Pattie Lovett-Reid: What investors need to know about market reaction to the new COVID-19 variant
Global markets have been selling off on the fear of a new COVID-19 variant found in South Africa.
The new, potentially more transmissible variant prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to call an emergency meeting Friday. Canadian government officials are also meeting to address the efficacy of the current vaccines and possible treatment options.
While the number of confirmed cases is small for now, scientists have concerns around the high number of mutations in the variant's spike protein.
My point is, we just don't know where this will go.
What we do know, is the markets are thinly-traded due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and liquidity levels much lower than usual. The U.S. markets also close at 1:00 p.m. ET and there will be some who will not want to hold positions in stocks going into the weekend.
Meanwhile, North American markets opened sharply lower Friday. Oil has pulled back significantly and at one point trading below US$70.00 a barrel due to fears that demand could wain if further lockdowns and restrictions are put into place. Investors have been flocking to the safety of the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond and gold.
You have to wonder at this point if this is an overreaction.
As an investor what should you consider? Begin by considering the facts:
1. Investors and the market hate uncertainty and when we do have uncertainty, it creates volatility.
2. It isn't comfortable, but we have been here before. However, we haven't dealt with a significant new variant in a while.
3. In the past, the markets recovered and the risk sentiment came back. There is no guarantee this will happen again, but it is something to consider.
So let's get back to fundamentals:
1. Look at your portfolio to ensure your investments are aligned to who you are as an investor and how comfortable your tolerance for risk is. How much can you afford to lose and how much are you willing to lose?
2. If you are a balanced investor with a long-term perspective you likely have been here before and stayed the course.
3. In the heat of a trading day try not to let your emotions dictate your investment decisions. Sometimes doing nothing is the hardest decision.
Finally, it isn't inconceivable there will be investors who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a buying opportunity. In other words, they might benefit from a little volatility.