Gravity Takes Hold in May
Wile E. Coyote, the bumbling, roadrunner-loving carnivore from Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes series spends a lot of time in the air chasing his fine feathered prey. Unfortunately for Mr. Coyote his genetic make-up and Acme purchases could not cure the ills caused by gravity (although user error was the downfall of Wile E’s effective Bat-Man flying outfit purchase). Just as gravity hampered the coyote’s short-term objectives, so too has gravity hampered the equity markets’ performance this May.
So far the adage of “Sell in May and walk away” has been the correct course of action. Just one day prior to the end of the month, the Dow Jones Industrial and S&P 500 indexes were on pace of recording the worst May decline in almost 50 years. If the -6.8% monthly decline in the S&P and the -7.8% drop in the S&P remains in place through the end of the month, these declines would mark the worst performance in a May month since 1962.
Should we be surprised by the pace and degree of the recent correction? Flash crash and Greece worries aside, any time a market increases +70-80% within a year, investors should not be caught off guard by a subsequent 10%+ correction. In fact corrections are a healthy byproduct of rapid advances. Repeated boom-bust cycles are not market characteristics most investors crave.
It was a volatile, choppy month of trading for the month as measured by the Volatility Index (VIX). The fear gauge more than doubled to a short-run peak of around 46, up from a monthly low close of about a reading of 20, before settling into the high 20s at last close. Digesting Greek sovereign debt issues, an impending Chinese real estate bubble bursting, budget deficits, government debt, and financial regulatory reform will determine if elevated volatility will persist. Improving macroeconomic indicators coupled with reasonable valuations appear to be factoring in a great deal of these concerns, however I would not be surprised if this schizophrenic trading will persist until we gain certainty on the midterm elections. As Wile E. Coyote has learned from his roadrunner chasing days, gravity can be painful – just as investors realized gravity in the equity markets can hurt too. All the more reason to cushion the blow to your portfolio through the use of diversification in your portfolio (read Seesawing Through Chaos article).
Happy long weekend!
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in TWX, VXX, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.