The market's still-unfolding turmoil is eerily familiar to 2008. At least that's what George Soros, who made a fortune by shorting the pound on "Black Wednesday" in 1992, would have us believe.
Mortgage crisis, credit crisis, bank collapse, government bailout -- phrases like these flew thick and fast in 2008 when the global recession clobbered markets, investors, companies and ordinary citizens alike. Fast forward to 2016, and the Chinese market meltdown has ominous echoes of the crash. Soros could be scarily correct in his predictions.
Let's dig a little deeper into this story and see if there are any silver linings in these dark clouds.
A number of factors snowballed into creating 2008's collapse. Throughout the fall, major financial markets lost more than 30% of their value. Thus far, U.S. stock market benchmarks have lost 5%. Remember the summer swoon of 2015? Similar volatility triggered a drop of 10% back then. If China, the world's second-biggest economy, is indeed slowing down faster than the market expected, it is very bad news.
Of course, there are several commentators who believe 2016 is not going to be a reprise of 2008. They point to the world economy and mention that the U.S. is in a better financial shape, and that banks are exhibiting stability and health.
And yet, stocks are facing heat every day. The most overvalued stocks are poised to fall the hardest. Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, slowing earnings growth, weak commodities, and slackening global movements are pushing the market to look at the big picture. At the beginning of this year, the S&P 500 was valued at 16.46 times forward earnings, a good two notches above its 25-year average of 14.95 times.
A large part of the comfort factor for 2016 is a certain perception that the Central Banks of Europe, Japan, and the United States ate striving to manage the situation -- albeit, through moves that could birth other resultant issues. But if China isn't capable of reinforcing its growth curve, who leads the procession of global growth? Will the U.S. Fed then reduce rates (which would be an embarrassment for the central bank), if the U.S. economy fails to go forward?
If Soros' words seem unreliable, you should listen to Marc Faber's comments. The Swiss investor, famed for the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, predicts that the stock-market downturn could result in the S&P 500 hitting lows unseen in five years.
The problem with market crashes is the multiplicity of the situation, coupled with the spread of the malaise that drags down weaker equities. In 2008, housing and credit was the principal factor -- which since then has been cured. However, 2016 could witness a fresh clutch of problems appearing from different spaces.
Panic-driven stock selling is here to stay. Financial turbulence as well. If there isn't requisite growth, layoffs will follow, in the usual order of things, clearly echoing memories of 2008.
One must remember, the U.S. housing crisis could very well afflict another country. In fact, China's infrastructure spending and borrowing boom is an alarming area of concern for 2016.
We believe George Soros' words need to be taken very seriously. But not all is bleak.
The good thing is you can probably invest in assets even when the market goes south. Dividend stocks, for instance are an excellent source of stable income. It is absolutely important to select the right stocks. Earnings are being trimmed even as we speak.
Stocks in the pharmaceutical, consumer, and utilities space should be looked at. Dividends in these sectors are better protected than others because even if Wall Street goes bust tomorrow, people will continue consuming the essentials -- food, medicines, non-discretionary consumer products, gas and electricity. The telecommunication sector could also throw up some defensives.
AT&T and Vodafone, Wal-Mart, Reynolds American, GlaxoSmithKline, and Consolidated Edison Inc. are some of the other safer alternatives.
If you are certain of markets falling another 5%-to-10%, it would be prudent to stick to investments that make money when markets fall. Enter: Inverse ETFs. You could look at options like Short S&P500, UltraShort S&P500, UltraPro Short S&P500, Short MSCI Emerging Markets and Short Russell2000.
And finally, if you buy into the Soros argument and believe history will repeat itself in 2016, you may like to pick up the stocks that actually did well at the time of the 2008 crash. The best performers from that terrible year include Royal Gold Inc., Ross Stores Inc. and Laclede Group Inc.
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