What happened the last time we fell 3%?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Oct 10

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The S&P 500 was murdered Wednesday, collapsing 3.3% as the market plunged for the fifth-consecutive session as interest rate fears spiraled out of control. This was the worst down-day since last February’s selloff.

While that sounds dreadful, could this actually be a good thing? Did anyone look back at that fateful day in February when we fell 3.75%? If you did, you already know what happened next. Panic driven selling pushed us down another 50-points early the next day, but rather than collapse lower, supply actually dried up and we finished the day up 1.5%. And not only that, that morning’s lows were the lowest point for all of 2018 and we have been higher ever since. Will this time be any different?

Without a doubt, we could fall further, but is that an excuse to abandon this market? Or is this a golden opportunity to jump in? Only time will tell, but at this point, the best we can do is look at history.

I fear the slow, insidious grind lower. Those are the losses that accumulate when no one is paying attention. What I don’t fear are the big, headline-grabbing down-days. The one that gets everyone’s attention and makes headlines around the world. That’s because those big, flashy days don’t have any substance. As the saying goes, the flame that burns twice as bright only lasts half as long.

They don’t get any bigger than 1987’s 20% collapse. That day will forever live in market folklore. But what you rarely hear is the market actually finished 1987 with a respectable 6% gain. And not only that, all of those 20% losses were erased within 12 months. It doesn’t sound nearly as scary when you put that 20% loss in context.

But forget 1987, we don’t even need to look further back than earlier this year to see the same behavior. February’s selloff sliced nearly 10% off this market. Yet we reclaimed all of those losses within six months.

I will be the first to admit I didn’t see Wednesday’s dramatic selloff coming. I have been bullish on this market since February’s bottom and today’s 3% selloff doesn’t change anything. Dips are a healthy part of every move higher. And that includes frighteningly dramatic days like Wednesday. If a person cannot handle a 3% dip in the broad market, or a 10% dip in a highflying tech stock, they probably shouldn’t be speculating in stocks.

If I wasn’t already fully invested in this market, I would be buying this dip with both arms. I’ve been doing this for way too long to let a little irrational selling scare me off. But that is what works for me. If the market’s volatility is keeping a person up at night, that is a sign they need to reduce their position sizes to something that is more manageable. The key to surviving the market is keeping your head when everyone else is losing theirs. Do whatever is necessary to reclaim your perspective. If that means dialing back your position sizes, then that is what you need to do.

Back to the big picture, if a person believes a 0.25% bump in Treasury rates will strangle the economy, then they definitely need to sell and lock-in their profits. But if a person doesn’t believe this economy is teetering on the verge of a recession, then they can ignore the noise and wait for higher prices. As crazy as it sounds, I still believe this market is setting up for a year-end rally. Come back in three months and we’ll see who was right.

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About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two children.