If you Google “trust your…,” some of the most-frequent entries you will see are “trust your gut,” “trust your instincts” and “trust your intuition.” While these are important considerations during the current health and economic crisis, we think they must be balanced with the equally important “trust your instruments”—a fundamental principle in the field of aviation.

A pilot initially learns to navigate using visual reference points on the ground. But at higher altitude, especially under stormy conditions, reference points outside the cockpit mostly disappear. For these circumstances, a pilot is taught to override the body’s physical senses—and instead pay close attention to the instrument display panel. In fact, a pilot flying when visibility is poor must rely almost exclusively on the display indicators.

In our investment process, we benefit from both subjective analysis and our version of “trusting our instruments.” As we steer through the current environment characterized by extreme stock-market volatility and a particularly uncertain future, the objectivity of our instruments has become increasingly valuable. Indeed, our instruments indicate that our portfolios are on course—invested in what we believe are strong companies at appropriate position sizes.

A BATTLE OF EXPONENTIAL FORCES

For stocks, the first quarter of 2020 included one of the worst periods on record. Stocks of companies—large and small, around the world and across all sectors—fell in a synchronous fashion. What was staggering, beyond the magnitude of the declines, was the speed at which stocks fell. Nearly all equity indexes declined between -30% and -40% over the four-week period between February 20 and March 20.

For a pilot, this would be the equivalent of flying through sunny, cloudless skies in one moment and through a Category 5 hurricane in the next. With unthinkable speed, we dove from record employment numbers in the U.S. to a probable global recession.

While we continue to follow the statistics regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus, we do not have a unique view on the pandemic’s duration or magnitude. With the sad reality being that the remedy to slow the spread is a massive coordinated global slowdown in human interaction and commerce, virtually every business in every sector is taking punishment in the storm.