An often over-quoted saying is “The stock market hates uncertainty.” However, the wealthiest investor of all-time has a different perspective about uncertainty:
“The future is never clear. You pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”
Buffett understands the benefits of long-term compounding and the beauty of buying fear and selling greed. Unfortunately, CNBC and every other media outlet do not carry the words “long-term” in their vernacular. Peddling F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty, doubt) equates to eyeballs and clicks, which equates to more advertising dollars. With the volatility index trading at fear-rich Brexit levels above 20, traders are certainly long on F.U.D. Time will tell whether the elections will increase or decrease F.U.D., but unless there is a contested election a la 2000 (Bush-Gore), there will be one less election to worry about and investors can then go back to normal worrying and political bashing.
As I have noted on multiple occasions, from a stock market standpoint, whomever wins (Republican or Democrat) should have no bearing on the performance of the stock market over the medium term as long as there remains gridlock in Washington (see also Fall is Here: Change is Near). Most Americans despise political inactivity, but if like many investors you believe in fiscal discipline, then you prefer fighting over spending, and generally, the more gridlock, the less spending.
In other words, fiscal discipline is likely to win IF there is a split Congress (House & Senate) or if the winning presidential party loses both the Senate and the House. For what it’s worth, Nate Silver, the guy who accurately predicted all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election is currently predicting gridlock (i.e., a split Congress), but the presidential and Congressional polls have been generally tightening across the board. For now, with just three days left before the election, investors have chosen to shoot now, and ask questions later, as evidenced by the 420 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first half of the 4th quarter.
My crystal ball is just as foggy as anybody else’s, and increased volatility in the short-run should come as no surprise to anyone. As in any volatile investment environment, during periods of turbulence, you should compile your shopping list to opportunistically purchase securities selling at a discount. There is no reason to be a hero, but you should prudently deploy cash or readjust your asset allocation, if there is a significant sell-off in risky assets. The same principle works in reverse. If for some unlikely reason, there is a post Brexit-like snapback, one should consider trimming or selling overbought positions.
The main point in periods like these is to let objective reasoning drive your decisions (or lack of decisions), rather than emotions. There has always been a love-hate relationship with uncertainty for traders and investors alike. If you are doing your job correctly, long-term investors should relish F.U.D. because as the saying goes, “This too shall pass.”