Be Prepared, But Don’t Jump to Conclusions


john McInerney Head shotBy John McInerney, Group Vice President, Makovsky

The first trading day of 2016 has been a brutal one in global stock markets. In China’s stock market lost 7%, Germany’s was off 4%, and Japan’s fell 3%. By the time trading started in the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off around 325 points only to close off 276 points (-1.6%) at 17,149.

Is this the big one?

By the numbers in the U.S., no—not by a long shot. It’s only one day. The DJIA isn’t far from its high, and neither is the S&P 500. It’s a rattling way to start the year, but investors and companies need to remember that they, their customers and most of their investors are in the market for the long haul.

We at Makovsky specialize in helping companies tell their stories to investors and the media. We also help financial services companies present their observations about market conditions wherever they do business.

Having advised global companies in volatile situations, three things come to mind:

  • First, if you are company doing business in China, this is your time to shine. Get as much information as you can about your realities on the ground. Double and triple-check your data. Consider issuing a summary press release about what your execs on the ground say. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, just factual, and contain the appropriate disclaimers. How much are people buying or selling? What does it look like compared to last year? Three years ago? How has the volume changed and how has the type of buyer changed?

Your company’s position on the ground is invaluable. Be prepared to update this “periodically.” We would not advise committing to any greater specificity than that. Investors and other interested parties will appreciate the update, even if the actual news

  • Second, become a news source. Global news organizations may be defining your company’s current market position. They may be inaccurate, and they work at blinding speed with a genuine desire to be accurate. Help them.

Particularly in a volatile situation like these, your goal is to reduce the distance between the market and your investors. You can comment to them directly (but that takes a lot of time), through news releases (which standardizes your message), or through the media (which has risks of omission, but the benefit of reach).

  • Third, have some perspective and share it. This chart, courtesy of @RyanDetrick, shows that when the S&P 500 drops more than 1% on the first day of year, January is up a median +5% the rest of the month.

Be Prepared, But Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Granted we’re not in the Great Depression (the 1930s), the end of the dotcom bubble (2001), or the Great Recession (2008). But historical averages are useful.

Now for a suggestion to the regulators in China: Please consult with the regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Our 1987 crash happened because there were no circuit breakers in place. Your markets seem to need them. Indeed the global markets would benefit from having them in place, and I’m sure ICE or NASDAQ would license them to you, if only to reduce daily market anxieties.


About the Author: John McInerney, Group Vice President at Makovsky, has provided communications and investor relations advice to companies in more than 30 countries, including China. 

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