The only thing more striking than the depth of the recent market rout is its speed. It took the S&P 500 just 22 days to fall 30%, the quickest drop of that magnitude in history. The fast freefall has left little time for equity strategies touting downside protection to deliver it … but give it a moment. Stock selection can help navigate equity market downturns, but it provides greater value over a longer period than three panic-stricken weeks.
At Dana, we pride ourselves on the ability to outperform in sustained bear markets and our strategies did so through both the tech bubble and great financial crisis. This is largely what we would expect, given our investment process. We focus on high-quality companies that trade at a discount to their peers. These companies tend to outperform when the economic outlook sours and the rest of the market gravitates toward companies with stable balance sheets and steady earnings growth.
We see early signs the market is once again starting to differentiate between high and low-quality companies. But a bias toward smaller companies and a tilt toward value hasn’t yet helped us in the current downturn.
As stocks slid from record highs to bear market territory in a matter of days, not months, the thing that would really make a strategy shine in the current market environment is to increase one’s allocation to cash. We view this as a market timing call, however, and it’s simply not what we do.
Is Your Manager a Timer or an Investor?
In the earliest stages of a bear market – particularly this one – the best way to cushion the fall is to hide in cash or short equities. Undoubtedly, there have been some long-only managers that have probably benefited from holding excessive cash positions during the recent rout.