Thursday was brutal for the S&P 500. Ten-year Treasury yields surged to the highest levels since 2011 and fear of sharply rising interest rates sent global equity investors scrambling for cover.
The S&P 500 opened down a modest 0.2%, but that was as good as it is got and by midday, we crashed through 2,900 support and the selling didn’t stop until we shed nearly 1.5%. This was definitely a sell first, ask questions later kind of day. But not all was bad. A late-afternoon rebound reclaimed 2,900 support before the close. Not very often do we breathe a sigh of relief when the market finishes down 0.8%, but that was so much better than it could have been.
The question on everyone’s mind is what happens next. Today’s frenzied selling hit us out of the blue and is unlike anything we’ve seen in months. Wednesday we were flirting with all-time highs, but barely 24-hours later we crashed through support and shed nearly 60-points from the previous day’s highs. We have to go back to this winter’s big selloff to see two-day price-action that dramatic. It was especially shocking given how benign volatility has been lately. But the market has a nasty habit of smacking us when we least expect it, and that is exactly what happened Thursday.
While this price-action was dramatic, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is if anything actually changed. A surge in interest rates was the excuse for Thursday’s selloff, and while rates climbed to the highest levels in years, they didn’t really go up that much. We broke through 3% for the first time back in May and have been consistently above this level since September. And this week’s “surge” took us from 3.1% all the way up to 3.2%. It’s not nearly as impressive when you look at it that way.
But a segment of traders was looking for an excuse to sell, and once the floodgates opened, the race to the exits was on. Early selling pushed us under the first set of stop-losses, and that selling pushed us under the next tranche of stop-losses. That pattern of reactive selling, dropping, and more reactive selling continued until we triggered all the stop-losses and ran out of defensive sellers willing to abandon this market.
And so what happens next? We don’t need to look very far because what will happen next is the exact same thing that happened last time, and the time before that. This is an incredibly resilient market. Owners refused to sell an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies. They refused to sell an ever-expanding investigation into the president. They refused to sell the Fed raising interest rates three times this year and promising another hike before the end of the year. Should we believe confident owners would sit through all that, only to lose their nerve and turn into panicked sellers when Treasury rates go from 3.1% to 3.2%. Really???
I don’t see anything that materially changed Thursday and that means my positive outlook remains intact. Everyone knows stocks cannot go up every…single….day. Dips are inevitable. The thing to remember about dips is they always feel real. If they didn’t, no one would sell and we wouldn’t dip! Without a doubt, Thursday’s selloff felt real. But nothing changed, and that means we should ignore the noise. This is a strong market and the rally into year-end is alive and well. Savvy traders are buying these discounts, not selling them.
Last week I wrote the following and nothing changed since then:
There is not a lot to do with our short-term money. Either we stay and cash and wait for a more attractive opportunity, or we stretch our time-horizon and ride the eventual move higher. Of course, there is no free lunch and holding stocks is risky. Anyone waiting for the next move higher needs to be prepared to sit through near-term uncertainty and volatility.
If a person has cash, they are a great position to buy these discounts. If a person was taking a longer view, they should have expected dips and gyrations along the way. If they knew something like this could happen, they would be less tempted to reactively sell the weakness. Unfortunately, a lot of traders were not prepared for this dip, and they joined the crowd jumping out the window. But it’s not all bad, their loss is our gain when they sell us their heavily discounted stocks. Sign up for Free Email Alerts so you are on the right side of the trade next time.
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Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and writer who has successfully traded stocks and options for more than a decade. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA and M.S. Marketing from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes manufacturing engineering at Fortune 500 companies, structural engineering, small business consultant, collegiate instructor, 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 young children.