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Portfolio > ETFs > Broad Market

Investors Becoming More Tolerant of Market Volatility: MFS Survey

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It’s been more than seven years since the beginning of the financial crisis and a new survey shows many investors have become more tolerant of big swings in market volatility.

According to the latest results from the MFS Investing Sentiment Insights Survey, more than 70% of investors surveyed say the ups and downs of the past few years are part of a normal market cycle.

Which is a good thing because LPL’s Burt White is calling for more volatility in 2016.

“We expect volatility to be with us again in 2016 as the business cycle ages, making sticking to your long-term investment habits even more important to avoid locking in losses and missing out on opportunities,” wrote White, chief investment officer for LPL Financial, in the firm’s weekly commentary.

He says 2016 may require tolerance for volatility. According to White, a number of factors beyond the aging business cycle could lead to increased market volatility in 2016.

“The Fed is about to embark on its first rate hike campaign since 2004-06,” writes White. “A further pronounced drop in oil prices — though not our expectation — could negatively impact the global economy and markets. And recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the associated military response highlight the heightened geopolitical risk in the Middle East and throughout the world.”

White stresses how important it is to “stick with your habits” even through volatility.

LPL Research expects stocks to produce mid-single-digit returns for the S&P 500, consistent with historical mid-to-late economic cycle performance, driven by mid- to high-single-digit earnings and a largely stable price-to-earnings ratio (PE).

As White explains, “this return to a more normal market may mean more volatility, challenging investors’ ability to stay focused on their goals.”

Meanwhile the MFS Investing Sentiment Insights Survey is showing that although almost six in 10 investors are concerned about a major drop in the stock market over the next 12 months, 93% said they would either add to their holdings or do nothing as a result of recent market volatility.

Jim Jessee, head of global retail distribution with MFS, also stressed how important it is to not react strongly to market volatility.

“This year’s survey was conducted during a period of extreme market volatility, so it’s encouraging that investors are beginning to embrace a longer-term approach – avoiding the urge to sell at the first sign of trouble,” said Jessee, in a statement. “Volatility often creates investment opportunities and selling into a market downturn almost never pays off.”

The MFS Investing Sentiment Insights Survey, which was conducted from Sept. 1-9, included 936 individual U.S. investors with $100,000 or more in household investable (nonretirement) assets and 620 licensed U.S. financial advisors (either FINRA or SEC) who have been licensed for at least three years with $500,000 or more in annual mutual fund sales.

Two groups of investors – millionaires and Gen Xers – seem increasingly attuned to volatility changes, according to the MFS survey.

Of the 200 Gen X investors (between the ages of 36 and 50) surveyed in 2015, 42% of Gen X investors say they will never feel comfortable investing in the stock market. This is a significant increase from the 27% of Gen Xers that said that last year.

Doug Orton, vice president of business development for MFS, says Gen X may be more prone to negativity toward volatility than other generations.

“While most investors surveyed greeted this summer’s market volatility with a collective shrug, Gen X investors, who experienced two major market downturns early in their careers, seem to be more prone to pessimism,” Orton said in a statement. “Given that 68% of Gen X investors are extremely concerned about a reduction in social security benefits, they may need to become more comfortable with equities to make up for potential retirement shortfalls down the road.”

Meanwhile, millionaires also seem to have mounting concerns about recent volatility.

According to the MFS survey, only 28% of millionaires surveyed identified US stocks and stock mutual funds as an “excellent” or “very good place” to invest, which is down significantly from 56% in 2014. Millionaire respondents painted a similar picture for international equities, with 15% favoring international equities versus 33% in 2014.

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