By Steve Wolff

The markets have returned to volatility lately. Every time the market looks like it’s headed down, we see people on TV start predicting that this is the start of a down market.
So here is how we see things right now.

First, the stock market has not had a big correction for a long time, so we all know that at some point it will correct. There are a lot of global events going on that are causing angst in the markets. Russia and Ukraine is probably the greatest of these issues, but certainly not the only issue. Israel and Hamas, Isis, Iran, Italy sinking into a recession and more are all adding to investors’ fears.

On the other hand, earnings reports have been generally pretty good. On Monday morning, August 5th, Bob Pisani of CNBC reported that of the 76% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far for the quarter, on average, earnings are up by about 9.7% and revenues up about 5%. Those are actually fairly decent numbers.

The bears (those who believe the market is going to go down) believe the companies’ earnings are going to slow down. The bulls (those who believe the market is going to go up) say the companies’ earnings are strong, the interest rates are still low, so stocks are the place to be.

The bears say that rising interest rates will be a competitor to dividend paying stocks so stocks will get sold off. The bulls say that if interest rates go up, then bonds will go down in price, so you want to remain in stocks.

So the pessimists and the optimists are both trying to figure out where the market should be, hence the volatility. For the year, the stock market has been hovering around the flat line, with some months good and some months bad. So there has not been a real direction one way or the other.

We have heard several prognosticators say it looks like we are heading for a growth rate of about 3% to 4% in the U.S. for the year. If that growth rate is accurate, that is normally not the underpinning of a major bear market. But that does not mean there can’t be corrections along the way.

As we have said many times, no one knows with certainty where the market is going to go. We certainly don’t know if the bulls or the bears are going to be right in the short term. So we say that now is a good time to look at your portfolio, make sure you are in the proper asset allocation, and then be sure it is something that will not cause you to panic if the market goes down by 15 or 20% (which is a normal market correction). As most of our clients have heard us say, it is panicking out of the market at the bottom that causes the most damage to investors’ returns.

If you are not sure of where you are or just want to review your account, please call us. We are always here for you.