Capital Markets Update, February 5, 2018: Correction Versus a Bear Market

NOTE: This communication was originally sent to clients on February 5, 2018.

As we entered 2018 our expectations were for the market to be positive for a 10th consecutive year, but we felt that volatility would return. In the past week, market volatility has returned in a big way. Since January 26, the S&P 500 is down 7.5 percent. This represents the biggest selloff since the China growth scare of January 2016. This correction takes the S&P 500 to negative-1 percent for the year.

Market corrections within bull markets are a common occurrence, yet never pleasant. In our Investment Outlook this year we highlight the difference between a market correction and a bear market. The chart below shows that when a correction occurs in a growing economy the average market selloff is about 13 percent, and it takes about six months to return to even. When a market correction is associated with a recession, the market drops an average of 34 percent and it can take up to three years to get back to even. We believe this is a correction, and not a bear market.

Correction vs Bear Market Chart.v2.jpg

The irony of this selloff is there just may be too much good economic news. The market is selling off over the concern that growth and inflation will accelerate, causing the Fed and possibly other central banks around the world to tighten more than is expected. The market is undergoing an adjustment of expectations around rate hikes and interest rates. Our view is that interest rates will go up this year, but not enough to slow global economic growth.

Recent volatility is not causing us to change our stance on asset allocation. We remain neutral in our clients’ target stock-to-bond ratio. If there is cash in a portfolio that is waiting to be invested, we are using this pullback as an opportunity to deploy that cash. We urge clients to remain patient in the face of market volatility. While we don’t know how long this selloff will last, we do know that selling into weakness is rarely, if ever, a good decision. We continue to believe the S&P 500 will be higher at the end of the year, but volatility has returned.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your portfolio manager.