The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night are something we need to discuss. First off, my heart and prayers and best wishes go out to all the victims who died and lived through that attack.
Second, since this is my job and because my family’s livelihood and our own money is at work in stocks, I need to analyze what this means to the markets. And as I start to try to analyze these evens and their impact on the markets, I have to admit to myself that I’ll have a hard time being as objective as I can be since tonight I fly out of Albuquerque to on a non-stop redeye flight to my old home of NYC for a three day business trip. And having been one of the people running from the collapsing towers on 9/11, these attacks have me on edge. I guess you could say that I’m being objective about not being as objective in my analyzing the world as I’d like, but that’s always true.
So let’s talk about what these Paris attacks might mean and what they don’t.
What will be impacted by the Paris attacks: Travel, especially in Europe. That said, the fact that I’m personally following through with my plans to go do my business in NYC underscores the fact that business will go on. But in Europe there’s going to be a structural shift towards closing the borders and restricting the ease with which citizens of the developed world can move around the continent which will hit tourism. Those increasingly closed borders will from there also begin to impact each country’s individual imports/exports, and otherwise be a drag on an already sluggish European economy. The drop in GDP from the increased border friction, which also increases costs and reduces distribution, will have a small but growing negative impact for the major globalized corporations, and over time will hurt the European consumer’s ability to travel. We get a vicious cycle developing throughout the world’s economies if it all goes wrong.
Structural shifts in economies can indeed be a Black Swan event, causing dislocations in productivity, economy, commerce and asset prices.
But there are other forces at work in our economy, including the App Revolution (I watched Periscope streams from Paris over the weekend) as well as the Wearables Revolution, which probably takes on increased importance as a result of the consumer and political ramifications of the Paris attacks will increase demand for cameras and recording/streaming.
Military spending, data analytics, tracking software, data center spending, and many other markets will see increased growth from the political ramifications of these attacks and the increased spending on these sectors that will follow. Netflix is probably going to see a bump in demand from people who want to stay home instead of go out.
To be sure though, no matter those other forces, if a major geopolitical event does cause a Black Swan-type event, it will hit all stock prices, as you saw back in the financial crisis in 2008 when stocks like Apple and Google and GE and Disney and just about every stock on the planet was down 50% or more.
This is when the importance of following our playbook really kicks in. We’ve already reduced exposure and raised cash over the last couple weeks when the markets were up big from their summer lows. On a broader level, we’ve also already raised cash and took what was I told you repeatedly was an “aggressively long” portfolio back in 2011 and 2012 to a portfolio with fewer long positions and a focus on short-hedges.
In summary then, we don’t have to make any drastic moves today and I’m not going to.
The Paris attacks and the very real impact they will have on several facets of the economies of Europe shouldn’t be ignored but neither should they drive your next trade. Emotions as always are the enemy and fear isn’t the way to successfully taking care of our money, portfolios and most importantly, our families.