Thanks to my wife’s thoughtfulness, I have been getting Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine each month for over six years now.
I generally enjoy reading Kiplinger’s,* with its state-of-the-market perspective and long-term investing emphasis. Admittedly, in this day of instant, up-to-date information, it is feels a bit anachronistic that the market data in the magazine is always over a month old. It was particularly weird reading the April 2020 edition, which contained very little mention of the Pandemic that had recently turned all of our lives upside down (the magazine had gone to print in February, before stay-at-home orders were enacted!). On the plus side, the time delay weirdly parallels long-term investing principles, which espouse ignoring the daily noise and seeing the big picture. It also highlights something I appreciate about reading a physical magazine: the articles contained within aren’t replaced by new ones every few hours, as with online media.
The latest Kiplinger’s discusses the “sideways market” we have been in over the past year. In an article entitled “Where to Invest now: Use our roadmap to prosper in a directionless market,”* Kiplinger’s writes:
When investors think about the stock market, they tend to characterize it in one of two ways: It’s either a bull market or a bear market, with a clear direction, up or down. But there’s a third option, and we’ve been living it the past year. Call it a trading range or sideways market. If you had to pick an animal correlate, maybe it would be a crab.
For the past year, the S&P 500 index has fluctuated between roughly 3500 and 4300. But with a few exceptions, the broad-market barometer has stayed within 5% of the 4000 level.”Kiplinger’s, July 2023, p19-20
I enjoyed reading this, as it validates what I’ve noticed about the market. The up-and-down movement of the market has definitely made this bear market a slog. Reading it characterized as a sideways market gives a label to the experience of going through it.
And I wonder: would a decidedly down market have been less grueling because it was clearly pointed in one direction, even though down? Or would it have seemed more perilous and stressful? Probably. The crash in early 2020, which quickly erased a third or more of the market’s value, seemed plenty perilous, though the aggressive rebound that immediately followed wiped it from our collective memories.
Either way, I still enjoy the monthly ritual of reading Kiplinger’s, and mixing my own impressions with what it has to say about investing.
*One unavoidable feature of Kiplinger’s is its seemingly endless stream of recommendations to buy specific stocks or specialized funds. I appreciate the information, though to me it promotes a mindset of performance changing, or at least continually changing one’s portfolio. This is something we don’t do.