As of market close today, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF SPY is down -5.7% year-to-date.  From peak-to-trough, it sits in a -9.73% drawdown.

Perhaps worst of all, 7 of the last 9 trading days have seen returns in excess of 1% in magnitude: -2.05%, -3.12%, -4.08%, -1.22%, +3.97%, +2.30%, -2.84%.  All that volatility will give anyone heartburn.

But should it be enough for us to want to be fully defensive?  To sell everything and go entirely to cash?

For a broader perspective, we wanted to compare 2015 to the environments of 2008 and 2011.

First we aligned the peaks of each period and draw the return of $1 after 30 trading days.

Can you tell which is 2008, which is 2011, and which is 2015?

2008 v 2011 v 2015

But what if we look further down the line?

Let’s consider the first 160 trading days (about 7 months).  Can we tell which of these returns is 2011 and which is 2008?

2008 v 2011

Even knowing that 2011 went on to grow 18% from this point and 2008 went on to sell off another 50%, they are nearly indistinguishable over the first 160 trading days.

So now let’s look at the full picture.



2015 - 2008 v 2011

The global financial crisis unfolded over 355 trading days – or about 1.4 years.

And 2008 isn’t the exception.  Our research shows us that most large draw downs in equity markets tend to occur over months and years, not weeks.

While we believe in tactical risk management, we do not believe in tactical for tactical’s sake.  This means recognizing that while jumping immediately out of the market may feel good when the markets get turbulent, this is precisely the type of emotional response that we are trying to avoid.

While waiting for confirmation of the market’s direction can be stressful, it ensures that we don’t position the portfolio for 2008 when it is really 2011.

Corey is co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Newfound Research, a quantitative asset manager offering a suite of separately managed accounts and mutual funds. At Newfound, Corey is responsible for portfolio management, investment research, strategy development, and communication of the firm's views to clients.

Prior to offering asset management services, Newfound licensed research from the quantitative investment models developed by Corey. At peak, this research helped steer the tactical allocation decisions for upwards of $10bn.

Corey is a frequent speaker on industry panels and contributes to ETF.com, ETF Trends, and Forbes.com’s Great Speculations blog. He was named a 2014 ETF All Star by ETF.com.

Corey holds a Master of Science in Computational Finance from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, cum laude, from Cornell University.

You can connect with Corey on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Or schedule a time to connect.