Stocks had a rough week. Smart investors are focusing on the long game

The stock market ended a volatile week on a gloomy note Friday, with the three major U.S. indexes plunging as investors got tripped up in worries like inflation, the Fed’s fight against it and fears of a hard-landing recession.

As confidence got pummeled as well, financial experts recommended that investors not panic, but think about long-term strategies instead.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-2.77%
finished down 981 points, or 2.8%, to 33,811.40. Friday’s performance was the index’s worst daily percentage decrease since Oct. 28, 2020, according to Dow Jones Market data.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite index
COMP,
-4.17%
shrank 2.6%. The S&P 500
SPX,
-3.63%
lost 2.8%, suffering its worst start to a year, in the first four months of 2022, in over 80 years.

Of course, some rattled retail investors could have already said that’s where things have been heading.

Almost 44% of people say the market is moving in a bearish direction, according to the latest weekly sentiment gauge from the American Association of Individual Investors. That’s almost 14 percentage points above the 30.5% historical average on bearish sentiment in the ongoing tracker.

On the other hand, nearly 19% said they were bullish in the week ending April 20. That’s up from a 15.8% read one week earlier. But it’s been May 2016 since bullish feeling in the ongoing tracker hasn’t surpassed 20% for two straight weeks.

Meanwhile, six in 10 investors anticipate an increase in market volatility and seven in 10 say they worry about a recession, according to a poll Nationwide released earlier this week.

In the same poll, roughly four in 10 investors (44%) said they felt more confident in their ability to protect their finances in any upcoming downturn and 38% said they felt confident in their ability to invest in the stock market.

It’s not as if retail investors have some monopoly on the side-eyed view of the market. Investors took $17.5 billion out of global equities during the past week, according to Bank of America. That outflow is the biggest weekly move for the exits this year, they noted.

The difference is, regular investors who are newer to the markets — and maybe started during the pandemic — might not have the same resources or risk tolerance to keep their stomach during shaky moments versus more sophisticated investors, or institutional investors.

Here’s where it’s important to take a breath and avoid doing anything drastic, experts say — especially with the recession talk continuing.

First off, there’s the short-term story.

“While sustained inflation and a more aggressive Fed is a risk to the economy and financial markets, a recession in the next 12 months is not in our base case,” wrote Solita Marcelli, chief investment officer Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management.

The economy can grow even with the series of rate hikes investors are bracing for, and first-quarter earnings results have been “generally good,” Marcelli said in a note.

There is generally an exception, like Netflix
NFLX,
-4.59%
this week reporting a 200,000 net loss of subscribers when analysts were hoping for a 2.5 million subscription addition.

Besides, there’s the long-term story to remember. Think big and think about the long game on investing during downturns and bouts of volatility, said Scott Bishop, executive director of wealth solutions at Avidian Wealth Solutions, based in Houston, Texas.

The downbeat retail investor mood expressed in the surveys and sentiment trackers match what he’s hearing from his clients right now.

Still, Bishop says if people feel it’s time to adjust strategies or cut loses, “It’s time to make tweaks to your portfolio. You should not make wholesale changes.” For example, that means it could be a time to reconsider allocations, take loses for tax loss harvesting. “If you invest your portfolio based on headlines, you will always lose,” he said.

The pandemic feels like it’s stretched much longer, but it’s only been around two years since the COVID-19 market bottom. Then there’s the second part of story for people who stuck the market instead of cashing out.

At a time like this, it’s definitely worth remembering the next chapter in that story, Bishop said. Ultimately, the people who experience the most financial pain are those that “take extreme action , binary action, I’m in or I’m out.”


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