Why the trend is not always your friend.
If there is one thing that came out of COVID-19, it is that we got used to huge price swings in the markets and individual securities. Things can now go up by a thousand percent in a week or down by fifty percent in a day, and no one bats an eye lid. Clearly, none of this is normal, but then again not much is when it comes to a pandemic and the consequences this has unleashed upon mankind. The question we have to ask ourselves as investors is, where do we go from here?
If history is any guide, we won’t know for sure for many decades. Change occurs gradually when it comes to new cultural, social, or political paradigms. However, the beginnings of so called “megatrends” have been in the making for quite some time and only seemed to have accelerated given recent events. There is a renewed rigour to tackle climate change, technology is also seen as the cure for everything, and there is an almost revolutionary spirit in the air when it comes to things like longevity, sustainability, and innovation.
When looking at the price action of some indices and stocks that capture these themes, we can now clearly see how the markets are pricing in the value of a future that is far away. Take the clean energy index, for example. The constituents include everything you would ever want to own in the space of green energy producers and technology pioneers. However, the index did nothing for many years. Most of that has to do with many of the companies losing money or dependent on state subsidies, which is what happens when you are in the business of discovering the holy grail.
Then the pandemic hit, and whereas at first the price went down with everything else, losing more than 50% in value, it then went up by almost 500%. That’s a big jump, and even with all the love for the planet, that seems a hefty price to pay for something which is highly uncertain. The thing is, oil has also gone up strongly, so it is not as if we have weaned ourselves off fossil fuels just yet. The markets agreed, and the index has lost about a third in value since, trading now almost exactly in the middle between the pre-COVID and recent highs. What this is telling us is that there seems to be about a fifty percent chance of things going either way, which offers scant help for deciding whether to buy or sell the index, whatever megatrend notwithstanding.