Stocktake: Is this the time to buy stocks?

Not necessarily logical to spend all your cash, as we have no idea how negative things will get

Board displaying stock prices for Japanese companies on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on March 3, 2020. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

Board displaying stock prices for Japanese companies on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on March 3, 2020. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Howard Marks’ aforementioned note asks: is this the time to buy?

His answer is more nuanced; it’s probably a time to buy, but there is no identifiably unique time to buy. The speed of the virus, authorities’ countermeasures, their effect on the economy, the market reaction – there are too many uncertainties, says Marks.

As for valuation, stocks were moderately overvalued prior to the outbreak, says Marks, so they’re probably fairly valued but not a giveaway following the recent correction. Consequently, it’s “okay to do some buying”, but not necessarily logical to spend all your cash, as we have no idea how negative things will get. Marks suggests investors figure out how much you’ll want to have invested by the time stocks bottom and send part of that now.

If stocks rise, you’ll be glad you bought some; if they keep falling, you’ll have money left to buy more.

“That’s life for people who accept that they don’t know what the future holds”, says Marks. “But no one can tell you this is the time to buy. Nobody knows”.

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