Written by Dave Young, President of Paragon Wealth Management

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen extreme volatility in the financial markets.

The volatility started with political drama over the debt ceiling, which initially created uncertainty for investors. After a high drama last minute agreement, which apparently didn’t solve anything, the markets sold off hard. Uncertainty in Europe exacerbated the situation.

It looked like we might have put in a market bottom last Friday with the selling reversing midday. Then, Friday evening we found out that the S&P Bond Rating Agency had lowered their rating on U.S. Treasury Bonds to AA+ from AAA.

Their timing couldn’t have been worse. 

I knew we were in for a ride, but wasn’t sure how much of one. U.S. Treasury Bonds have held a AAA rating ever since the rating agencies were created and started rating bonds. United States Treasury Bonds have always been considered the icon of safety and security. Their yield has always been always been characterized as the risk free rate of return. Historically, no security has been considered safer than a U.S. Treasury Bond.

Downgrading U.S. Treasury Bonds takes us into unknown territory. It’s that unknown that causes investors to panic. Panic ruled the day today with stock investors taking the Dow Industrials down another 634 points on top of the 513-point loss last Thursday. This puts the market down over 1900 points in 12 days.

This extreme drop in a short amount of time with the bulk of it happening over two days. This type of market action is virtually impossible to avoid by moving to cash. It was driven by politics and occurred so quickly that there was no time to react and move to safer assets.

On a chart this drop is extreme, which puts us into very oversold territory.

Often, when you have moves this extreme, either upside or downside, they are followed by extreme reversals. The problem is that nothing is guaranteed, and you don’t know that for certainty. All you know that the probabilities favor it.

A hard and fast sell off out of nowhere, like the one that we have just experienced, creates a quandary for investors. They consider selling because they don’t want to see their account go down anymore. If they absolutely knew that the market was going to keep going down then it would make some sense to sell.

However, they know that selling into a panic is usually a mistake, because it locks in their losses and hurts their long-term returns.

On the positive side, stocks are not overvalued like they usually are when you have a bear market. A combination of falling prices and rising profits has pushed stock valuations 20 percent below historical P/E ratios. More than 75 percent of corporations in the S&P 500 index exceeded their earnings estimates in the second quarter. In total, corporate earnings are expected to rise 18 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2012 (recent Bloomberg studies).

According to another Bloomberg survey, chief strategists at 13 of the largest banks still see the S&P 500 ending the year around 1400, which would be 25 percent higher than it closed today. While I’m not that optimistic, it is positive that they see fair value 25 percent higher based on corporate earnings.

Another positive is that fear and panic hit extremes today.

The VIX closed today at 48, which shows extreme fear. Historically, 42 on the VIX has been a level where markets reverse and start to rebound. The 2008 bear market was the only exception to that rule that I know of.

The negative side of the equation is made up of macro issues.

1- Europe has a debt mess that is trying to sort out and yet to do so.

2- Economic growth in the U.S. is slowing. Most economists don’t believe that we will see a double dip recession, but that is currently a concern.

3- Politics and our debt are creating uncertainty for investors.

4- Panic is currently ruling the markets. Even though the markets are severely oversold and undervalued, there is always the possibility that they can become more oversold. That short term selling pressure can be unduly stressful if your risk tolerance is not correctly set.

Is today’s market action creating a buying opportunity over the next one, three and five years? Or should you be selling? If you think prices will be lower over the long term or you need the money right now, then maybe you should sell. If you believe that prices will be higher one, three or five years from now, then this may be a buying opportunity.

My best advice is to stay focused on the long-term. Generally, decisions made in a panic situation are bad ones.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to call us at 800-748-4451 or email us (dave at paragonwealth.com, nwhite at paragonwealth.com).

Paragon Wealth Management is a provider of managed portfolios for individuals and institutions. Although the information included in this report has been obtained from sources Paragon believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy. All opinions and estimates included in this report constitute the judgment as of the dates indicated and are subject to change without notice. This report is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.