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Timing the Market: Why It’s So Hard, in One Chart

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Timing the Market: Why It's So Hard, in One Chart

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The Risks and Rewards of Timing the Market

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Timing the market seems simple enough: buy when prices are low and sell when they’re high.

But there is clear evidence that market timing is difficult. Often, investors will sell early, missing out on a stock market rally. It can also be unnerving to invest when the market is flashing red.

By contrast, staying invested through highs and lows has generated competitive returns, especially over longer periods.

The above graphic shows how trying to time the market can take a bite out of your portfolio value, using 20 years of data from JP Morgan.

The Pitfalls of Timing the Market

Mistiming the market even by just a few days can significantly affect an investor’s returns.

The following scenarios compare the total returns of a $10,000 investment in the S&P 500 between January 1, 2003 and December 30, 2022. Specifically, it highlights the impact of missing the best days in the market compared to sticking to a long-term investment plan.

Portfolio ValueAnnual Return (2003-2022)
Invested All Days$64,844+9.8%
Missed 10 Best Days$29,708+5.6%
Missed 20 Best Days$17,826+2.9%
Missed 30 Best Days$11,701+0.8%
Missed 40 Best Days$8,048-1.1%
Missed 50 Best Days$5,746-2.7%
Missed 60 Best Days$4,205-4.2%

As we can see in the above table, the original investment grew over sixfold if an investor was fully invested for all days.

If an investor were to simply miss the 10 best days in the market, they would have shed over 50% of their end portfolio value. The investor would finish with a portfolio of only $29,708, compared to $64,844 if they had just stayed put.

Making matters worse, by missing 60 of the best days, they would have lost a striking 93% in value compared to what the portfolio would be worth if they had simply stayed invested.

Overall, an investor would have seen almost 10% in average annual returns using a buy-and-hold strategy. Average annual returns entered negative territory once they missed the 40 best days over the time frame.

The Best Days in the Market

Why is timing the market so hard? Often, the best days take place during bear markets.

RankDateReturn
1Oct 13, 2008+12%
2Oct 28, 2008+11%
3Mar 24, 2020+9%
4Mar 13, 2020+9%
5Mar 23, 2009+7%
6Apr 6, 2020+7%
7Nov 13, 2008+7%
8Nov 24, 2008+7%
9Mar 10, 2009+6%
10Nov 21, 2008+6%

Over the last 20 years, seven of the 10 best days happened when the market was in bear market territory.

Adding to this, many of the best days take place shortly after the worst days. In 2020, the second-best day fell right after the second-worst day that year. Similarly, in 2015, the best day of the year occurred two days after its worst day.

Interestingly, the worst days in the market typically occurred in bull markets.

Why Staying Invested Benefits Investors

As historical data shows, the best days happen during market turmoil and periods of heightened market volatility. In missing the best days in the market, an investor risks losing out on meaningful return appreciation over the long run.

Not only does timing the market take considerable skill, it involves temperament, and a consistent track record. If there were bullet-proof signals for timing the market, they would be used by everyone.

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Markets

Visualizing Berkshire Hathaway’s Stock Portfolio (Q1 2024)

We visualized the latest data on Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio to see what Warren Buffett is invested in.

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Visualizing Berkshire Hathaway’s Portfolio as of Q1 2024

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Wondering what the Oracle of Omaha has his money invested in?

In this graphic, we illustrate Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio holdings, as of Q1 2024. This data was released on May 15, 2024, and can be easily accessed via CNBC’s Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio Tracker.

The value of each position listed in this graphic is based on market prices as of May 23, 2024, and will change over time.

Furthermore, note that Berkshire has received SEC permission to temporarily withhold data on certain positions. This includes all of its Japanese stocks, which are reported as of June 12, 2023.

It’s (almost) all Apple

The data we used to create this graphic can be found in the following table. Positions worth less than $5 billion were included in “Other”.

Company% of PortfolioValue
(As of 05-23-2024)
🇺🇸 Apple Inc39.7$149.8B
🇺🇸 Bank of America10.7$40.6B
🇺🇸 American Express9.7$36.8B
🇺🇸 Coca-Cola6.7$25.2B
🇺🇸 Chevron5.3$20.0B
🇺🇸 Occidental Petroleum4.2$15.7B
🇺🇸 Kraft Heinz3.1$11.7B
🇺🇸 Moody’s2.7$10.2B
🇯🇵 Mitsubishi Corp2.1$7.8B
🇺🇸 Chubb1.9$7.1B
🇯🇵 Mitsui & Co1.7$6.4B
🇯🇵 Itochu Corporation1.5$5.5B
🇺🇸 DaVita1.3$5.0B
🌍 Other9.4$35.9B
Total100$377.9B

From this, we can see that Berkshire’s largest position is Apple, which makes up almost 40% of the portfolio and is worth nearly $150 billion.

While Warren Buffett once referred to Apple as the best business in the world, his firm actually trimmed its position by 13% in Q1 2024.

Even after that cut, Berkshire still maintains a 5.1% ownership stake in Apple.

Why Japanese Stocks?

While most of Berkshire’s major positions are in American companies, Japanese firms make up a significant chunk.

In 2020, Berkshire took positions in five Japanese trading houses: Itochu, Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, and Sumitomo.

Also known as sōgō shōsha, which translates to “general trading company”, these firms are highly diversified across major industries.

According to an article from IMD, Buffett sees an attractive opportunity in Japan due to the country’s low-interest rates, among other things.

Learn More About Investing From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this graphic, be sure to check out Visualizing the Growth of $100, by Asset Class (1970-2023).

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