Not long ago, many investors were kicking themselves for not investing more when the stock market was cheaper. But when stocks fall, like they did last week, many investors have a hard time buying for fear stocks may go lower still.
Who knows, maybe they're right. We have no idea where stocks will close today, nor at the end of the week. Corrections (both small and large) happen from time to time. In hindsight, many claim they knew it was coming, but we don't know anyone who has successfully traded corrections on a consistent basis – we certainly won't try.
We're also skeptical when analysts try to attribute corrections to a particular cause. It's a basic logical flaw: post hoc ergo propter hoc. Because the correction happened after a certain event, that event must have been the cause. But important news and economic events happen all the time. Sometimes the market goes up afterward, sometimes down, and similar events at different times have no discernible impact.
Now some are blaming the Federal Reserve, and specifically statements from Chairman Powell, for the recent in equities. But, according to futures markets, the outlook for monetary policy has barely changed. The markets are still pricing in a path of gradual rate hikes and continued reduction in the size of the Fed's balance sheet.
Let's face it, fretting over the Fed is as old as the Fed itself. In recent years alone, we faced the "Taper Tantrum" and calls for a fourth round of quantitative easing. And remember when the Fed first raised rates and then announced it would reduce its balance sheet? Each time, analysts predicted the apocalypse was upon us – that a recession and bear market were right around the corner. How did those calls pan out?
Exactly, they were wrong, and this time looks no different. QE never lifted stocks, taking it away won't hurt; and interest rates are still well below neutral. The biggest pain has been felt by those who followed the false prophets of doom.
The odds of a recession happening anytime soon remain remote, we it at 10%, or less. And a recession is what it would take for us to expect a full-blown bear market. In other words, the current downdraft is just heartburn, not a heart attack.