It has now been more than 14 months since the “Covid-19 panic” set in and I started the miniseries “Panic Journal”. After the first and fourth season episodes of Season 2, I think now is the time to close the series. Of course, Covid-19 is not over yet and the virus is currently raging in India like never before.
For the stock market, however, the virus and pandemic appear to be “the news of the past year”. I think there is little risk that some of the virus mutations could be a problem. On the other hand, the “magic” of the mRNA vaccine appears to be a decent risk mitigation factor.
In retrospect, what are the most important findings / surprises for me from an investment perspective?
- The purchase of the dip worked wonderfully again
An entire generation (or even two generations) of investors now have firsthand experience that buying the dip always works for the market as a whole. Personally, I started my first “baby steps” in 1987 and even then it was a good opportunity to buy into the crash.
To be honest, this could be dangerous learning. This time, for example in March 2020, nobody could have known that mRNA vaccines would hit the market at such short notice. Additionally, Covid-19 prevented DT from ruling America for another 4 years, so the damage was limited. Also, the unprecedented spending by governments, particularly in the US, came as a positive surprise to me, at least. And of course, super low or negative interest rates make debt security easy.
Personally, I think we’ll have a break-in at some point where aggressively buying the break-in will be a mistake, like it was in the 1970s or 1920s / 1930s. If this will be in the next 2-3 years, 5 years or 10 years, one can only guess. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone blindly shopping into the next big dip.
2. Trying to time the market is too difficult for me
During the pandemic, I tried to time the market a few times, for example when I was selling Italian stocks early last year because I (correctly) expected that there would be almost no tourist season. Or when I thought buying digital companies in April 2020 was too late because everything is already priced in. However, it is very difficult to forecast events and the reaction of the stock market together. You may be right about what will happen in the real world, but you can still be wrong about what the stock market does. Some timing bets worked better, but in general the episode made it clear to me personally that I am really bad at timing.
3. Overall, there have been very few major explosions or bankruptcies
With the exception of a few smaller blasts such as Wirecard, Greensill or recently Archegeos and Huarung in China, very little happened in spectacular blasts. It is clear that the change or repeal of the bankruptcy regime, in addition to the direct help (Lufthansa, TUI, etc.), contributed a lot. Looking ahead, it will be very interesting to see what happens when these bankruptcy rules are reintroduced. This could be pushed further and further. In Germany, for example, I am very sure that no politician will be interested in reinstating them before the autumn elections.
Whether this will be a small problem or a big one is hard to say, but there should be something to see. Personally, I would be careful when buying things that “still look cheap”. That may work for some stocks, but for a lot of companies that had problems before (retail, auto parts, etc.) the future won’t suddenly look bright just because Covid-19 will be over soon.
4. The scores for many badly affected sectors are higher than before
For example, if I look at my own portfolio, Richemont and Sixt, two companies directly affected by the pandemic, both are trading well above pre-pandemic levels. While both companies could stand out more than their competitors, they will take 2-3 years to fully recover. Therefore, the “error rate” for these companies is very low. You really have to deliver.
5. Make more money than ever before looking for risky investments than before
To be honest, one of the biggest surprises for me was the fact that VC funding and IPOs were coming back so quickly. After hitting a bubble in the second quarter of 2020, the business has turned into unprecedented insanity. Tiger Global, for example, makes Softbank look like a hardworking investor in the VC space. Who needs to do late due diligence on a VC deal when you can “SPAC” something in a matter of months? In my opinion, there will be a lot of WeWorks, Nikolas, etc. among these late-stage SPACs and VC companies, especially in the later years. We’ll find out pretty soon if there are any good companies among the later SPACs.
Things are even crazier in Cryptoland. The underlying technology issues haven’t changed much since I took a closer look at Bitcoin in 2016, but somehow the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed, aided by promotions from “heroes” like Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk. I can honestly say that I have no idea what is going on in Cryptoland, but since it is an unregulated market, anything can happen there.
6. Big Tech seems to have won
At this point, “Big Tech” seems to have won. In contrast, they did not suffer during COvid-19 as they provided the tools necessary for work at home and replaced other entertainment options. Most big tech companies received a huge boost during the pandemic and saw their ratings sore.
The question here, in my opinion, is what happens when we all go back to “normal” and if and when governments will crack down on fairly obvious monopoly behavior (App Store Sand etc). Maybe it’s too late for that.
I found it almost impossible for a company like Apple to double its rating again, but who knows
7. Somehow the fight against climate change got serious, this time fueled by the financial sector
On a positive note, a “turning point” has been reached in the fight against climate change. Although the Friday for the Future movement has stalled at home, many large investors have begun to take this seriously instead of just “washing green” their old activities. A lot of money is pouring into space, including in new promising technologies, and renewable energies are getting cheaper and cheaper. Mr. Biden brought the US back into the game and a lot of things are happening.
This is one of the areas that I will focus a lot more on in the future.
As mentioned above, despite some remaining risks, the peak of the pandemic appears to be behind us.
Looking ahead, however, I think it is risky to believe that all problems will now disappear and that we will experience a multi-year super boom that will lead to yet another big general stock market party.
I am not predicting a crash either, as the pandemic has clearly shown me that I know a lot less about (current) markets than I thought. So the best thing is to keep trying to learn what is going on and not trying to make decisions based solely on past experience.