Market Checkup Time: Go Smell the Roses
The Standard & Poor's 500 is down about 7% since the highs it made at the beginning of April. In Wall Street parlance, a selloff does not officially become a "correction" until the S&P is off by 10%, but this pullback has everyone worried once again that another recession is near.
What are the concerns? The U.S. economic recovery has slowed again, according to some economic indicators, including a series of weak national employment gains in recent months. The mess in Europe remains a key wildcard for the global economy, and China has slowed and is showing some signs of further meltdown.
Oh, and then there's politics. There's a U.S. presidential election drawing nigh and both sides are convinced that a victory by their opponent will mean the end of America as we know it. There's a precarious fiscal situation brewing and a debate over how the potential for higher taxes and lower government spending could affect economic conditions and financial markets. Also, monetary policy remains extraordinarily loose, and some are predicting it will loosen further, rekindling worries of inflation and so forth.
Does all this sound familiar? It is if you were paying attention last summer when a 24% drop in the S&P began in late April and lasted through October. Today's symptoms are eerily similar to those of yesteryear, which doesn't make them any less serious or concerning. It does, however, serve as a reminder that we could be experiencing yet another one of Mr. Market's many mood swings, and that we shouldn't panic as investors.
We live in volatile times, and anyone who is unable to stomach a stock market selloff and resist the temptation to sell their portfolio at cheap prices should not be investing in the stock market -- period. Sometimes I think it pays to power down your computer and pick up a great novel, or turn off the TV and go outside and smell the roses. Ignorance really can be bliss when it comes to investing.
If you're paying a professional to manage your investments -- and most people are in one form or another -- let that professional worry about the short-term swings in the market value of your portfolio and go live your life. If you don't have faith in your professional to exercise good judgment on your behalf, find someone else you do trust. The key to investing in stocks is understanding that it's a marathon, not a sprint, and the tortoise usually beats the hare in the end by a long shot.