To Our Clients:
First of all, we hope you and your family are healthy. Here in Minnesota, our state has a “Shelter in Place” order for the next two weeks – and our public elementary and high schools for the most part have gone to “on-line” education until May 4th. I think this is a fairly common look across the rest of our country, so we’re in it with you. These realities point to the many adjustments in our social and economic life that containing the Coronavirus pandemic is requiring. Obviously, the questions we get most consistently these days are:
“Should we be buying the dip?”
“Should we be more in cash?”
“What should we do now?”
So, let’s be clear: we are living in a time dictated by a global health issue. “We all think of a recession as having an economic underpinning, but this has nothing to do with economics. This is literally about trying to stay away from people,” said Aparna Mathur, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This “pandemic” has in its wake, however, also created a world-wide “economic slowdown” that is affecting our lives and our investments. Of course, it is the health issue that needs to be resolved first. In his initial appearance on morning television Thursday, Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell told NBC’s “Today” show that the nation “may well be in a recession” already, but making the country safe has to be the top concern. “The first order of business is to get the virus under control, and then resume economic activity,” he said. The Federal Reserve, and now Congress, have recently made significant moves to help stabilize our economy until social conditions themselves stabilize. What the recovery will look like depends greatly on how soon that starts. The good news here is that it appears our government will not be shy about further stimulus, if needed by our economy.
What sets this downturn apart is how rapidly the virus — and the economic pain — have spread. The question remains whether this will become a long-lasting slump or a short-lived flash recession. Markets try to estimate the future for businesses. Despite current opinions from media pundits, the future essentially relies on how long the US and the global economies will remain hampered by closures and restrictions of various business activities. Unfortunately, the question of when the virus comes under control remains unknown. And money and rhetoric only go so far. All this makes for an incredibly complicated situation for investors who are deciding whether to buy, sell or just sit tight. Two well-known investors (Leon Cooperman and Mohamed El-Arian) state that until the end of April, any statement is one of hope rather than knowledge.
As a result, despite the losses in stocks and bonds that have already taken place this year, our discussions with you will recommend continued caution. Market volatility won’t settle until we reach some sort of inflection point in the coronavirus crisis. It would be at this point that economists would be able to begin modeling the outlook for the economy with any degree of certainty. We then believe that investing in areas the government has decided to support, and companies with strong cash positions, will be attractive options.
Know that we are here for you in both good times and difficult times, to give you our perspective, to discuss your options, or simply to talk things through.