Volatility: Opportunities For All

Terry Flanagan

Every year, it seems the financial markets get jolted by an event that causes investor panic, perpetuating a sell-off in the equities market. Yet, those that look past fear see opportunity.

This year, the downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt from triple A to AA+ by Standard & Poor, shattered investor confidence, and “triggered” volatility to surge throughout the markets, according to Scott Armiger, vice president and portfolio manager from Christiana Trust, a division of division of WSFS Bank, based in Delaware. Armiger manages $5.6 Billion.

“Last year, it was the Flash Crash, which concentrated volatility in a couple of hours. Last week, the bulk of volatility was within a week and half,” Armiger said. “Fortunes could have been lost or made. There was something for everybody in stocks, bonds, currencies commodities—depending on the day.”

Armiger referred the inconsistent results of last week’s trading; some of which ended on a positive note, while the market dropped several hundred points on others.

“Short sellers did really well. But long-only managers did well too,” he noted. “You would have made ten percent if you were out on Monday, bought on Tuesday, moved to cash Thursday…the bears and bulls both did well.”

While short volatility plays can be fruitful for some market participants, Armiger, who holds a very long-term view on his portfolio, believes the overall equities market will lag in the second half of the year, due to macroeconomic woes, such as slow GDP growth.

“On a continuing macro level, nothing’s improved. Second quarter earnings were decent, but companies have pared expenses to the bone and they’re buying growth, which is why you see a lot of merger activity,” Armiger noted.

Weakness in the Eurozone surrounding the solvency of countries such as Italy, Greece, and more bearish news about the economies of France and Germany, paints a picture “not so good for stocks,” according to Armiger.

Those not looking to make a quick buck on volatility may have sold off, in fear of losing big-time on their investments. Such sell-off activity is unwarranted if managers are properly allocated in their portfolio, according to Armiger.

“If people sold, based on what happened last week, then they didn’t have the right allocation to begin with. The volatility of the last week is a reminder for investors to have an allocation that’s appropriate for their objective, that’s the key takeaway.”

Armiger advocated the proper diversification across asset classes.

“We’re far up from the 2008 lows—where there was continuous selling. Sometimes a correction is healthy,” he told Markets Media.


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