Is Now The Time For Panic?

What we are currently seeing in the market is a symptom of a whole lot of leverage in equities that had been in rich territory at a time when, even though it is still moving along, signs abound that the economy is slowing. Is this a ‘buy the dip’ opportunity or is it just the start of a much bigger downturn?

It has been a stormy week from the onslaught of hurricane Michael to the sea of red in global equity markets as the market shift we have been awaiting finally took hold. Wednesday the Dow lost over 800 points and had its worst day since February. The S&P 500 has had its worst losing streak in two years with over half of the S&P 500 at least two standard deviations below their 50-day moving average – the highest such percentage since March. A full two-thirds of the S&P 500 is now down 10% or more from their respective highs – that is a broad-based decline. The Russell 2000 has blown through all support levels down through its 200-day moving average. The once high-flying NYSE FANG+ Index has fallen more than 16% from its recent highs. All 65 members of the S&P 500 Tech sector closed in the red Wednesday, something we haven’t seen since the beginning of April.

Outside the US markets have been struggling even more – the US is just starting to catch up. Germany’s DAX is down to 6-month lows, the MSCI Asia-Pac Index hit a 17-month low, the Emerging Market index hit a 19-month low and 13 of the 47 members of the MSCI all-country index are down 10% or more year-to-date. Korea hasn’t seen a decline like this in 7 years. Taiwan hasn’t seen a decline of this magnitude in over 10 years. China’s Shanghai and Shenzhen Indices are at levels not seen since 2014. 

The big question on everyone’s mind now is, “Is this a ‘buy the dip’ opportunity or is this just the start of a much bigger downturn and what should we expect as we head into earnings season?”

Let’s start with earnings season which is likely to see the reporting quarter’s performance decent relative to expectations, so I’m not worried about meeting target numbers. What I am worried about is investor reactions and guidance. Since mid-September 48 of the S&P 1500 companies have reported and while their results relative to performance have been solid, only 10 companies have traded higher on their earnings day and the average stock has declined 3.8% on the day. This is an acceleration of the reactions we saw from investors last quarter.

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