Reflections on recent volatility

The technical details which appear to have created significant selling last week began in the options market after-hours on Friday, February 3rd and are quite extraordinary. For those who are interested in taking a deeper dive, simply Google “what happened to XIV” and you will learn quite a bit about trading volatility. Best we can tell, the unwinding of this particular trade played a significant role in taking what would have just been a bad day in the market to seeing equity indexes enter into “correction territory” – a 10% pullback from recent highs – in 4 days.

Corrections should be seen as a healthy resetting of valuations. They should also remind us to take a look at the risks inherent in any investment strategy – the risk of loss.
Over the past year, Axxcess has been working on the development of a new set of tools to help monitor portfolio risk. The development of these tools has allowed our Advisor’s to “stress test” portfolios against a variety of technical, policy-driven, and economic scenarios.
What is unique about these tools is how they illustrate the potential impact risks can have on both current portfolios and proposed strategies by using historical research and analysis on how economic indicators are correlated. The most important outcome is an understanding of each portfolios’ sensitivity to market movements and the potential sensitivity to loss. Measuring this becomes extremely useful when coupled with an understanding of your sensitivity to loss.
How do we do that? We have created a risk tolerance survey and incorporated a scoring methodology that evaluates your sensitivity to loss. Instead of outputting only a score, our methodology creates a measure of this risk in percentage terms. For example, a conservative investor score translates to a portfolio with a potential loss exposure of 10% or less.
We have highlighted trending scenarios here.
Risk Tolerance is required to be revisited with clients at least annually. A number of things can change your Risk Tolerance Score: job change, income, age, or changes in life circumstances such as the birth of a child, death, divorce, and/or sale or acquisition of a business or real estate, etc.  It is important to make sure that your investment risk tolerance matches your portfolio allocations when selecting your investments.
We have developed a secure, online form that will score and record your responses in lieu of sending out a paper questionnaire.

Looking Ahead

2018 has begun with strong economic growth. GDP as forecasted is expected to rise more 4% in the first quarter. More than 85% of companies in the S and P 500 beat earnings expectations. Wage growth increased 2.9% over the past year.  With corporate tax reform becoming law, the financial health of US businesses should continue to improve.
However, with strong future expectations, comes inflation. With inflation comes higher borrowing costs. Inflation has been benign for several years, and as we see new policy implemented,  both stock and bond markets will need to digest new data. In short, you should expect more volatility in 2018.  Historically the equity markets have been roughly twice as volatile as they were in 2017. Sudden spikes give the financial media a lot of material to focus on. Dealing with volatility can be unnerving at times, but it is a more normal behavior of markets.