  3. Buying after declines requires a great deal of humility. You may have strong gut feelings on the “obvious” next move for stocks. Avoid setting any short-term expectations – the next move is mostly influenced by information that is not available at the moment.
  4. Start by having your normal allocation. Then, given the uncertainty, it helps to have a multi-step plan, with incremental small investing with every material additional decline. Allow for more declines than you can imagine. This can empower you knowing that you are proactive with additional declines.
  5. An incremental investing plan is smart in theory, but can be tough to execute. On the way down, you are likely to feel increasingly wrong. Remember that your goal is not to call the bottom – a very tough thing to do, but to emphasize extra investing when the odds are stacked more strongly in your favor, and the risks are lower.
  6. If you don’t have long-term valuation data for your investment, one alternative is comparing the 10-year performance relative to the long run. 10-year outperformance relative to the long run could mean high valuations and high risk.
    1. For example, the S&P 500 had far above average returns in the past 10 years, leading it to reach near record valuations. Buying on the dip beyond your normal allocation in such cases can be very risky.
    2. On the other hand, Emerging Markets Value investments had unusually low returns in the past 10-years, leading to below average valuations. Buying on the dip beyond your normal allocation in such cases may be profitable, subject to all the precautions described above.

Quiz Answer:

Can You Make Money Buying Stocks that Declined?

  1. No
  2. Yes, with a combination of a diversified stock portfolio along with very low valuations. [Correct Answer]
  3. Yes, after a careful analysis of buying near the bottom.
  4. Yes, with diversified stock investments.

Explanations:

  1. While there are no guarantees, with the right plan, you can make money buying stocks that declined – read on.
  2. Diversified stock investments tend to recover after declines. As long as you hold onto the investments until they hit a bottom, fully recovered and reached new peaks, you can make money. The low valuations help avoid some of the longest declines of stocks.
  3. A careful analysis may or may not be successful at identifying the bottom. In addition, a concentrated portfolio of one stock may never recover.
  4. While diversified stock investments tend to recover after declines, if the valuations are extremely high, it may take many years to enjoy a gain.
Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

Which is the best diversifier for US tech stocks?

  1. Cash
  2. Bonds
  3. US Value Stocks
  4. Emerging Markets Stocks
  5. Emerging Markets Value Stocks
  6. Bitcoin

A Great Diversifier to Hi-Tech

If you work in hi-tech, your financial position could be greatly influenced by the hi-tech cycle. Your income comes from hi-tech. In addition, If you have any stock options, stock grants or actual stocks of your company, they all depend on hi-tech. Even if you do not work in hi-tech, but most of your clients do, you are very dependent on this sector. When constructing your investment portfolio, it is worth being aware of this. It may be tough to diversify, if you believe that the strong run of hi-tech in recent years will never stop. To understand how a reversal is possible, note that valuations (price/book) of tech stocks surged in the past 10 years. This means that people are paying substantially more (price) for company values (book). This is in contrast to company values (book values) improving as much as the price gains, leading the price/book to stay flat over these years.

You may be discouraged by the fact that interest rates are low and expected to go up, and inflation has spiked. Commonly discussed candidates for moderating the risk of expensive tech stocks, including bonds and cash, can get hurt by rising interest rates and inflation.

There is a solution that doesn’t require accepting the typical low returns of bonds and cash, and without giving up the liquidity of stocks. This solution is especially helpful when interest rates and inflation go up. The solution is Value stocks, especially in other countries. When US tech stocks declined for over 10 years starting in 2000, Emerging Markets Value stocks grew substantially. This occurred at a time of extreme valuations for tech stocks, just like we are experiencing today. So, while any investor should be cautious of a concentration in high-tech stocks today, if your income is tied to hi-tech, you have a good diversifier available now.

Note that diversified Emerging Markets Value funds already have an allocation to high-tech stocks (while emphasizing lower valuations than typical), so they don’t require a separate allocation to high-tech.

Quiz Answer:

Which is the best diversifier for US tech stocks?

  1. Cash
  2. Bonds
  3. US Value Stocks
  4. Emerging Markets Stocks
  5. Emerging Markets Value Stocks [Correct Answer]
  6. Bitcoin

Explanations:

  1. Cash offers zero volatility, and seems perfectly safe. The issue is that it loses money to inflation. With a modest 3% inflation rate, you lose 50% every 24 years.
  2. Bonds offer low volatility, at a price of low returns. While they may seem compelling, they can decline when interest rates go up, and they can lose value relative to inflation.
  3. US Value Stocks are a good diversifier given that they are helped by rising interest rates and inflation, while tech stocks tend to get hurt by those. They are still subject to US-specific country risks, so are not the best.
  4. Emerging Markets Stocks diversify the US-specific country risk, but there is still better!
  5. Emerging Markets Value Stocks diversify the US-specific country risk, and are also typically helped by rising interest rates and inflation, while tech stocks tend to get hurt by those.
  6. Bitcoin is a currency, with no expected positive returns. But, it is far worse than cash, because it is extremely volatile. In addition, people were drawn to it in recent years given the high past returns, similar to tech-stocks. As seen recently, they can experience declines together with tech stocks. This is opposite of what some speculated, thinking that it may be a good inflation hedge.
Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

Question 1: In the past 10 years, how much did the S&P 500 companies grow their book values (change in price divided by change in price/book)?

  1. 16.2%
  2. 6%
  3. -6%

Question 2: Last time the S&P 500 had approximately today’s valuations, what was its average annual performance in the following 10 years?

  1. 16.2%
  2. 10%
  3. -1%

S&P 500 10-Year Returns if The Past Repeats

The S&P 500 enjoyed strong returns averaging 16.2% per year in the past 10 years. 10 years look like a long track record, enough to entice investing in the S&P 500 today, based on this data. Let’s evaluate this theory:

1. Actual book-value growth calculated at a mere 6%: What was the growth in the book value of the S&P 500 companies in the past 10 years? We can calculate it as the difference between compounding the 16.2% price increase per year and about 9.6% price/book increase per year (x2.5 going from under 2 to nearly 5), which is 6% per year. It turns out that the past 10 years were not very exciting for the S&P 500 companies.

2. Valuations declined 9.6% per year: From the most recent cycle when valuations reached today’s valuations (year 2000), they declined from about 5 to about 2 in 10 years, which is equal to -9.6% per year.

3. If the past repeats itself, we can get -3.3% annual decline for 10 years = -28% total: If the companies do as well as the past 10 years = 6% per year, and valuations revert to normal as happened last time we reached today’s valuations = -9.6% per year, we get an annual decline of -3.3% per year, and a total decline of -28%.

We don’t know what the future will actually be. But, if you are projecting the past to the future, you should prepare for material declines for the S&P 500 over the next 10 years.

Quiz Answer:

Question 1: In the past 10 years, how much did the S&P 500 companies grow their book values (change in price divided by change in price/book)?

  1. 16.2%
  2. 6% [Correct Answer]
  3. -6%

Question 2: Last time the S&P 500 had approximately today’s valuations, what was its average annual performance in the following 10 years?

  1. 16.2%
  2. 10%
  3. -1% [Correct Answer]

See article for more explanations.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

What are good reasons to invest in Bitcoin? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. It is a high-growth investment with low correlation to other investments.
  2. High growth as its adoption grows.
  3. Low transaction costs.
  4. Fast transfers.
  5. Free from government control.

2 Reasons I don’t Invest in Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency / cryptocurrency with many benefits over traditional currencies. This article doesn’t discuss these great benefits, but instead brings up reasons to not hold bitcoin and many other digital currencies for investment.

  1. Just like any other currency, Bitcoin doesn’t generate any value. There are plenty of investments that do generate value, including stocks (companies) and real estate.
  2. While Bitcoin has benefits over traditional currencies, many countries are working on digital currencies with values tied to their traditional currencies. These currencies will have the benefits of digital currencies with an additional big benefit over Bitcoin: central banks can control the supply of currencies, helping stabilize economies, and preventing recessions such as 2008 from turning into devastating depressions. This could stop Bitcoin from reaching the wide adoption that some people anticipate.

Bitcoin played a big role in learning about digital currencies, and designing digital currencies with values tied to traditional currencies. Yet, as an investment, there is nothing that gives me confidence that it won’t permanently decline by 50%, 90% or 99%, as government backed digital currencies come out.

Quiz Answer:

What are good reasons to invest in Bitcoin? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. It is a high-growth investment with low correlation to other investments.
  2. High growth as its adoption grows.
  3. Low transaction costs.
  4. Fast transfers.
  5. Free from government control.

None of the answers is correct. Specifically:

  1. Bitcoin has historically been a high-growth investment with low correlation to other investments, but there are good reasons to expect the growth to be reversed into sharp declines, once digital currencies that are tied to traditional currencies come out. Read this month’s article to learn more.
  2. You can expect adoption to dramatically shrink once there are government issued digital currencies, that have additional benefits.
  3. Low transaction costs are a benefit of Bitcoin over traditional currencies, but not over traditional digital currencies.
  4. Same as #3.
  5. Bitcoin is currently free from government control, providing a benefit for certain uses including some illegal activities, but that is not a reason to hold them as an investment.
Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

Which of the following is the most promising investment?

  1. A company that is losing money and is priced low reflecting the losses.
  2. A profitable company that is underappreciated and priced low.
  3. A company with phenomenal profitability, that you shop from every day, and can’t live without.

Sales up 27%, Profits up 47%, Stock Down 7%! What Gives?

On 7/29/2021, Amazon reported spectacular Q2 sales growth of 27%. Profits grew even faster, at 47%. Yet, the stock declined 7% after the announcement. This is could be unsettling for investors that chose Amazon, given it’s amazing profitability.

What happened? These growth rates were below prior growth rates and the expectations. Stock prices move in response to changes in the company’s performance – a relative measure, as opposed to the absolute company performance. Once the bar is set very high, gains could be tough to achieve, and declines can be very rapid.

Did we get any warning signs? Yes, glaring ones. It’s P/E (stock price relative to earnings) was 69, and it’s P/B (stock price relative to company value or liquidation value) was 17. These numbers are huge, and reflect a company that is 100%’s better than other companies.

An extra difficulty: Stocks of successful companies sometimes go up far above their intrinsic value. It is partly the result of people choosing a company based on its success or even solely based on recent stock growth, while ignoring the stock price. You can do the same, and do well for some time, as people do in various pyramid schemes, or you can join at the peak and experience steep declines. The peak may come during a phenomenal quarter for the company.

How can you use this information? Whenever analyzing whether to buy a stock, look for companies that are underpriced relative to their performance. These include phenomenal companies that are underappreciated, as well as mediocre companies that are priced too low. If you find a company that you love and believe in, analyze how much of its value is already reflected in the stock price, before investing.

What is the future of Amazon’s stock? This question is outside the scope of this article. There are many positive and negative factors, and it’s not a trivial task to combine them to reach an answer. Here is a sliver of the factors: Will the company manage to revert back to its phenomenal growth of prior quarters, or even beat it? Will enough investors continue to bid up the price because they love the company, or because the stock price went up in recent years? Will competition eat into Amazon’s market share, or will Amazon gain even greater market share? Will interest rates in the US go up, hurting Amazon’s borrowing costs? The full list is very long.

Quiz Answer:

Which of the following is the most promising investment?

  1. A company that is losing money and is priced low reflecting the losses.
  2. A profitable company that is underappreciated and priced low. [Correct Answer]
  3. A company with phenomenal profitability, that you shop from every day, and can’t live without.

Explanations:

  1. If the company is priced appropriately, the next step is to check the odds of a turnaround towards profitability. Trusting a turnaround can be risky, and should be done with caution, based on strong evidence.
  2. The combination of profitability & underpricing is the ideal one. Underpriced profitable companies have the potential for extra returns compared to the average company.
  3. A phenomenally profitable company is a great start. If you can’t live without it, and others feel the same, it’s another positive sign. The missing part is whether the stock price reflects more or less of all these positives.

See article for more explanations.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

Which factors may contribute to value (low Price/Book) outperformance moving forward? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. A change in sentiment.
  2. Rising bond interest rates.
  3. Expectation for inflation.
  4. Very low valuations.
  5. Very low valuations relative to growth (high Price/Book) stocks.
  6. Economic recovery from the pandemic.
  7. The best option out there.

Tipping Point for Value?

Last year will go into the history books given the pandemic. But another, less noticed, rare thing happened. Growth stocks, those with a high price relative to the company’s book value (P/B), or intrinsic value, went from very expensive to extremely expensive – a level barely second to the late 1990’s. While they’ve become more expensive for a while, there was a big spike in unprofitable small growth stocks. Last time we had a spike even close to this magnitude was around 1999. This is very reassuring for Value stocks, because often a long-lasting trend ends in a big spike in the direction of the trend, followed by a sharp reversal. For value stocks in the US, last time the reversal meant a 50% outperformance in a mere 2 years.

There are a number of logical reasons to see a reversal at this point:

  1. A change in sentiment: The reversal already started a few months ago, long enough for people to take note, and start treating it more like a new trend than noise.
  2. Expectation for inflation: Two forces are leading to an expectation for higher inflation: (1) Dramatic government stimulus; (2) The Fed planning to hold interest rates low until after inflation overshoots the typical target. Bond prices already started declining reflecting this expectation.
  3. Very low valuations relative to growth (high Price/Book) stocks: With the valuations of growth stocks going so much higher relative to value stocks, growth stocks became much more dangerous. People took note and started shifting towards value stocks.
  4. Economic recovery from the pandemic: Value stocks tend to outperform at times of economic recovery.

Note that value stocks outside the US have much lower valuations than US stocks – near record difference, making them even more appealing. As always, there could be surprises, and it is important to structure your financial picture to account for them.

Quiz Answer:

Which factors may contribute to value (low Price/Book) outperformance moving forward? (There may be multiple answers.)

  1. A change in sentiment. [Correct Answer]
  2. Rising bond interest rates. [Correct Answer]
  3. Expectation for inflation. [Correct Answer]
  4. Very low valuations.
  5. Very low valuations relative to growth (high Price/Book) stocks. [Correct Answer]
  6. Economic recovery from the pandemic. [Correct Answer]
  7. The best option out there. [Correct Answer]

Explanations: #4 is only partly correct. In the US value stocks are not low relative to their historic average, though they are very low relative to growth stocks. Outside the US, valuations are clearly low.

See article for more explanations about the correct answers.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data

Quiz!

In which ways was 2020 different than other big declines (e.g. 2008 & 2000)? (There may be multiple correct answers.)

  1. It was deeper.
  2. It was shorter.
  3. It was scarier.
  4. It was longer.
  5. The turnaround came before economic improvement.
  6. The government & central bank support were bigger than usual.

The Surprises & The Expected of 2020

The pandemic of 2020 was shocking to investors and humans in general. It involved substantial uncertainty, leading people to predict years of pain for stock investments. While the split between surprises & the expected will vary depending on the reader, below is my split.

Surprises:

  1. While the key actions to contain the pandemic were known early on (looking at some Asian countries), the magnitude of unwillingness to take these actions seriously in other countries was greater than I expected, leading to a much worse result than possible otherwise. While stocks recovered rapidly, they could have bottomed higher, with fewer lives lost on the way.

Expected:

  1. The decline was shorter than typical, because it didn’t come from a position of economic leverage and euphoria.
  2. When panic took hold in March, the Fed repeated its 2008 announcement, being prepared to do whatever it would take to support the economy. Other countries operated similarly.
  3. The turnaround came as soon as the level of uncertainty diminished, far before the economy improved, as typical.
  4. While the economy is still hurting badly, it started the turnaround much earlier than in prior declines, thanks to the cause being a shock and not leverage.
  5. Many people said about this decline that it’s different, and will last much longer than past declines. Fortunately, this prediction failed, as typical when made at past times of uncertainty.

The specifics of every market decline are different, creating a need to prepare for declines of varying lengths & depths, worse than we experienced before. While the specifics vary, there are some truths that follow through the cycles, especially some level of correlation between starting valuations (e.g. Price/Book) of risky assets and the severity of the decline. With the right planning, whether cash set aside or low spending relative to liquid assets, there is no need to label any case as “this time is different”. The more prepared you are, the stronger you can be going through scary times, with discipline to avoid panic selling at the depth of the decline.

Quiz Answer:

In which ways was 2020 different than other big declines (e.g. 2008 & 2000)? (There may be multiple correct answers.)

  1. It was deeper.
  2. It was shorter. [Correct Answer]
  3. It was scarier. [Correct Answer]
  4. It was longer.
  5. The turnaround came before economic improvement.
  6. The government & central bank support were bigger than usual. [Correct Answer]

Explanations:

  1. This decline was shallower than the other two declines.
  2. This decline was dramatically shorter than the other two declines.
  3. While every decline is scary, this was scarier, because we haven’t seen such a widespread pandemic in our lifetimes.
  4. This decline was dramatically shorter than the other two declines.
  5. In most declines, the turnaround comes far ahead of the economic turnaround. It comes from a combination of government & central banks (e.g. the Fed) support along with an expectation for a future turnaround.
  6. Both 2008 and 2020 saw very big government & central bank support, but this year’s support was even bigger.

See article for more explanations.

Disclosures Including Backtested Performance Data