End of Day Update:
Today’s modest up-day halted a three-day, 100-point rout. The question everyone is asking is if this signaled the end of selling, or is just another temporary reprieve on our way lower. Volume was off the chart, even exceeding the pace of the last few days of free-fall. While we are only 7% from all-time highs, it sure feels a lot worse than that.
The disappointing thing about today’s price-action is we were 20-points higher before another late-day collapse pushed us back near break-even. But maybe this isn’t a bad thing. The last few strong bounces turned out of be sucker’s rallies. A more measured response to the selling could be a welcome alternative to this month’s wild volatility.
The tone we set on Wednesday will go a long way to letting us know what happens next. Another free-fall day and who knows where this thing will stop. But a sideways day could indicate buying is finally catching up with selling. There always comes a point in every correction where prices become so attractive, deep-pocketed value investors can no longer resist the urge to snap up discounted shares from desperate sellers.
But that is the rational response and recently the market’s been anything but. In the wild, our ancestors were well served by adopting emotional cues from others in the clan. When everyone else was running, they started running too because those that stuck around to see what all the fuss was about quickly became lunch. And the same thing happens in the market. Few sellers over the last few days could clearly articulate why they were selling, which means they were selling primarily because everyone else was selling.
The VIX is at the highest level in over 2-years. Every other time we approached this level, that signaled an imminent bottom and is likely the case here too. But imminent can mean different things. Obviously that includes a bounce tomorrow. But 48-hours from now also qualifies as imminent, even if it means falling another 75-points.
The thing most investors need to keep in perspective is those with a longer-term outlook, this weakness is a blessing. While it always feels good to watch our accounts swell in value, there are only two prices that matter; what we paid and what we got when we sold. We want prices to be lower when we buy. Anyone who continued to invest in their 401k during the 2008 meltdown has seen those contributions more than double in value. They would be poorer today if we didn’t have that market crash. Markets go up and markets go down. The most successful are the ones who don’t let it get to them.