Coping with market corrections

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Coping with market corrections

As has been widely reported in the financial press recently most major markets have experienced a significant correction from the highs posted at the end of 2021. This has been particularly evident in the US market because of its stellar growth in the last two years and so this article will focus on the recent experience for the S&P-500 and Nasdaq 100.

Both indices have more than doubled from the lows in March 2020 after the first effects of the Covid-19 pandemic though to the end of 2021. The Nasdaq-100 was slightly the better performer, up 136% in that time compared to 108% for the S&P-500. This is to be expected given it is generally a more volatile index and that many technology companies were well placed to benefit from the shift in economic and social patterns as the pandemic developed.

Since the turn of the year the S&P-500 fell by 9.8% to its year-to-date low on 27 January 2022 and the Nasdaq-100 has fallen even further, shedding 15%. Both indices have recovered a little in the subsequent two weeks.

Interestingly the VIX volatility index (1 year version) was at 17% pre Covid and then soared to a high of 40% as markets started to fall. At the end of 2021 it was still at over 29% and has since stayed consistently in a range of between 28% and 30%. Volatility is often associated with future falls but in the last few weeks it has remained elevated in anticipation of further market swings in either direction.

What constitutes a correction?

A market correction is generally defined as a fall of between 10% and 20% from a previous peak. This is not enough to constitute a bear market but is significant enough to put investors on watch that a bear market may develop and sentiment is changing.

There are many reasons why market corrections can take place. One is simple profit taking by some after a previous strong market rally. Another is a change in market conditions that cause nervousness and a reassessment of equity and bond valuations. This year there is the significant threat of rising inflation and interest rates. This is coupled with trade and security fears that occupy many countries caused by recent shocking world events.

Protecting portfolios

The emergence of such a scenario should cause all investors to consider whether to take any action and what that might be. Seeking a reduction in risk in a portfolio is a natural reaction but if this is done after a market fall then it may prove to simply be locking in a loss if prices then recover.

Investors are often cited as being tempted to panic sell too quickly but this well-known behavioural finance phenomenon is difficult to rationalise or resist. Ways to lower risk include moving from stocks to cash or from higher risk stocks and markets to more defensive choices.

Structured product solutions

Structured products are intrinsically designed to prepare for and cope with such eventualities. They also sit between cash and equities on the risk scale. All of these properties and benefits need to be communicated to new and existing investors, this is a continuing education initiative required by the industry. Full capital protection and downside barriers are the main defensive measures against market falls and they perform a specific role. A barrier set at 30% below the initial market level will be able to comfortably absorb declines of the magnitude seen recently and give every chance of avoiding capital loss if markets start to move sideways or better thereafter. Contrast this with a direct equity investor who would currently be sitting on a loss of 10% to 15%. This would be a damaging outcome to any portfolio and one likely to affect future decisions.

Although barriers give a very good chance of preventing losses the secondary market valuations will still take a significant hit due to effects of market declines and the associated increase in market volatility. This can unsettle investors and needs to be properly explained and managed by advisers.

A market correction can also delay products Auto-calling successfully but the fall observed in recent weeks is relatively small compared to previous market growth and so products issued more than a few months back are likely to still eventually post a profit.

Investors will be waiting to see what develops from here and continued market volatility is almost inevitable. The key for new investment opportunities is to time an attractive entry point on a market dip and lock in favourable yields or terms when volatility is high. This intelligent tactical usage of structured products can avoid immediate losses and provide prospects for future returns by combining elements of income, growth and market protection.

Tags: Investment

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Image courtesy of:     Charl Folscher /

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