Mike Larson, editor of Safe Money Report, asks: you remember March 2020, right?
Because I sure do. Covid-19 caseloads were exploding. Airports, train stations, and cruise terminals were shutting down around the world. Layoffs were exploding. Businesses and consumers were going into full lockdown mode. A scary, unprecedented time to be sure...one many investors have tried to put behind them.
But last week, US stocks plummeted the most in any week since they did in that dire month. The S&P 500 (SPX) lost just under 6% in only five trading days, extending the bear market that “officially” began on Monday.
How can that be? What has markets running so scared? Aren’t we in better shape now than we were back then?
Yes, the worst of the Covid pandemic is behind us. Deaths are waning and full-scale lockdowns are history. But the legacy of Covid—and the ghosts of March 2020—are still haunting this market. Supply chains for all kinds of goods are still snarled. Many companies that laid off workers during the Covid crisis still aren’t fully staffed again. Those supply-side issues are like sand in the gears of the American economy.
Meanwhile, the trillions of dollars in stimulus the government threw at the pandemic helped juice demand enormously. They also encouraged investors to do all kinds of dumb things in the markets, from chasing “meme stocks” to buying every two-bit, money-losing, hunk of junk stock Wall Street dumped in their laps.
Result: We now have the worst inflation in more than four decades! We have dozens upon dozens of garbage companies that are crashing and burning, just like in the dot-com bust.
Worse, because the Federal Reserve completely whiffed on recognizing the problems and adjusting monetary policy to compensate, it’s wildly “offsides.” That’s forcing policymakers to act aggressively to get back “onsides” by hiking interest rates in big chunks. That includes the single-biggest hike (75 basis points, or 0.75%) since 1994 last week.
And of course, energy prices have been on a rampage, too. Most of the country is paying around $5 per gallon for gasoline, a nominal record. Natural gas and diesel have surged as well, driving up electricity and transportation costs.
That leaves us in a precarious position. UNLIKE during the depths of the Covid crisis, the government’s hands are tied. The same goes for the Fed.
They CAN’T flood the economy and the markets with stimulus again because inflation is so high. There just aren’t any easy, quick, painless solutions.
Bottom line? This isn’t the time to be a hero. This isn’t the time for high-risk investing. It’s a time to buckle down, buckle up, and invest using “Safe Money” strategies.
It’s also a time to hedge against downside risk...or if you’re comfortable with it, going for big, bear market PROFITS.
Someday we’ll be able to bury the ghosts of March 2020—once and for all. But until then, you have to invest for the markets we have, not the ones we may want.