Time actually stood still Monday as financial markets dropped so fast they triggered an internal “circuit breaker” that shut down trading for the first time since 1997.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank about 2,014 points Monday, losing 7.8% of its value and erasing vast amounts of wealth from the portfolios of billionaires down to young workers struggling to contribute to their 401(k) retirement accounts. The decline carried over from last week as investors began reacting to the growing fear of unknowns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
Add in a burgeoning price war regarding oil between Saudi Arabia and Russia and markets raced to find a new bottom.
Amid the wreckage, though, is an opportunity to invest in blue chip stocks well below their previous price, said Steve Larson, CEO of Spokane financial advisers Richards, Merrill & Peterson.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I’ve had five opportunities like that in my career,” Larson said. “As Warren Buffett said: ‘Be greedy when others are fearful.’ This is just another great opportunity.”
Sarah Carlson, founder of Fulcrum Financial Group in Spokane, echoed Larson, saying the American economy was showing signs of strengthening with good job numbers and increasing discretionary income before the first COVID-19 infections became known.
“When there is uncertainty, it’s easy to draw fear and panic,” Carlson said. “It’s always hard when things play out so fast like they have now. When it moves down that fast, it will move up just as fast. If you go to safety and get too defensive, you lose out on the recovery.”
The Dow’s 7.8% drop was the largest one-day decline since the financial crisis of 2008. Stocks fell so sharply that they tripped built-in controls that halted trading for 15 minutes. Oil prices tumbled 24%, their worst day since the 1991 Gulf War, as the coronavirus fallout weakens demand for fuel and Saudi Arabia and Russia refuse to scale back production.
The coronavirus outbreak continues to spread at a rapid clip with more than 110,000 cases worldwide, prompting Italy and Israel to take extreme quarantine measures Monday. The director of the World Health Organization called the threat of a coronavirus pandemic “very real.”
At an impromptu news conference Monday, President Donald Trump announced new plans to cut payroll taxes, provide relief to hourly workers and help the airline, cruise, hotel and travel industries. He said more details about the administration’s economic response would be released Tuesday.
“We are going to take care of and have been taking care of the American public and the American economy,” Trump said.
Carlson, of Fulcrum Financial, said the market drop causes the most concern among older investors who are trying to finish off the portfolios that will fuel theirlives during retirement. Younger investors have decades to recover.
“Buying stocks should be looked at as a side business that can provide for you in the future,” she said. “Normally, we don’t have these sorts of pullbacks. It’s much better to buy right now than a couple weeks ago.”
Larson said investors literally could throw a dart at a board and find a stock that is underpriced.
“It’s a wholesale panic. But Boeing is not going to out of business. FedEx? Come on,” Larson said. “We’ll be behind this virus thing in a few months and people will say, ‘Man. I wish I bought when the market was down.’ ”
Carlson agreed with Larson that past health and national security scares seemed to have evened out in short periods of time. Americans initially stopped flying after 9/11 only to return in record numbers, she noted.
“I think the stock market is always forward thinking. The overall performance of the market will go up,” Carlson said. “The economy will recover depending on how long of duration we are staying in this uncertainty. In past pullbacks, it has been a couple months with medical emergencies. I hope we are not talking about this a year from now.”
Larson said the market had been running hot for a while. The 11-year bull market with rising stock prices started in March 2009 as investors began to emerge from the Great Recession.
“We were overdue for a correction. We were riding on fumes,” he said. “The issue here is everybody owns the same stocks and mutual funds: Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google. When they start to sell those, it snowballs into everything else.”
Larson believes the drop Monday could be as far down as the market goes.
“Smart money will start coming back in here,” he said. “The world is not going to shut down. But if you listen to the news, you would think that is what is going to happen.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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