Reading too much into news & Wall Street movement can derail our financial plan

Very often we try to check the Wall Street movement and the futures to have an idea of what is likely to happen in the local stock market at the start of the trading day. After all, the Wall Street houses a few largest exchanges in the world. Most of us see this totally out-of-phase time difference as an important leading indicator to position our trades. Big falls are often discussed extensively with a lot of anxiety and anticipation of how low the STI can retreat in response to those falls. Some of us may even be tempted to ‘sell into strength’ at the start of the trading session.

Actually, there were times the STI did not fall in tandem with the Dow Jones or NASDAQ. Just over the last weekend, many were anticipating that the STI would be in for a big fall when the Dow Jones sank 572.46 points from the close of 24,505.22 on their Thursday to 23,932.76 at close on their Friday. But, the STI actually moved up by 7.48 points from the close of 3,442.5 on Friday, 6 April 2018 to 3,449.8.98 at close on Monday, 9 April 2018.

Then on Tuesday, 10 April when President Donald Trump brought out the possibility of aerial strike in Syria, the Dow Jones sank 218.55 points, but the following day, STI advanced 13.38 points. Despite those devastating news, the STI actually advanced close to 100 points (or close to 3%) for the week. For the same period, the Dow Jones also advanced 427.38 points from 23,932.76 to 24,360.14 and the NASDAQ advanced 191.54 points from 6,915.1099 to 7,106.6499. Perhaps, there may be some kind of co-relationship between Wall Street and STI over time, but it does not mean that the STI move in exact lock-step with the Wall Street movement.

Perhaps, those who try to time the sell are not really selling off their stocks for good. It is likely that they wanted to take advantage of the steep fall in the Wall Street to sell and hope to buy them all back when the share prices tank significantly. This could be a wise thing to do if the Wall Street and the STI have perfect correlation on day-to-day basis, but we often find ourselves caught in the situation if our timing is incorrect.

Let us look at transaction cost to assess if the risk is worth taking. Take OCBC for example. Assuming if we were to sell off 1000 shares at the opening bell at $12.77 on Monday, 9 April, and let’s say we were lucky enough to buy back the same stock at the lowest share price of the day at $12.93 on Friday, 13 April, it would still be a loss of about $248 dollars. Even using a priority banking nominee account on Standard Chartered trading platform which is supposedly the lowest brokerage, it still set us back by $220.50. Apart from the trading loss, there is also an end-of-FY dividend distribution of $190 that sellers are likely to miss out given that the ex-dividend date is around the corner. Without considering the loss of dividend, we have to wait till the stock price drop to $12.65 and $12.71 respectively (or a drop of 12 cents and 9 cents respectively) to buy back in order to just break even. With the dividend loss thrown in, the purchase price would have to go lower by a further 19 cents before we can break even. Given that that ex-dividend is drawing near, it is unlikely that the share price retreats significantly for us to cover the transaction cost, trading losses and the loss of dividend. So, the dividend is likely be lost just because of the little folly unless something significantly bad happens from now till the ex-dividend date. Perhaps if investors lost their patience, they may even go ahead to buy back the shares at a higher price. So instead of benefiting in stock investments by simply holding them, we may lose out in terms of the brokerage and all the additional costs in selling and buying them back. Of course, one may argue that the stock price is likely to drop when it goes ex-dividend, but it is still possible that the drop is less than the dividend amount or even creeps up after the ex-dividend. So why leave our fate to chance?

With so many news from many major economies happening every day, it would certainly ruin our financial plans in the long run if we keep reacting to the stock market movements. Sometimes just simply doing nothing is the best strategy of all.

Afternote – Just hours ago, US together with its allies, France and UK, attacked Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Care to make a guess of the STI movement for this coming Monday?

Disclaimer – The above arguments are the personal opinions of the writer. It is not a recommendation to buy or sell the mentioned securities, the indices or any ETFs or unit trusts related to the mentioned indices. 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.