By: Jeff Bullock
A few of my brothers and I had a small venture for a number of years in the sports analytics industry. As part of our business, we developed a phone app to help basketball coaches track team statistics. One of my jobs during the development was to test the app over and over. I needed to not only make sure the key features were working properly, but also find any bugs that would be detrimental to the experience, or worse, make the app unusable. The key with any consumer product is to enhance the features and limit the bugs to create a great user experience.
How was the user experience for investors in the stock market the past few months?!
January, February, and March saw some of the biggest swings in recent market history. It wasn’t just that the market drifted down for a period, but we often saw multiple intra-day swings of over 1% in a single trading session. Whether it was the constant barrage of news coming out of Ukraine, or the Federal Reserve turning more hawkish due to runaway inflation, the market reactions were quick and sharp.
Reflecting on my basketball app experience, and looking at the high levels of volatility the stock market sometimes gives, it made me ask the following question:
Is stock market volatility a feature or a bug in the investing experience?
Below are a few key points to explore that may help us answer this question:
- Price Discovery: Markets move every day as they digest news and try and figure out how economic growth will affect individual companies. Since every investor has a different thesis on what will happen in the future, prices bounce around based on these outlooks. This natural volatility is called price discovery, and for long-term investors, can provide great buying opportunities. With this understanding, it’s more likely that volatility is a feature, not a bug in the investing experience.
- Pullbacks Are Healthy & Normal: The S&P 500, on average, experiences a 10-15% pullback at least once each year. Why? Because markets are always trying to predict future growth and are adjusting to the latest economic news. A pullback is the market’s way of cooling off if prices have risen too fast. What happened in January and February fits this profile exactly. In other words, what we just experienced is normal! Pullbacks are a feature, not a bug in the investing experience.
- Zoom Out: Did you know, after all that has happened in this first quarter, the S&P 500 is only down a little over 5% this year? That’s it! Did you know it is up 15% in the last 12 months? Did you know it is up nearly 100% in the last 5 years? Time is your friend with investing. Zoom out, look at the big picture.
Remember, price discovery and pullbacks are healthy and normal. These are features not bugs.
My best advice when experiencing price volatility: Zoom out and embrace it as a feature of long-term investing because it’s not a bug!
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