Stocks fell sharply the first week of September, clawing back some of the extraordinary gains that major indexes had made over the summer, as investors shifted out of the large tech-oriented companies that had pushed the market higher in recent weeks. Separately, official data showed that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sap the economy’s strength, with the jobless rate coming in at a better-than-expected 8.2% for August, though that number doesn't account for a possible uptick in layoffs following the end of certain government stimulus efforts.
U.S. stocks recovered some from earlier losses as the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend approached. Early selling in technology-oriented and other recent momentum stocks left the tech-focused NASDAQ down more than 5% at its worst, before a buy-the-dip mentality took hold. The NASDAQ was the hardest hit, with a loss of 1.3%. The broad S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Russell 2000 all closed down less than 1%.
“The five companies investors generally refer to as ‘Big Tech’—Amazon, Apple, Google/Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft—received much of the attention in what has turned out to be the fastest stock market recovery in history,” says Liz Ann Sonders, Schwab’s chief investment strategist. “These companies represent just 1% of the stocks on the S&P 500, but now account for nearly a quarter of the index’s market capitalization. This kind of concentration poses a risk, especially when many of the other stocks on the index aren’t performing nearly as well.”
“At the same time, investor sentiment had become frothy, and the past two days of weakness may not be sufficient to ease all of that speculative froth,” she adds.
For further evidence of how relying on just a few of stocks to drive a recovery can create vulnerabilities, just look abroad—international stocks outperformed U.S. stocks during the September 3rd selloff.
“In general, valuations for international stocks have been lower than for U.S. stocks, and international stock performance hasn’t been driven by a handful of stocks, unlike in U.S. markets,” says Jeffrey Kleintop, Schwab’s chief global investment strategist. “Additionally, international stock indexes tend to contain relatively fewer Information Technology stocks, which underperformed, and relatively more Financial Services stocks, which outperformed.”
“International stocks tend to skew more toward cyclical companies than U.S. stocks do,” Jeff says. “This could be a boon if the economic rebound broadens beyond companies that benefit from stay-at-home orders to include other companies.”
What long-term investors can do
- Resist the urge to react to daily market movements. Selling stocks when markets drop can make temporary losses permanent. Staying the course, while difficult emotionally, . This doesn’t mean you should hold on blindly, but we suggest taking into account an investment’s future prospects and the role it plays in your portfolio, rather than being guided by short-term market movements.
In practical terms, . Does the investment no longer fit your strategy—or is fear driving your decision?
At the same time, investors should avoid trying to time the market. This rarely works—but it’s especially difficult to try to time the market around unexpected geopolitical events, like COVID-19. Focus on the time horizon for each goal.
- Make sure your portfolio is consistent with your goals, risk tolerance, and preferences. “When the market is going up and up, it’s easy for investors to think they’re more comfortable with risk than they actually are,” says Mark Riepe, head of the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “Pullbacks have a way of stripping away any illusions on that front.”
“,” Mark adds. “If you’re saving and investing for a goal that is still many years away, then the best response to sudden drops in the market may be not to do anything.”
However, if you’re uncomfortable with market volatility and your goals are short term, you may want to decrease your exposure to riskier assets and move that money to Treasuries or bank certificates of deposit (CDs) to reduce volatility.
- Rebalance your portfolio as needed. Market changes can skew your allocation from its original target. Over time, assets that have gained in value will account for more of your portfolio, while those that have declined will account for less. Rebalancing means selling positions that have become overweight in relation to the rest of your portfolio, and moving the proceeds to positions that have become underweight. It’s a good idea to review your portfolio for rebalancing opportunities at regular intervals, and is worth considering when markets have been very volatile.
“If you are a disciplined longer-term investor that has a diversified strategic asset allocation plan, you could consider more frequent rebalancing tied to how far asset classes have moved relative to [your] longer-term targets,” says Liz Ann.
Schwab clients can log in and use the tool, under the Portfolio Performance tab, to assess whether their portfolios are still in balance with their target asset allocations.
What You Can Do Next
- Need a financial plan? At Schwab, every client can get a complimentary financial plan to help reach their retirement goals. .
- Follow the Schwab Center for Financial Research on Twitter , where we’ll continue to post updates as the situation evolves.
- Read our .
- Find answers to common questions about Schwab customer service at .