One thing I do is ignore the doom-and-gloomers. We don't "need" a recession. Maybe we need a correction, but that means stocks fall 10% from their highs. We're nowhere near that.
What you most need when the market is volatile is your own long-term vision. Here is mine.
I think the next recession starts when so much energy floods the market that prices fall below costs and huge projects are scrapped. The recent action in oil is a warning. Recessions are about excesses that require big write-offs. Until then, I prefer to ride the wave.
Stocks have been drifting slowly for months and those who crave volatility have been getting hammered. Traders and hedge funds have tried jawboning specific stocks such as Apple (AAPL) - Get Report and Family Dollar (FDO) up, they have pushed for breakups like those at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get Report and Symantec (SYMC) - Get Report , but without volatility traders can be replaced by robots. Maybe they should be.
That's why volatility, measured by the CBOE Volatility IndexI:VIX , has spiked in five of the last six Octobers, the exception being in 2010, when stocks were catching up to the end of the Great Recession.
Volatility is an opportunity if you've done your homework first.
First, most professionally managed accounts have 5% to 10% cash in them. Ever wonder why? It's for times like these.
Second, maintain a list of the stocks you'd love to buy if they were cheap. Define "cheap." What price would you invest at to make money five years from now? When markets drop, look at the list and buy only when a stock hits your target. Don't plunge. Just buy a little. Be ready to hold through another dip.
I've been nibbling on Sanchez Energy (SN) - Get Report . I think the Eagle Ford oil play, being closest to refining markets, should remain profitable after others have gone into the red. I still like Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report . I think Boeing (BA) - Get Report makes sense. Feel free to disagree.
I like cloud, and especially cloud customers, who most benefit from cloud's falling costs. I like renewable energy because the costs are falling. I like regional banking and casualty insurers that aren't taking the customers' money to the dog track. I think world trade is going to keep increasing. I don't expect the world to end.
Then go back to your day job. Let time work its magic. Even the worst bear markets pass. The 2008 panic passed. Those who hung in made money. Today the dollar is strong, interest rates are low and technology keeps advancing -- medical technology, energy technology, even computing technology.
During the worst of the 2008 panic, Warren Buffett made some of his very best deals. The tide goes out and value gleams in the autumn sun.
At the time of publication, the author was long AMZN, BA and SN, although positions may change at any time.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
TheStreet Ratings team rates AMAZON.COM INC as a Hold with a ratings score of C. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate AMAZON.COM INC (AMZN) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed ? some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and expanding profit margins. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, unimpressive growth in net income and weak operating cash flow."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: AMZN Ratings Report