Can War Bring Market Volatility? Navigating Geopolitical Uncertainty.

Wars, terrorist activities, and strained relations between nations can have profound impacts on global economies, bringing uncertainty to an already fragile economy.   

Conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine, a potential government shutdown, no Speaker of the House, and rising interest rates have created a particularly unsettling backdrop for investors. So, how can you protect yourself financially during these uncertain times? 

“The Economy is Limping, Not Sprinting”

In the midst of recent geopolitical turmoil and economic challenges, many are feeling apprehensive about the state of the financial markets. Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned the world economy has lost momentum from the impact of higher interest rates, the invasion of Ukraine, and widening geopolitical rifts, and it now faces new uncertainty from the war between Israel-Hamas.

Historically, wars have been known to cause market volatility. The outbreak of war often brings a high degree of uncertainty, especially around economic consequences, causing investors to pull back. This, in turn, impacts global trade and supply chains. Geopolitical conflicts can also affect energy prices, government politics, corporate earnings, and more. 

It’s important to note that the degree of market volatility during war can vary on a variety of factors, including the scale of the conflict, the geographic location, and the overall economic conditions at the time. Despite the concerns surrounding the economy’s current situation, the market’s response has not been as dire as many have expected. Yet.

Recent Market Movements

Currently, the market's reaction appears to be somewhat less pronounced than expected. In the latest premarket activity, the S&P futures are down slightly over 0.8%, and Nasdaq futures have dipped by 0.8%

It’s important to remember that markets are known to assess certain risks slowly, and their responses can evolve over time. 

Potential Volatility Ahead

Given the recent developments in the Middle East, oil prices have seen an increase of over 4% in premarket trading. Despite this rise, crude oil remains below $90 per barrel currently standing at just over $87. This price point is essential for monitoring inflation pressure. 

Additionally, there are lots of conversations about “flight to quality” occurring. Flight to quality occurs when investors in aggregate, begin to shift their asset allocation away from riskier investments and into safer ones. Typically, when this happens, bonds and commodities such as gold rise. Currently, gold is up almost 1% in the premarket, and bond prices have also increased

The VIX (Volatility Index) has jumped nearly 8% in premarket trading, currently sitting at 19. It’s possible for this to increase as the Israel-Hamas war escalates. This is causing many investors to consider ‘Option Skew’. Option Skew, or ‘Volatility Skew,’ is an options trading concept that refers to the difference in volatility between at-the-money options, in-the-money options, and out-of-the-money options. This involves investors seeking downside protection by buying puts in times of increased downside risk. They will often finance these purchases by selling calls. This strategy changes the relationship between calls and puts and reflects how people hedge against unforeseen events. 

Protecting Yourself Against Market Volatility

Protecting yourself against potential market volatility is an essential aspect of managing your investments and financial well-being. While you cannot eliminate all market risks, you can take several steps to mitigate the impact of market volatility on your portfolio. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Diversify Your Portfolio:
  • Diversification involves spreading your investments across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and cash equivalents. Diversifying within asset classes (e.g., owning stocks from various sectors) can also help reduce risk.
  • A well-diversified portfolio is less likely to experience sharp declines in value because not all investments will move in the same direction during market volatility.
  1. Set Clear Investment Goals:
  • Define your investment goals and time horizon. Knowing why you are investing and when you need access to your funds can help you choose appropriate investment strategies.
  • Long-term goals may help you to withstand short-term market fluctuations without making rash decisions.
  1. Build a Balanced Asset Allocation:
  • Your asset allocation should align with your risk tolerance and investment objectives. For example, a more conservative allocation with a higher percentage of bonds and cash may be suitable if you have a low tolerance for risk.
  • Periodically review and rebalance your portfolio to maintain your desired asset allocation.
  1. Consider Dollar-Cost Averaging:
  • Dollar-cost averaging involves investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals, regardless of market conditions. This strategy can help you buy more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high, reducing the impact of market volatility.
  1. Use Stop-Loss Orders:
  • A stop-loss order is a predetermined price at which you will sell an investment to limit potential losses. This can help you avoid significant declines in asset value.

However, be cautious with stop-loss orders, as they may result in selling assets at a loss during temporary market dips.

  1. Hold Quality Investments:
  • Focus on investing in high-quality assets, such as stocks of well-established companies with strong financials or bonds with solid credit ratings. Quality investments tend to be more resilient during market downturns.
  1. Maintain an Emergency Fund:
  • Ensure you have an emergency fund with enough cash or liquid assets to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses. Having this safety net can help you avoid tapping into investments during a market downturn.
  1. Avoid Emotional Decision-Making:
  • Emotional reactions to market volatility, such as panic selling during a downturn, can lead to poor investment decisions. Stick to your long-term investment plan and avoid impulsive moves based on fear or greed.
  1. Stay Informed and Seek Professional Advice:
  • Stay informed about economic and financial news, but avoid making knee-jerk reactions. Consider consulting a financial advisor who can provide guidance tailored to your individual circumstances.

Remember that market volatility is a natural part of investing, and it's impossible to eliminate all risks. The key is to have a well-thought-out investment plan, stick to your strategy, and make adjustments when necessary based on your long-term goals and risk tolerance.

Working With a Trusted Fiduciary Advisor

Working with financial advisors becomes especially crucial in times of market volatility. Market fluctuations, driven by economic uncertainties, geopolitical events, and unforeseen crises, can be unnerving for investors, especially those close to retirement. 

Financial advisors bring their expertise and experience to the table, offering invaluable guidance on how to navigate these turbulent waters. They can help you make informed decisions, create a well-diversified portfolio tailored to your risk tolerance, and devise strategies to help protect your investments during market downturns. Moreover, financial advisors provide the discipline needed to avoid impulsive, emotionally driven actions that can harm your long-term financial goals. By working with a financial advisor, you gain a trusted partner who can help you weather market volatility and stay on track toward achieving your financial objectives.

A Note from Nic J. McLeod

“In times of uncertainty, it's essential to remain informed and stay the course with your long-term investment objectives. While the financial markets may appear calm amidst the storm, it's always wise to be prepared as you navigate these challenging times. Stay vigilant, stay diversified, and stay focused on your financial goals.”

Financial Planning With NJM Wealth Preservation Strategies

Here at NJM, our Wealth Preservation Specialist, Nicolas J McLeod, is a true Fiduciary. Both Nic and his talented team operate by a code of ethics that proudly offers you knowledgeable, honest financial advice - as we believe you deserve nothing less. 

Having helped thousands of families nationwide, we value our foundation of legal and ethical trust with utmost transparency, and we are ready to help you preserve and grow your wealth for a secure and comfortable financial future. 

Contact us here today to set up your complimentary consultation.