Market Update | May 15, 2023

I was watching Down to Earth with Zac Efron the other night. It’s an inspirational, light-hearted show about travel, culture, and wellness. This episode was filmed on the Australian Pacific coast. A local guide showed Efron a sawfish: a fascinating, endangered fish.

The fish’s jagged rostrum resembles a saw blade. It reminds me of a one-month and a one-year stock market chart. It’s like a whipsaw pattern of moderate highs and moderate lows. Between the highs and lows, the market has been essentially moving sideways like a saw blade.

Sources of volatility are as follows. Investors are watching yet another debt ceiling deadlock between Congress and the White House. Worries about the banking sector continue. Sticky inflation is still on everyone’s radar. And then there’s the endless speculation about recessions and what the Federal Reserve might do next.

It’s natural that investors broadly are feeling cautious. However, that doesn’t mean that we should panic. The stock market might look like a jagged saw blade, but in our view the blade itself seems to be “held” in a flat position, not angled downward. That is reassuring.

Also reassuring is remembering that choppy markets aren’t too strange historically. Corrections and pullbacks happen frequently because there’s always something going on. Despite average intra-year drops of 14.3%, the S&P 500 annual returns were positive in 32 of the past 43 years. Sideways periods can serve as a base from which longer-term growth can resume.

Nature, like the stock market over the long run, wants to heal and grow. I believe both the endangered sawfish and the directionless market will impress over the longer run. Part of what they both need from us is simply space and patience.

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