NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Now is not the time to panic.
After a sizeable sell-off on Friday and a continued rout in stocks this morning, investors are understandably nervous. In spite of the sharp drop and overly negative sentiment, now is not the time to panic or be overly emotional. If you're part of the crowd that has been chasing performance and has leveraged up on emerging market stocks and high-yield debt, then yes, you should be worried. But if you are like most investors, well diversified with an overweight in U.S. large-cap stocks and a healthy exposure to short-term bonds and cash to mitigate volatility, this market correction should be viewed as an opportunity -- and be welcomed.
Prognosticators and talking-heads are evoking images and comparisons to 2008, with crude oil prices dropping to lows not seen since the financial crisis and daily volatility spiking in a way that's reminiscent of those turbulent times. But 2015 is not like 2008. Seven years ago, credit lines were frozen and there were credible concerns that the foundation of the entire banking system was at risk. Nothing nearly that fundamental is at stake now, to the contrary -- the U.S. economy has proven quite resilient. Employment numbers are improving, the housing market is on solid footing, and overall corporate earnings continue to expand.
Markets have been in a tight trading range since October 2014, while international turmoil has increased and commodity prices have all but collapsed. The reason for this has been the strength of the U.S. economy. This has shifted over the past two weeks after China devalued its currency. Now, the perception is that Chinese weakness could prove contagious, and that the U.S. economy will slow markedly as a result. In our view, this thesis is a bit far-fetched. Certain businesses and commodity driven economies, such as South-Africa, Brazil and Australia, will be harmed by this weakness. Europe and the United States will also feel the effect, but it should be mild and temporary as both economies import more goods from China than they export to the world's second-largest economy. Furthermore, the bearish thesis ignores one key aspect -- the People's Bank of China has a large number of tools it can deploy to stimulate growth.
While the size and breadth of the selloffs are alarming, those too need to be kept in context. Despite the turbulence, it wasn't until Friday that the Dow Jones industrial average entered correction territory -- defined as a 10% drop from a peak, which in this case refers to an all-time record high. The S&P 500 looks to follow suit, but while corrections are never fun to live through, they are a natural part of the market, and one that has been absent from Wall Street in recent years. The S&P hasn't had a correction in a number of years -- an extremely long time by historical standards, and a demonstration of the market's general resilience.
It's understandable if investors are alarmed by the recent news and moves, and it's wise to sit this volatility out and not try and time the market. Still, the fundamental case for equities remains intact, especially if you focus on established companies with a history of paying and raising dividends. The dividend yield to the overall S&P is currently 2.12%, over the 1.94% yield of the benchmark 10-year Treasury bill. While valuations are modestly ahead of historical averages, they're not unreasonably expensive. Economic data continues to improve.
That's all good news for when the situation in China calms or is resolved. Once this volatility passes, Wall Street is well positioned for a fourth-quarter rally. For investors with a long-term view, the decline is creating a sale on equities, but by no means is it a "going out of business" one.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor.