As health and economic events continue to evolve at a brisk pace we are adapting our business practices to better keep our employees and clients safe, accommodate school closures, etc., while continuing to operate at a level required by you and these fast moving markets.
Beginning today, we will transition to remote work with a system in place to collect and process incoming mail and to transfer incoming calls out to the team. We all have access to our Cairn systems, and can trade, move money, access files, and otherwise serve your needs.
During this unprecedented time, we will not be holding in-office meetings unless circumstances are exceptional.
Hoping that you and yours remain well.
The Cairn Team
I wish that I could reach out and have a solid ten minute conversation with each and every investor with their money entrusted to Cairn. Unable to do that effectively, you deserve a few thoughts from us directly to supplement what you’re reading or hearing in the news.
Suddenly, things seem very different with the NBA suspending the season, travel from Europe restricted, and Tom Hanks infected and quarantined. In my prior message I put forward the idea that our collective reactions to the Coronavirus could have a large impact on the economy and our investments, and we took action to sell some long held positions in preparation.
So now here we are. At this point stocks are no longer being bought and sold on fundamentals, and the prices we’re seeing are the result of massive liquidations based on fear. We’ve seen this movie before, with the current twist being that we can more clearly see what is driving the panic. While there are firms facing an existential threat, like the cruise lines and some smaller shale oil producers, a majority of the companies that we own are able to handle weeks or even months long disruptions to the free movement of people and goods, and will eventually move on from here. I do not like the prices being offered for our companies right now and I’m very reluctant to sell into this environment unless funds are needed immediately. There are some companies we are wanting to shed, but not on a day that smells of panic like today. We do also have our eye on some stocks that we may wish to buy at a newly reduced price.
Looking forward, I believe that the federal government has a huge role to play in protecting our economy and our health. That role may be to provide some kind of relief to debt laden oil producers and transportation companies, payroll stimulus, or even providing temporary liquidity to financial markets. Unlike any crisis that we’ve seen in my lifetime, this one seems to have an expiration date as the virus works through its process and modern medicine eventually puts and end to the spread within the next year. The oil price war could end soon and suddenly with a few phone calls, or our government could take steps to protect our domestic energy production to combat the actions of “State Players” overseas.
Regarding Cairn’s preparations for possible transit restrictions or a personal illness, we are able to access all of our trading and information systems remotely, and if need be can redirect our incoming calls to any phone that we wish. I hope it does not come to that, but it’s good to be prepared.
The best course today is to look after our own health and that of those we’re responsible for and let this run its course. We’ll continue to look for opportunities to adjust our holdings as it makes sense.
Regards, The Cairn Team
This was quite a week in financial markets, so I wanted to add some color to Tim’s message from earlier in the week. Though we continue to have limited information on the Coronavirus, there no doubt will be an impact on business activity, consumer behavior, and investor psychology. Economic and market effects aside, we truly hope that containment and detection efforts continue to strengthen so more lives are not affected. Based on short-term market sentiment, over the last two weeks, the stock market went from being extremely complacent to pessimistic. On a short-term basis the market is very oversold. That does not mean it can’t get more oversold, but a short-term bounce could be likely. Our actions will be driven by what the data tells us, not by emotion. We will continue to sell or trim companies that exhibit high valuations, declining price momentum, and underwhelming fundamentals. We are also ready to purchase companies that offer the opposite and this recent sell off will help to provide some opportunities. As always, risk management is high on our priority list, but we must remain open to taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
Enjoy the weekend and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Patrick & The Cairn Team
Unless you’ve been sequestered as a juror or have otherwise been off the grid, it’s likely you’ve heard that the coronavirus, or more accurately the various responses to the virus, have been impacting the global economy and hence the prices of your investments. It appears more likely each passing day that this will become a global pandemic, but much like our own body’s immune system, our collective reactions may cause more harm than the disease itself. While there’s much to learn about this new virus, it looks like the fatality rate is about 2% overall, with healthy populations faring better. While every death is regrettable, this disease’s impact is likely fleeting, without permanent structural changes to societies, families, or workforces.
For some time, we’ve been tracking the progress of the US and world economies and noted many signs that we are in a mature stage of the growth cycle, with every indication being that while some major economies (US & China) are still growing, the rate is slowing. This is normal and expected after the long recovery from the bottoms of 2009, but it’s been recently exacerbated by the tariff battles. The various, and mostly rational, responses to the spread of the coronavirus are hampering international trade and will further suppress growth around the world, possibly pushing more economies into recession. The US economy is on better footing than most with strong employment, a huge internal consumer market, and access to most other markets on the planet. It’s generally a nice place to live too. We’ll note though, that stocks are expensive, and a little healthy doubt about where things are headed may just be the catalyst to help them get cheaper. We’ve been preparing for this by reducing equity exposure, selling stocks we view as too expensive, buying more income producing positions, and applying strict valuation criteria in our buy decisions. Our focus on risk management will not spare us from all the whims of the market, but it should bring you some comfort that wherever things go from here, you’ll have a reasonable experience.
I’ll add that the stock market has been quite robust, so much so that even after the selloff of the past few days the S&P 500 Index is within 6% of all-time highs, and at the price it was in early December.
I welcome your comments and concerns, so please feel free to call, stop by, or reply to this message.
Thank you for your continued trust.
Your Cairn Team