Planning for a Changing Market Environment is Not Without Risks
There are two upcoming events, one scheduled and one not. They each have the potential and perhaps are even likely, to jolt or shift financial markets for a period longer than the ordinary disruptions traders and investors experience over the course of any month. These two items are the U.S. elections, which are approaching quickly, and a resolution of the Russia and Ukraine war.
On the U.S. side of the Atlantic, the mid-term election is thought of as a referendum on the person in the Oval Office and their party. The democrats who are in power in both legislative branches and also hold the executive branch are likely to lose the House and perhaps the Senate. The gridlock that would unfold if this occurs would include many government spending plans that have helped drive some investment sectors since January 2021. However, the party currently controlling both are viewed by many market participants as not “Wall Street-friendly,” so this could also weigh into market direction. And just as critical for investors, it would have the ability to shift which sectors are winners and which investments one may wish to lighten up in.
In Europe, the war means a lot of things to those that live there. Focusing only from a global investor standpoint, one’s mind first turns to the energy sector. If the outcome is one where Russia largely has its way and annexes a large portion of Ukraine, how long would it take for normalcy to resume? And what would that look like? If, instead, Putin, who is leading the charge, loses power or his resolve, what would this mean for stocks, commodity prices, and overall investor mood? Should investors pre-think all scenarios and have a plan for each?
What Investment Experts Say
Channelchek spoke to a couple of highly respected, highly credentialed money managers and investment experts and asked about pre-planning.
Eric Lutton, CFA is Chief Investment Officer, at Sound Income Strategies. Eric doesn’t expect Putin to be removed, but cautions that if he is, depending on what follows, it may not automatically be good for markets. He said, “If Putin was “pushed” out of power, a highly unlikely scenario, but if it were to happen, it would mean more unknowns for the market, which would probably be taken as another negative.” Lutton, who has spent a great deal of time in Russia and Northern Europe, explains, “A vacuum of power in Russia would not be a good thing and could escalate the current situation.” Eric believes if a leader chosen by the West was installed, “inflation would fall, and the Fed could ease up on the rate increases.” Lutton does not think that is a scenario we will see any time soon.
The Sound Income Strategies CIO thinks the media overplays any real risk of Putin dropping a nuclear device so close to Russia on land it seeks to annex. But he did entertain the thought, as I pressured him for hypothetical scenario analysis and investment planning thoughts. “As for investors, if a bomb falls, either Putin or a false flag operation, you’d want to be in 100% cash! No place would be safe other than perhaps a handful of industrial defense or war contractors,” Said Eric Lutton.
As it relates to the November 8th mid-term elections, Eric Lutton isn’t expecting a huge “red wave” win. He points to the notion that there are people that would avoid voting red even if it was clear that the policies would better serve the populace. Eric does, however expect Republicans to gain a majority in the House and Senate. Even if they only gain a majority in one branch, Lutton says, “I do think there will be a slight pop in the market, but short-lived as the main factors will be the Fed, inflation, supply chain and ongoing conflict in Ukraine.”
Robert Johnson, PhD, CFA, CAIA, is the CEO and Chair at Economic Index Associates. He apologetically offered conventional wisdom, suggesting that it could be a mistake for investors to, “…concern themselves with broad market moves or the crisis du jour.” Johnson, instead, recommends more tried and true portfolio implementation. This includes suggesting the creation of an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Dr. Johnson explains that clearly defining, in advance, and in accordance with one’s time horizon and other specifics, such as liquidity needs and tax situation, will define the ground rules necessary during temporary hiccups in the market.
As it relates to a personal investment policy statement, the Chair of Economic Index Associates says it is best to develop a policy statement in calm, less volatile markets. He says’ “The whole point of an IPS is to guide you through changing market conditions. It should not be changed as a result of market fluctuations.” He did allow for individual changes in circumstances,” It only needs to be revised when your individual circumstances change — perhaps a divorce or other unanticipated life change.”
As added testimony to what Dr. Johnson knew was less than groundbreaking thoughts on the subject of the two future events and what to do in each, he offered, “ I had a former co-worker who, in the run-up to the 2016 election, was convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to win and the stock market was going to crash. So, immediately prior to the election, he sold out of stocks and went to cash. Stocks surged the day following Trump’s victory, and my co-worker bought back into the market — at a higher price.”
Market hiccups are often short-lived.
While it is prudent to keep your eyes open and know what risks and potential rewards may be, it may also be smart to keep investing within specific boundaries. Those boundaries are best defined when volatility and predictability are average. Within the boundaries, there can be room to lighten up or overweight, but not in ways that pull the investor substantially out of line with their original goal while using the predefined arsenal of stocks, bonds, or other financial products.
Managing Editor, Channelchek