7 Survival Steps for The Next Market Panic

Today is “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving when American shoppers swarm around retailers like locusts. It’s an annual rite marked by frenzied shopping that sometimes breaks out into literal violence.

Black Friday is a reminder that the herd instinct among humans runs deep. Which brings me to the herd instinct on Wall Street. The bull market remains alive but we’re overdue for a correction.

When the proverbial “stuff” hits the fan, will you be ready?

Sure, stocks over the long term have historically bounced back from even the worst corrections. But as economist John Maynard Keynes famously said: “In the long run, we are all dead.”

What did this giant of the economics field mean by his oft-quoted remark? Simply this: Immediate financial needs often can’t wait for historical inevitability.

In these perilous market conditions, if you’re a new retiree or getting ready for your golden years, you must emphasize preservation of capital without incurring a disproportionate opportunity cost.

I’m not an alarmist by nature, but there’s no sense in denying reality. Investors are recklessly underestimating a wide array of risks, including trade war, high valuations, and a sputtering global economy.

Read This Story: The Bulls Face a Fork in the Road

Trade tensions have ostensibly eased in recent days, but the U.S. and China are now embroiled in a new cold war that’s likely to clobber investors with “blowback” at some point down the road.

Tariffs raise input costs and dampen economic activity. No one wins a trade war, especially when it’s being waged by the world’s two largest economies. Trade “truces” so far have mostly represented public relations rather than substance.

Let’s be clear: I’m not one of those professional prophets of doom who’ve been predicting the collapse of global capitalism ever since President Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard in 1971.

You can simultaneously stay in the game, while preparing for the worst, by taking these seven “crash proof” measures now.

1) Recalibrate your asset allocations.

The rest of this year promises to be uncertain, with choppy trading and sell-offs ahead. Your capital preservation strategy should include the right asset allocation, tailored to your financial goals.

Asset allocation is an art as well as a science. It’s the investment alchemy whereby you balance several ingredients for the proper admixture of risk and reward. If you’re too heavily weighted towards risky growth stocks, you could pay a steep price in the coming months if many analysts are correct and an economic downturn occurs.

According to some financial industry studies, about 90% of portfolio performance is related to asset allocation. That’s an eye-opening statistic.

Of course, in a bull market, your allocation should emphasize stocks. In a bear market, you should lighten up on stocks in favor of bonds and cash. And in a transitional market that’s “in between,” you should strike a balance. At all times, your portfolio should steer clear of overvalued equities.

Keep plenty of cash on hand, for the bargains that are sure to arise if and when the market crashes. As we enter the late stage of the economic expansion, rotate toward defensive sectors (see chart).

2) Make sure your portfolio contains gold.

Geopolitical turmoil and trade war uncertainties have propelled the price of gold in recent months. Gold probably has further to run.

The rule of thumb is for an allocation of 5%-10% in either gold mining stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or the physical bullion itself.

3) Go to bonds for ballast.

In turbulent waters, bonds can help steady the ship. You may be a growth investor and still several years from retirement, but in this late stage of the economic cycle, don’t give short shrift to fixed-income. You should be rotating toward safe havens. I recommend bond funds, for greater diversification. Notably, short-term bonds are less vulnerable to interest rates than longer-term bonds.

4) Decrease your portfolio’s weighting in cyclicals.

This is no time to be heavily weighted in cyclical sectors, such as consumer discretionary goods. During this latter stage of the economic expansion, rotate into non-cyclical, more stable companies that provide services that are consistently used regardless of market or economic conditions.

Utilities and real estate stocks are great examples. Indeed, the utility sector has been on a tear so far this year. The outperformance of utilities should continue as investors seek safe havens.

5) Diversify among asset categories.

Spread your portfolio among value, large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap, growth and income stocks. One often ignored move is to invest in mid-caps, which provide greater growth potential than large caps but less risk than small caps. A mid-cap is generally defined as a company with a market capitalization between $2 billion and $10 billion.

6) Seek global diversification.

Don’t withdraw from the world stage and become a parochial investor. To be sure, emerging markets are grappling with multiple crises, but the global diversification imperative applies to all geographic regions and countries. Underappreciated overseas investment destinations right now include South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

7) Add quality dividend stocks.

Dividend-paying stocks are proven tools for long-term wealth building, but they’re also safe harbors because companies with robust and rising dividends by definition sport the strongest fundamentals.

If a company has strong enough cash flow (and sufficiently low debt) to generate high and growing dividends, it also means that the balance sheet is inherently solid enough to sustain the company through the sort of uncertainty that bedevils investors today. For a “dividend map” that pinpoints the best high-yielding stocks, click here now.

Questions about portfolio protection? I’m here to help: mailbag@investingdaily.com

John Persinos is the managing editor of Investing Daily.