With the recent events of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S.’s credit rating last Friday and yesterday’s market crash in reaction to the downgrade, advisors are fielding inquiries from clients, but many say they see the situation as more of a buying opportunity, rather than a time to panic and pull out of the markets.
“Big money is made on days like yesterday,” said John Azzara, managing principal of Edison, N.J.-based John Azzara Associates, an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Securities. “If you don’t have setbacks, you don’t have an opportunity to make money.”
Azzara said he believes the downgrading was overdue and that we’re seeing more of a political correction than a financial correction. The S&P move sends a strong message that there is a problem in Washington, with the political gridlock in recent weeks, and that we need to look beyond political agenda to fix those problems, he said.
But many companies have put out strong earnings, and Azzara expects that to continue. Fundamentals for companies are good, with expenses down, but they’re selling at bargain prices.
“The markets are oversold and have dropped too far, too fast, especially in light of fairly solid fundamentals,” said Terry Morris, senior equity manager at National Penn Investors Trust Company, a division of National Penn Wealth Management. “Of the more than 90 percent of S&P 500 companies that have already reported earnings, approximately 70 percent exceeded expectations.”
Bart Schannep, president of Schannep Investment Advisors, said he’s looking at news headlines with a grain of salt. He believes the market movements are driven more by fear than by reality. In fact, earnings of those S&P companies that have already reported are 20 percent above last year’s levels, he added. He expects we’ll see an economic slowdown, but not another recession.
Large declines in the equity markets are typically the best time to buy in, but investors are hard-wired to get scared in times like these and pull out, Schannep said. The people who got hurt in the last crash of 2008 were those who got out of the markets. One-third of Schannep’s clients are asking if this is a time to buy. Schannep expects the market turmoil to blow over pretty quickly. “Panic is not a strategy.”
Jeffrey Phillips, principal and chief investment officer at Rehmann Financial, said he’s bullish on the fundamentals, in light of the good earnings reports, but Rehmann is waiting for a more rational market to come into play before looking for the buying opportunities. He wants to get a better idea of the long-term direction of the markets before making that move.
In the meantime, the firm has increased its cash positions from about 2 to 3 percent to 5 to 7 percent now. They’ve also moved about 2 to 3 percent of the portfolio to an S&P 500 inverse ETF to provide some protection, which they’ll hold for about three days to a week.
With this crash, however, Rehmann is not seeing the same knee-jerk, emotional reactions from their clients as they did in 2008, Phillips said. After 2008, the firm moved clients into a risk profile that was more suitable for them, so clients are looking at their investments with a more long-term perspective.
Chicago-based DiMeo Schneider & Associates, an RIA with about $35 billion in AUM, has done a lot of modeling with clients of different types of ‘what if’ events, such as this one, so they’re more educated on it, said Michael Benoit, managing director for the firm’s private client group. Equities will be cheap when things calm down, and the firm’s clients understand that this creates more opportunity than crisis, Benoit said. In addition, the types of affluent families the firm works with have seen downturns like this.
Some in the industry, such as Frank Martin, founder of RIA Martin Capital Management, have predicted another financial storm. In an August 2011 report, the Leuthold Group’s research team said we’re likely entering a new cyclical bear market and that clients need to get defensive.
“But this market crash is nothing more than a shot across the bow,” said Don Hays, chairman and founder of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Hays Advisory, an independent investment firm. “It didn’t hit the ship, but it was close, and if the ship doesn’t start sailing on course, the next shot could be more serious.”