After more than a decade of astronomical growth, the stock market has steadily declined since early 2022. On June 13, the S&P 500 plunged into a bear market, closing by slightly less than 4%, representing a 21% drop from Jan. 3 high. Technology and Blue-chip stocks got hit as severely, with the NASDAQ plunging 4.7% and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) shedding roughly 3%.
Red-hot inflation, volatile market, recession fears, and global uncertainties driven by the Ukrainian war have further exacerbated the situation. Consequently, despite a considerable rebound, investors’ pessimism persists.
Naturally, it’s okay to grow uneasy during a market downturn, especially if you’re a newbie or an average investor. However, you need to understand that bear markets are inevitable and not uncommon. In fact, despite the market or economic downturn that characterizes a bear market, it can present an excellent opportunity to earn returns if you have the right portfolio mix.
Benzinga looks at where you should put your money in a bear market and how these investments will support your financial goals.
Where to Put Your Money in a Bear Market
The best approach to mitigate or manage a persistent bear market run is to invest in stocks with relatively low volatility and a long history of dividend growth. Most of these stocks are found in defensive sectors, including healthcare, consumer staples, utilities, defense, and some real estate equities. Furthermore, short-term debt securities, cash and money markets, and precious metals offer a stable and less volatile investment alternative for a bear market. A look at a few stocks to consider during a bear run.
CVS Health Corp (CVS: NYSE)
Market Cap: $125.47B
Current Price: $95.49
Traditionally whenever the stock market is in a tale spin, the healthcare sector offers a haven for investors. As a defensive healthcare stock, CVS Health possesses a unique profile that makes it outstanding compared to other healthcare stocks. While most recognize it as a retail pharmacy chain, its services go deeper and encompass pharmacy benefit management and health insurance provision. This multi-faceted business model and robust clinical responsibility signify an excellent prospect for long-term growth.
Additionally, this stock offers relatively low volatility with a 0.76% Beta. For the year-to-date average through July, shares were off 7.55%, which still beats the S&P 500 by roughly 6% points. This resilience makes CVS Health a significant bear market stock.
Tips: Beta is a key volatility metric measuring how a stock trades relative to S&P 500. Generally, low-beta stocks lag in a bull run and hold up better in a bear run.
Coca-Cola Co (KO: NYSE)
Market Cap: 278.18B
Current Price: $63.74
Coca-Cola Co (KO: NYSE) remains a formidable giant in the defensive consumer discretionary sector. Its blue-chip pedigree, 61 years of dividend growth, and bullishness are unmatched by any other stock in this sector. Aside from being an S&P 500 dividend aristocrat, it is also a vital member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — this further reinforces its giant blue-chips status. At 9.23%, it is the fourth largest holding for the Berkshire Hathaway equity portfolio. Warren Buffet has been a shareholder since 1988. Its low-beta stock has been instrumental in preventing a downward spiral as the stock market declines. Furthermore, it gained 7.48% in the year-to-date average through July, beating the S&P 500 by about 21%. Despite its drop during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, its rebound has been impressive enough to fend off inflationary-induced bear markets.
General Dynamics Corp (GD: NYSE)
Market Cap: 62.95B
Current Price: $227.98
As the 4th largest defense contractor in the United States, General Dynamics (GD: NYSE) is worth considering as a bear market stock. Its core selling point is its dependable dividends and relatively low volatility. Furthermore, its strong long-term growth potential and high share prices are vital factors. The company’s defensive market characteristics have been well-documented this year. For instance, despite the market decline, the share gained 8.91% in the year-to-date average through July. During the same period, the S&P 500 dropped 13.34%. That is, it beats the S&P 500 by 22.25% points. With over 31 years of consecutive dividend raises and a long-term focus on growth through sales increases and share buy-back, it only makes sense for shareholders to trust this stock during a bear run.
Realty Income Corp (O: NYSE)
Current Price: $72.80
With a massive 10,000 properties, Realty Income (O: NYSE) holds the most extensive net lease portfolio. However, what’s significant about Realty Income is that all its free-standing single-tenant properties are subject to the triple net lease (NNN). A substantial risk at the individual level, considering there’s only one tenant. Nevertheless, the risk potential becomes insignificant when spread over an extensive portfolio. Most rent (up to 80%) comes from retail properties, while the remaining comes from mainly industrial assets and warehouses. Over the years, the company has expanded to include the United Kingdom and Spain while diversifying its portfolio mix. As far as dividend goes, this company is dependable, having maintained an annual raise for 25 consecutive years. This dividend is often collected monthly like a paycheck. This company’s shares don’t go on sale very often, so when you come across it, endeavor to grab it as it’s one of the best REIT stocks for a bear market.
T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS: NASDAQ)
Current Price: $143.35
Most telecommunications stocks are inherently defensive. T-Mobile is, however, outstanding, thanks to its incredible price upside. Its 2020 merger with Sprint helps the company establish itself as a telecommunications giant enabling it to become more innovative. For instance, Sprint’s trove of mid-band spectrum brought to the company facilitated the building of its next-gen 5G network. This gives T-Mobile a competitive advantage over AT&T and Verizon.
Furthermore, the company innovates its approach to service plans, as reflected in subscriber acquisition. T-MUS averaged 22.74% year-to-date through July compared to -13.34 for the S&P 500, a 36.08% difference. In fact, if the company’s recent past is a viable indicator, T-Mobile stands as one of the best bear stocks.
Besides defensive stocks, other alternative investment sources you can leverage to earn return during a bear run are:
Cash and Money Market
As an average investor, after a few months of bear run, it might be a good idea to offload your equity-heavy portfolio so it doesn’t financially bleed further. The cash or money market is one of the best places to set aside funds from your equity sell-off. Cash accounts (bank or credit union savings accounts) present little to no risk since they’re not tied to the stock market. A money market account offered as a deposit through the bank or mutual funds is also a great holding place. Both provide an avenue to earn interest without worrying about fluctuations and make for flexibility. For instance, once you feel comfortable with the market situation, you can easily pull out the money and reinvest it.
Short-term securities like the U.S. Treasuries or government bonds have an inverse relationship with the market. So during a fall in stock prices, their prices rise. During a bear run, trading strategies among investors shift towards safety, creating a higher volume of the U.S. Treasuries held by investors. This causes a price increase that stabilizes investors’ portfolios. Therefore, investing your trade equity in short-term securities makes sense. However, not all bonds are created equal during a bear run, so avoid high-end corporate bonds and go for short-duration debts.
Unlike currency that can drop in value due to federal government monetary policy like printing more money, precious metals ( gold, silver, and many more) retain their inherent value during a bear market since they have a finite supply. They can therefore serve as a hedge against inflation in the market. You can gain exposure to this asset class through physical ownership or invest in an ETF like iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV: NYSE Arca) containing these metals.
What is a Bear Market?
A bear market occurs when a broad market index or stock price drops by 20% or more after hitting a recent high. It is usually characterized by a prolonged drop in investment prices due to investors’ pessimism and low confidence in the market.
The term “bear market” commonly refers to the overall negative performance of the S&P 500 — regarded as the benchmark indicator of the entire stock market. Nevertheless, the term can be used for any stock index ( NASDAQ Composite, Dow Jones Industrial Average, FTSE 100 Index, and many more) or individual stocks with a drop of at least 20% from their recent high. For instance, during the dot-com bubble, the NASDAQ fell by over 75% from a high of about 581% and plunged into a bear market.
The stock market can hit a bear run for various reasons — widespread investor speculations, a weak or slowing economy, geopolitical crisis, irresponsible lending, pandemics, war, over-leveraged investing, oil price movements, and many more. For instance, the 2020 bear market resulted from the global COVID-19 pandemics. While the bear market is tricky to anticipate or manage, the tell-tale signs are always there for intelligent investors to discern. It often starts with a regular stock market dip, followed by a correction, then perhaps premature bargain-hunting. When the trend becomes apparent to an average investor, stock prices have already tumbled, making it tricky to manage or mitigate.
Although unavoidable, bear markets are short-lived, the average duration is roughly 344 days with a loss threshold of 32.1% compared to 1605 days and 152.6% gain for bull markets. Always remember that, although a bull market can run for a long duration, they don’t last forever. So while relishing your gain during a bull run, always tighten your belt and prepare if the market direction changes to a bear run.
Tips: For clarity, a bear market is not the same as a stock market correction. Although often used interchangeably, both define the different magnitude of negative market performance. While a market correction involves at least a 10% drop in stock prices or broad market index, a bear market occurs at the 20% threshold. A market correction is upgraded to a bear market once it reaches or exceeds this threshold.
How to Invest in a Bear Market
Let your Money match your Investment Goals.
Before investing, you need to define the purpose of your investment. A college education? A retirement? And many more. Answering these questions will help you structure your portfolio to match your goal. For instance, the down payments for your dream home, money needed in the short term, and cash you can’t afford to lose are better invested in relatively stable assets like certificates of deposit (CDs), money market funds, and treasuries. A mix of CDs and investment-grade bonds can serve mid-term goals (4-5 years), while the money you don’t need for a long duration (longer than five years ) can be put into volatile assets like stocks.
Rebalance and Reassess your portfolio
The bear market presents an excellent opportunity to reassess your portfolio. For instance, if you’re holding a lot of growth or small-to-mid-cap stocks, it might be time to let go of some of them. The reason is that growth or small-to-mid-caps businesses lack the financial muscle to survive a red-hot inflationary induced bear market. Nevertheless, the idea is not to sell off immediately, as a bear run can present viable opportunities for such stocks. So reassess the situation at your discretion. You can increase your bond holdings in the short run since it guarantees stability while keeping an eye on value vs. growth stock for the long run.
Resist the Urge to Sell off all your Equity
For some investors, especially newbies, once a bear run becomes evident, they tend to sell off everything and move all positions to cash. While this is a great way to protect your money, it’s been proven over time to be counterproductive in the long run. This approach makes little difference in a low-inflation or low-interest environment. Considering the bear market’s short-lived nature, you may lose more money as cash during a high but short inflation period. So regardless of how dismal the market may looks, hold on for at least a few months or less.
Diversify your Portfolio
Every bear market has a segment that’s hit the hardest. While such a segment can’t be predicted ahead of time, you can prepare beforehand or even prevent it by diversifying across asset classes and within the equity market. Diversification implies that your portfolio has a wide variety of investment-grade bonds encompassing corporate, Treasuries, municipal, and possibly foreign issues.
Additionally, these bonds should have different maturity from short-term to mid-term. That way, you’ll always have bond maturing and providing reinvestment or upkeep money at any time. Your long-term investment should encompass a broad array of domestic stocks. These include big and small stocks, fast-growing and dividend-paying stocks, and international stocks. Furthermore, it should also include REITs and commodities. These stock mixes offer exposure to asset classes moving at different times and speeds.
Stay the Course
Investment is a long-term game, so your action during the market decline will largely determine your overall performance over time. The most reasonable approach to a bear run is to wait it out. It can be challenging, with the news headline blaring all day and friends and families selling off. However, your little patience may be rewarded over time. You mustn’t tamper with your investment if you’re in a retirement account like 401(k) or IRA. Else you’ll regret it when the market rebounds.
Seek a Reliable Professional
Professionals can clarify your assets mix or how to react to a sudden downturn. So, seek professional guidance if you’re not confident of your approach to structuring your portfolio or tend to respond brashly to a bear run. Great financial professionals can help overhaul your portfolio and mix it up to withstand the most market-crashing downturn.
Get Help from an Advisor
The market uncertainties that characterize a bear market mean that finding a dependable investment to put your money in can be challenging. However, with the Benzinga guide, you can easily find and choose an investment portfolio that guarantees maximum returns without hassles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you put your money in a market crash?
Various stocks perform well during a bear run. They’re considered defensive stocks and profitable investment assets during a bear run. Nevertheless, you can also leverage short-term debt like Treasuries and money market funds.
Should you hold through a bear market?
Bear markets last only a short time, so it makes sense to hold through a bear market, especially as this will enable you to jump in and earn returns once the market rebounds. Nevertheless, this may depend on the specific stock type and how deep the market falls.
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