The current renewed volatility in financial markets is reviving unwelcome feelings among many investors—feelings of anxiety, fear and a sense of powerlessness. These are completely natural responses. Acting on those emotions, though, can end up doing us more harm than good.
At base, the increase in market volatility is an expression of uncertainty. The sovereign debt strains in the US and Europe, together with renewed worries over financial institutions and fears of another recession, are leading market participants to apply a higher discount to risky assets.
So developed world equities, oil and industrial commodities, emerging markets and commodity-related currencies like the Australian dollar are weakening as risk aversion drives investors to the perceived safe havens of government bonds, gold and Swiss francs.
It is all reminiscent of the events of 2008 when the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the sub-prime mortgage crisis triggered a global market correction. This time, however, the focus of concern has turned from private sector to public sector balance sheets.
As to what happens next, no-one knows for sure. That is the nature of risk. But there are seven simple lessons that individual investors can keep in mind to make living with this volatility more bearable. [Read more…]