Market history says omicron volatility isn't a reason for investors to sell

Market history says omicron volatility isn't a reason for investors to sell

Personal İnvesting, Cboe Volatility Index

12/5/2021 5:03:00 PM

Market history says omicron volatility isn't a reason for investors to sell

Last Friday's VIX spike of 54% on the omicron variant emergence has been followed by more big moves in the Dow, but VIX history says the bull market won't end.

Traders work in the S&P 500 options pit at Cboe Global Markets Inc. in Chicago, Illinois.Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesLerner is looking to market history, and he sees an environment in which the patient investors will be ahead, if not in December, a year from now.

"We want at least a 12-month trend, because even if your entry point is not exactly right, you have greater chances of success in that timeframe," he said.The "Black Friday" Nov. 26 spike in the VIX volatility index of 54% was among the five biggest single-day volatility moves in the past three decades. Since 1990, there have been 19 trading sessions during which the VIX spiked by 40% or more. In 18 of those 19 instances, or 95% of the time, the

S&P 500 Indexwas higher one-year later, and the gains were large — an average of 20%.With the U.S. market still up more than 20% this year even after the recent volatility, another 20% might be aspirational. Lerner noted that before the recent market whipsaw, stocks had gained 9% since early October, and that is a negative as far as having confidence the market will move up substantially in the short-term. That implies the immediate future is "vulnerable" to more moves down. headtopics.com

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But the more important data point is the longer-term trend in the VIX history: there isn't any instance across the 19 biggest VIX spikes of the past three decades after which stocks weren't positive a majority of the time one month, three months, six months, and one year later. One month later, stocks were only up an average of 1%, but were positive 70% of the time, and the numbers get better with time.

Zoom In IconArrows pointing outwardsThe caveat: Covid is a type of risk that the markets have not seen often over the past three decades, and two of the biggest VIX spikes came as Covid first hit the U.S. in February 2020. After both, the one-month period for stocks was brutal. That implies a market that remains on edge for now, and that should not come as a surprise — especially after the past week of trading. But the only of the 19 instances in which stocks were still down a year later was at the onset of the financial crisis. That data point gives Lerner more confidence in remaining bullish.

Volatility will remain the headline before the dominant trend returns, but that trend, he says, will be an economy that continues to expand and support further stock gains."In the last decade, we've had these V-shaped recoveries. They have been more normal," he said. "Go back to the pandemic low, when you had a sharp move down and you get a kick back rally and a battle between greed and fear ensues. But in general, over the last 5 to 10 years, we've seen more of these come-down and go-back-up markets, as if nothing happened," he added.

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The last time was the end of September when the financial issues at Chinese property giant Evergrande sent the global equity markets into a tailspin.Fear of missing out in a Covid marketThe base case, Lerner says, is more of a tug-of-war until more of the news filters out and the market is able to get a better gauge on this new variant. This doesn't change his view that investors are more likely to be rewarded by sitting tight rather than sitting out the market. In a "fear of missing out" era, that's a lesson many investors learned from Spring 2020, the fastest bull market in history based on S&P 500 price gains. headtopics.com

"For people who missed out that time, it is a reminder about becoming too negative too fast," Lerner said. "Even if you had had all the news on the pandemic, you would have been better staying in the market. By the time we have the all clear the market has moved," he said.

The stock market was at a record shortly before Nov. 26, and when markets come off new highs, history says investors should be prepared for more downside over the next one to three months. A pandemic may heighten that volatility since the science is a type of uncertainty the market isn't accustomed to analyzing. But the market does now have the 2020 Covid playbook to learn from.

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"In February 2020, it was all new," Lerner said. "We didn't know how businesses would adapt, and now there is playbook. We saw they become more digital. There will be winners and losers, no matter what, but companies and consumers have adapted and will again."

The Federal Reserve is on record as saying one of the lessons of the Covid era is that the economy has gotten better at adapting to pandemic during each successive wave. When Fed Chair Powell outlined a more hawkish position during Senate testimony this week, some market pundits pointed to the inflationary risks from an economy that is too hot as being the larger concern than a new Covid variant. headtopics.com

Like many market experts, Lerner says on the margins inflation may become even worse because of an exacerbation of the existing supply chain issues, which were starting to show signs of easing and now with a new variant unknown could go back up again on new factory shutdowns and delays in transportation.

"It is a risk to the market," he said, and another reason volatility may remain elevated in the near-term.Fed Chair Powell said this week that the omicron variant "complicates" the inflation picture.But another difference between now and Spring 2020: the economy is not in a recession, which it quickly entered during lockdowns and stay-at-home orders during the initial Covid wave. "Now we know, even with this variant, it may slow activity down, but I still think recession risk is low. That's a key difference from February and March 2020 when a recession happened so quickly," Lerner said.

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