“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
— Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5 by William Shakespeare
The “it” that Macbeth, King of Scotland, was/is referring to in Shakespeare’s play is life itself. I hope that neither you nor I are so jaded that we hold to that view, but the words do apply, methinks, to much of the news that comes our way each day.
The Brexit vote took place on June 23rd. That Friday, June 24th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 610 points which comes in at eighth place in all-time single day DJIA drops. The following Monday came in at a 261 point drop. The news was rife with the eminent demise of the world, European, US, and particularly British economies.
Eleven days later, the Dow and the S&P 500 indices were trading at all-time highs.
Now let me say upfront that I am no expert on the implications of the United Kingdom’s vote to pull out on the European Union. But I also find that it is not just me. I did a ton of reading and listening in on conference calls on the subject. I found no conclusive arguments as to whether the impacts would be good or ill (or even significant) for the global economy or equity markets in any significant way. One group went so far as to say, “We see … uncertainty.” Really? Uncertainty? In stock markets? Who knew?
So this begs the question: “What do we do as investors when there is momentous financial news?” First, we have to decide if the news is “momentous”, and the answer is often, but not always no. Sometimes, if we get a 1000(ish) point drop in the DOW (like we did after Brexit), we can find a quick buying opportunity. But we should remember that quick is dangerous, slow and steady is the ticket to financial success. Here’s how Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway describes their approach:
“It is remarkable how much long term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” — Charlie Munger
So keep a long-term perspective, but be willing to take tactical advantage of current events. As I write today, with equity markets at all-time highs, economic growth anemic all across the world, and bond yields at 40 to fifty year lows, it makes sense for you to move to the more conservative end of your risk tolerance spectrum, but it doesn’t make sense for you to sell on any given panic-inducing news event.
Remember to use your well-thought-out investment plan to guide you, not your emotions. If your emotions are keeping you up at night, by all means, go ahead and rethink your plan and approach. Here’s one last quote from an investment pro of years ago:
“The market does not beat them. They beat themselves because though they have brains, they cannot sit tight.” – Jesse Livermore
Stay strong and keep the faith. We’ll talk next month.