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Volatility: 10 key messages for investors

Nyhet   •   Aug 25, 2015 14:30 CEST

Equity markets can experience bouts of volatility due to a variety of reasons. Here are 10 key messages and supporting data, plus quotes from well-known investors that can be used to help ease concerns when markets become volatile.


From time to time, there will inevitably be volatility in stock markets as investors react to changes in economic, political and corporate environments. As an investor, your mind-set is critical. When we are prepared at the outset for episodes of volatility on the investing journey, we are less likely to be surprised when they happen, and more likely to react rationally. By having a mind-set that accepts that volatility is an integral part of investing, investors can prepare themselves to take a dispassionate view and remain focused on their long-term investment goals.


Equity investors are rewarded for the extra risk that they face – compared with, for example, bond investors – by higher average returns over the longer term. It is important to remember that risk is not the same as volatility. Asset prices fluctuate more than their intrinsic value as markets over- or under-shoot, so investors can expect price movements to drive opportunity. In the long term, stock prices are driven by corporate earnings and have generally outperformed other types of investment in after allowing for inflation.


Corrections are a normal part of bull markets; it is normal to see more than one over the course of a bull market. A stock-market correction can often be a good time to invest in equities as valuations become more attractive, giving investors the potential to generate above-average returns when the market rebounds. Some of the worst historical short-term stock market losses were followed by rebounds and breaks to new highs.


Investors who remain invested benefit from a long-term upward market trend. When investors try to time the market and stop-and-start their investments, they run the risk of denting future returns by missing the best recovery days in the market and the most attractive buying opportunities that typically become available during volatile times. Missing out on just five of the best performance days in the market can have a significant impact on an investor’s longer term returns.


Irrespective of an investor’s time horizon, it makes sense to regularly invest a certain amount of money in a fund; for example each month or quarter. This approach is known as cost averaging. While it doesn’t promise a profit or protect against a market downturn, it does help investors to avoid investing at a single point in time, lowering the average cost of their fund purchases. And although regular saving during a falling market may seem counterintuitive to investors looking to limit their losses, it is precisely at this time when some of the best investments can be made, because asset prices are lower and will benefit from a market rebound.


Asset allocation can be difficult to perfect as market cycles can be short and subject to bouts of volatility. During volatile markets, leadership can rotate quickly from one sector or market to another. Investors can spread the risk associated with specific markets or sectors by investing into different investment buckets to reduce the likelihood of concentrated losses. For example, holding a mix of growth assets (equities, real estate and corporate bonds) and defensive assets (government and investment-grade bonds, and cash) in your portfolio can help to smooth returns over time. Spreading investments over different countries can also help to bring down correlations within a portfolio and reduce the impact of market-specific risk.*


Sustainable dividends paid by high-quality, cash-generative companies are attractive during volatile market conditions, because they can offer a regular source of income when interest rates are low and there are few income-paying alternatives available. High-quality, income-paying stocks tend to be leading brands that can perform robustly throughout business cycles thanks to their established market share, strong pricing power and resilient earnings. These companies typically operate in multiple regions, smoothing out the effects of patchy regional performance. This through-cycle ability to offer attractive total returns makes them a valid cornerstone for any portfolio.


Reinvested dividends can provide a considerable boost to total returns over time, thanks to the power of compound interest. (See Chart 3.) To achieve an attractive total return, investors need to be disciplined and patient, with time in the market perhaps the most critical yet underestimated ingredient in the winning formula. Regular dividend payments also tend to support share price stability and dividend-paying stocks can compensate for the erosive effects of inflation.


The popularity of investment themes ebbs and flows – for instance, technology has come full circle after a late 1990s boom and 2000s bust. Overall sentiment to emerging markets tends to wax and wane with the commodity cycle and as economic growth slows in key economies like China. As country- and sector-specific risks become more prominent, investors need to take a discriminating view, since a top-down approach to emerging markets is no longer appropriate. But there are still great opportunities for investors at the stock level, as innovative emerging companies take advantage of supportive secular drivers like population growth and expanding middle class demand for healthcare, technology and consumer goods and services. The key point is not to allow the euphoria or undue pessimism of the market to cloud your judgement.


When volatility sends markets sideways, successful stock-picking can be rewarding compared with indifferent returns from passively following the index. Volatility can introduce opportunities for bottom-up stock-pickers, especially during times of market dislocation. At Fidelity, we believe strongly in active management. Because we analyse companies from the bottom up, we are well positioned to make attractive investments when other investors might be shying away from investing, especially during bouts of market volatility.


Historical data can provide useful context that helps investors to both look through volatility and take an unemotional, long-term approach to their investments.

These charts and tables provide compelling evidence for a long-term approach, showing, for example, why with an approach of stopping and starting investments over time, you can run the risk of missing out on some of the best periods of returns.


Inertia can be a positive force once the decision to invest has been made: missing the best days in the market can have a significant impact on your overall investment return.


  • Volatility is a normal part of long-term investing
  • Long-term investors are usually rewarded for taking equity risk
  • Market corrections can create attractive opportunities
  • Avoid stopping and starting investments
  • The benefits of regular investing stack up
  • Diversification of investments helps to smooth returns
  • A focus on income increases total returns
  • Investing in quality stocks delivers in the long run
  • Don’t be swayed by sweeping sentiment
  • Active investment can be a very successful strategy

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Reference in this document to specific securities should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell these securities, but is included for the purposes of illustration only. Investors should also note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon by Fidelity. The research and analysis used in this documentation is gathered by Fidelity for its use as an investment manager and may have already been acted upon for its own purposes. This material was created by Fidelity Worldwide Investment.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

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