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Never Trust a Stockbroker Who's Out of Breath

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

“Many people associate volatility with risk,” Cathie Wood said at Ark’s virtual Big Ideas Summit 2022 last week. “We use volatility to our advantage. We concentrate towards our highest conviction names and that tends to work very well as we go through these corrections.”


Come on, Cathie. Your ARK Innovation Fund (ARKK) is down 45% since 9/1 and off 57% since its February 2021 highs. Every single one of your stocks-- all 44-- are down massively year to date. You should not speak.


…And you definitely shouldn’t make any more of these commercials:



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According to Goldman Sachs, there have only been 11 instances since 1980 in which the market breadth narrowed as sharply as it did between April and October of 2021. The S&P 500 went on to generate below-average returns over subsequent one-, three-, six- and 12-month intervals most of those times.


Well, boy oh boy, are we living that reality! The stock market in 2022 is off to an atrocious start. Stocks that virtually everyone owns have been getting hammered for several months now, though; it’s just that the biggest names finally started “catching down” in January.


The correction has been fast and furious. The velocity of the rotation is like instant re-pricing; cycles that used to take months now happen in a matter of days. Without proper diversification, a portfolio could easily be down 60% over the last half of a year. So, we hope you didn’t run off and join the circus in 2021, loading up on crypto and alternative energy and ARKK. Risk management matters in bull markets, even though we only talk about it after risk has reared its ugly head.


The perfect portfolio is worthless if you can’t stick to it when things go a la January. It’s during a correction that you figure out whether you built a portfolio that suits your personal risk profile, time horizon and personality or someone else’s.


The benefit of having a long time horizon is that you don’t need to nail the bottom when buying during a sell-off. Plus, no one really nails the bottom anyway unless they’re lying or lucky... and altogether too aggressive.


  • We actually called the March 2020 bottom right here in Insights, but that doesn’t mean we ran out on March 25th and invested all of our cash. It’s imprudent to ever go all in or all out, which unfortunately is why corrections hurt even when you’re right.

  • We called for buying commodities and energy in May 2021, but that doesn’t mean we sold all of our Apple and Microsoft to buy them. And it’s a good thing we didn’t. While commodities and energy have indeed performed extremely well over that period, just five stocks-- Apple, Microsoft., Nvidia, Alphabet and Tesla — accounted for 51% of the market’s 27% gain in 2021. Walmart, Amazon, Visa, Disney and whole slew of other household names are down considerably since then, just going to show once again that portfolio management is not a perfect science.

  • Most recently, we called in December for the S&P 500 to go to 4400 and to use the last week of the year to raise cash; the index closed at 4410 on Monday, the day of the last six months’ intraday low. That was pretty spot-on, right? No matter, I still own a bunch of stocks that are down for the month.

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Yes, stocks can always fall further from here. But if you’re talking about the whole market, literally every single sell-off in history has been a buying opportunity. Buying when prices are lower has always been a successful strategy if you buy the entire market and are accordingly patient.


The reason for stocks declining in price doesn’t matter. Stocks have been selling off because of the Fed, inflation, interest rates, geopolitics, the unwinding of rampant speculation and a whole host of other variables, but it’s really just an intellectual exercise to work through the reasons. The reality is that stocks go down sometimes; the reasons for the correction don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Plan accordingly.

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I’m heartened by the memory of my old friend Jim Beazly. “Beez” was over eighty years old when I started as a financial advisor in my twenties. He still went in to work every day, and he always had a good story for us young guys. Most importantly, Beez had a sign hanging on his wall that said, “Never trust a stockbroker who’s out of breath.”


That sign still resonates with me now that I’m seasoned enough in the industry to have seen lots of different kinds of financial advice. Good financial advice will tell you how to succeed at something while effective advice will show you how to succeed. In other words, good advice is about tactics whereas effective advice helps you to build systems. Have a system, and lean on it during months like January, 2022.




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