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5 Lessons About Volatility to Learn From the History of Markets

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In 2018, the re-emergence of volatility took many market participants by surprise.

After all, aside from a few smaller, intermittent spikes over the course of the current bull market, volatility has largely been in a long-term downtrend since the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Whether there is more volatility lurking ahead this year or whether the markets continue to calm, it’s worth looking at the last century of market history to put these recent bouts of volatility into context.

Learning From the History of Markets

Today’s infographic comes to us from New York Life Investments and it goes back in time to show us that the volatility experienced in 2018 was neither exceptional or unusual.

Here are five important lessons to learn from it all:

5 Lessons About Volatility to Learn From the History of Markets

With volatility back on the table again, investors are re-learning what it’s like to cope with a sometimes tumultuous market.

Higher volatility can be a source of uncertainty for even the most seasoned investors, but a look at historical data over the last century helps to ease these concerns.

5 Lessons About Volatility

Here are five lessons about volatility that we can learn from the history of markets:

Lesson #1: Volatility isn’t new
Volatility isn’t a new phenomenon – and it’s actually as old as the stock market itself. In fact, if you look at historical swings in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you’ll see that many of the biggest ones were more than 80 years ago.

Lesson #2: Volatility is actually the status quo
In the last century, volatility has been ever-present in the markets, and between 1935 and 2018 the S&P 500 has seen:

  • 4,563 total days with +/- 1% price movements
  • 1,094 total days with +/- 2% price movements

That works out roughly to a 1% price swing every trading week – and a 2% price swing every month. Yet, over this lengthy time period, and after all of that volatility, the S&P 500 has grown by 25,290%.

Lesson #3: Any short-term volatility disappears with a long-term view
Daily price swings can feel like a roller coaster. But if you take a step back and look at the big picture, this volatility is just a blip on the radar.

For example, if you look at a chart of the S&P 500 from August 1990 to February of 1991, you’ll see that daily volatility was rampant. But zoom out to a 10-year chart, and these daily or weekly swings are barely noticeable.

Lesson #4: Volatility can be easily weathered with a resilient portfolio
Given that volatility has been around forever and that it’s extremely common, that makes it fairly unavoidable. Therefore, to weather periods of volatility, it is imperative to build a resilient portfolio by diversifying between different asset classes.

Certain assets are better at weathering periods of volatility than others. Here are some traits to look for:

(a) Low correlation with the market
These assets can zig when others zag, making them a valuable hedge (Examples: Gold, alternative assets, municipal bonds)

(b) Generates cash flow
When times are uncertain, the market puts extra value on assets that are generating real cash flow (Examples: Stocks that pay dividends, or bonds that pay interest)

(c) Defensive or non-cyclical
During uncertain times, there are still companies with stocks that will thrive. They are usually bigger companies with conservative balance sheets and durable competitive advantages. (Examples: Quality stocks in healthcare, consumer staples, telecoms, REITs, and utilities sectors)

Lesson #5: Volatility reminds us that there is no reward without risk

Investing in stocks comes with risks, but it also comes with the best returns over time:

Asset TypeAnnualized real return, 1925-2014
U.S. Equities6.7%
Government Bonds2.6%
Cash0.5%

If stocks offer the best long run gains – and volatility is an unavoidable aspect of investing in stocks – then we must learn to accept volatility for what it is.

Even better, we must learn to build resilient portfolios that can weather any storm, while minimizing these effects.

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China

COVID-19 Crash: How China’s Economy May Offer a Glimpse of the Future

China has seen a severe economic impact from COVID-19, and it may be a preview of what’s to come for countries in the early stages of the outbreak.

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COVID-19 economic impact

The Economic Impact of COVID-19

China, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, appears to be turning a corner. As the number of reported local transmission cases hovers near zero, daily life is slowly returning to normal. However, economic data from the first two months of the year shows the damage done to the country’s finances.

Today’s visualization outlines the sharp losses China’s economy has experienced, and how this may foreshadow what’s to come for countries currently in the early stages of the outbreak.

A Historic Slump

The results are in: China’s business activity slowed considerably as COVID-19 spread.

Economic IndicatorYear-over-year Change (Jan-Feb 2020)
Investment in Fixed Assets*-24.5%
Retail Sales-20.5%
Value of Exports-15.9%
Industrial Production-13.5%
Services Production-13.0%

*Excluding rural household investment

As factories and shops reopen, China seems to be over the initial supply side shock caused by the lockdown. However, the country now faces a double-headed demand shock:

  • Domestic demand is slow to gain traction due to psychological scars, bankruptcies, and job losses. In a survey conducted by a Beijing financial firm, almost 65% of respondents plan to “restrain” their spending habits after the virus.
  • Overseas demand is suffering as more countries face outbreaks. Many stores are closing up shop and/or cancelling orders, leading to an oversupply of goods.

With a fast recovery seeming highly unlikely, many economists expect China’s GDP to shrink in the first quarter of 2020—the country’s first decline since 1976.

Danger on the Horizon

Are other countries destined to follow the same path? Based on preliminary economic data, it would appear so.

The U.S.
About half the U.S. population is on stay-at-home orders, severely restricting economic activity and forcing widespread layoffs. In the week ending March 21, total unemployment insurance claims rose to almost 3.3 million—their highest level in recorded history. For context, weekly claims reached a high of 665,000 during the global financial crisis.

“…The economy has just fallen over the cliff and is turning down into a recession.”

Chris Rupkey, Chief Economist at MUFG in New York

In addition, manufacturing activity in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware dropped to its lowest level since July 2012.

Globally
Other countries are also feeling the economic impact of COVID-19. For example, global online bookings for seated diners have declined by 100% year-over-year. In Canada, nearly one million people have applied for unemployment benefits.

Hard-hit countries such as Italy and Spain, which already suffer from high unemployment, are also expecting to see economic blows. However, it’s too soon to gauge the extent of the damage.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Given the near-shutdown of many economies, the IMF is forecasting a global recession in 2020. Separately, the UN estimates COVID-19 could cause up to a $2 trillion shortfall in global income.

On the bright side, some analysts are forecasting a recovery as early as the third quarter of 2020. A variety of factors, such as government stimulus, consumer confidence, and the number of COVID-19 cases, will play into this timeline.

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COVID-19

The Hardest Hit Companies of the COVID-19 Downturn: The ‘BEACH’ Stocks

As investor confidence across the travel industry slumps amid COVID-19, market capitalizations across ‘BEACH’ stocks shrink to unprecedented levels.

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beach stocks market cap decline

BEACH Stocks: $332B in Value Washed Away

The market’s latest storm has plunged the global travel industry into uncharted territory.

Since the S&P 500 market high on February 19, 2020, market capitalizations across BEACH industries—booking, entertainment, airlines, cruises, and hotels—have tumbled. The global airline industry alone has seen $157B wiped off valuations across 116 publicly traded airlines.

Investor confidence in cruise lines has also dropped. Between Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, over half of their market value has evaporated—equal to at least $42B in combined market capitalization.

Today’s infographic profiles the steep losses across BEACH companies. It looks at the ripple effects across individual companies and industries from the February 19 peak to date*.

*All numbers as of market close on March 24, 2020

Falling Off A Cliff

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to over 100 countries, many governments have implemented sweeping travel restrictions.

The impact across BEACH industries is far-reaching, with some valuations declining to nearly a quarter of their previous total.

CompanyTickerCategoryMarket Cap: 02/19/2020Market Cap: 03/24/2020% Change
Booking Holdings
BKNGBooking$80.8B$51B-37%
Expedia GroupEXPEBooking$17.1B$8.1B-53%
Allegiant TravelALGTBooking$2.7B$1.4B-47%
Live Nation LYVEntertainment & Live Events$16.3B$9.1B-44%
Six FlagsSIXEntertainment & Live Events$3.2B$1.1B-66%
Cedar FairFUNEntertainment & Live Events$3.1B$1.3B-58%
The Walt Disney CoDISEntertainment & Live Events$255.1B$177B-31%
Penn National GamingPENNEntertainment & Live Events$4.3B$1.6B-63%
Delta Air LinesDALAirlines$37.5B$17.8B-52%
United Airlines UALAirlines$19.7B$8.4B-57%
American Airlines AALAirlines$12.1B$6.1B-50%
Southwest AirlinesLUVAirlines$29.5B$19.7B-33%
Alaska Air GroupALKAirlines$8B$3.7B-54%
Air Canada (in USD)ACAirlines$8.3B$2.8B-67%
CarnivalCCLCruise & Casino$30.8B$10B-67%
Royal Caribbean CruisesRCLCruise & Casino$23.2B$7.5B-68%
Norwegian Cruise LinesNCLHCruise & Casino$11.1B$3.1B-72%
Las Vegas SandsLVSCruise & Casino$52.8B$35.1B-34%
MGM Resorts InternationalMGMCruise & Casino$16.2B$6.2B-68%
Wynn ResortsWYNNCruise & Casino$14.6B$7.2B-51%
Caesars EntertainmentCZRCruise & Casino$10B$4.2B-58%
Eldorado ResortsERICruise & Casino$5.4B$1.3B-76%
Marriott InternationalMARHotels & Resorts$48.3B$25.7B-48%
HiltonHLTHotels & Resorts$31.3B$19.4B-38%
Hyatt HotelsHHotels & Resorts$9.1B$4.9B-46%
Choice Hotels InternationalCHHHotels & Resorts$6B$3.2B-46%
Wyndham Hotels & ResortsWHHotels & Resorts$5.6B$2.9B-48%
Park HotelsPKHotels & Resorts$5.5B$1.9B-66%
Vail ResortsMTNHotels & Resorts$9.98B$5.8B-41%
Marriott Vacations WorldwideVACHotels & Resorts$5.3B$2.2B-59%

For instance, the consequences on various travel bookings brands have been severe. Booking Holdings, the parent company to Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak and OpenTable, witnessed share price declines of over 35% since the peak.

Empty Stadiums

Across the entertainment industry, ticket sales for concerts, movies, and other events are falling precipitously due to cancellations or postponements.

Upwards of $5B in global film industry losses could result from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chilling footage of the Las Vegas strip, as well as other tourist epicenters around the world, shows deserted streets as visitors opt to stay home instead.

Bracing For Impact

Meanwhile, worldwide airline revenue is estimated to fall by as much as $113B in 2020.

In under two months, the share price of Delta Airlines has fallen over 50% as the company anticipates a capacity reduction of 40%, the largest in its history.

CompanyTickerFeb 19 2020 Share PriceMar 24 2020 Share Price
Delta Air LinesNYSE:DAL$58.5$26.9
United Airlines NASDAQ:UAL$79.4$33
American Airlines NASDAQ:AAL$28.3$13.9
Southwest AirlinesNYSE:LUV$56.89$37.7
Alaska Air GroupNYSE:ALK$65.2$28.9
Air Canada (in CAD)TSX:AC$45.3$15.1

The global airline industry—which employs over 10M people—supports $2.7T in global economic activity across an average of 12M passengers per day.

Aruba, Jamaica No More

As for the cruise line industry, global operations came to a 30-day standstill in mid-March. Over 800 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths across three cruise ships have been discovered.

“COVID-19 on cruise ships poses a risk for rapid spread of disease, causing outbreaks in a vulnerable population, and aggressive efforts are required to contain spread.”

CDC

Carnival, a Miami-based company, has witnessed its share price fall to around one third of its February 19 value. Similarly, Royal Caribbean Cruises, which has seen its market cap plummet almost 70%, announced that it will suspend trips until mid-May.

Occupancy Dilemma

As the hotel industry is impacted by the global outbreak, share prices have also realized a significant slump. In the U.S., an estimated $1.4B in revenue is vanishing each week. If occupancy levels fall by just 30% this year, the U.S. hotel industry could see approximately 4 million jobs wiped out.

The Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index, which serves as a benchmark for the sector’s overall health, has declined over 47% year-to-date.

baird hotel stock index

Global Stimulus Response

A number of travel industries around the world are calling for stimulus packages.

On March 25, the U.S. Congress finalized a historic $2T deal, which includes $25B in grants for the airline industry. In the UK, officials are providing small businesses in hospitality and leisure grants that are worth up to $30,000 as part of its $400B bailout plan.

China, Germany, Italy, and Spain have outlined multibillion dollar proposals in response to COVID-19. Overall, at least eleven countries have announced stimulus plans along with the European Commission and the IMF.

When Will the Travel Wave Hit Again?

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic one thing is clear: the impact on the travel industry will have a marked effect on the broader economy.

Travel is closely linked with oil, as transportation accounts for over 60% of global demand. In Q2 2020, global oil consumption is projected to fall by 25M barrels per day.

Along with this, discretionary consumer spending makes up over one third of America’s GDP. The impact of the pandemic across this sector is expected to contribute to a 10% decline or more in U.S. GDP for the second quarter.

As conditions materially improve around the world—with China beginning to open up flights—positive signs are emerging from under the surface. Will BEACH industries quickly bounce back as infection rates drop, or will a slow and painful recovery unfold in the months ahead?

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