Stock market volatility since the beginning of the year has investors puzzled and people saving for retirement nervous.
The latter tend to put their money in stock mutual funds, which have seen sharp erosions so far in 2016. Many are asking what their next step should be.
The advice that's emerging from market watchers tends to break down into two camps – stay the course and take defensive measures now and be careful about adding to positions.
Vanguard founder Jack Bogle clearly represents the stay the course view. In an interview on CNBC this week, the mutual fund guru called the current market volatility “speculation,” and said consumers should continue investing because the underlying economy is fine.
"In the short run, listen to the economy; don't listen to the stock market," he told interviewers on Power Lunch. "These moves in the market are like a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signaling nothing."
Michelle Perry Higgins, Principal at California Financial Advisors in San Ramon, Calif., is also counseling clients to hold tight, even though she acknowledges the market is likely to face strong headwinds from oil and China throughout 2016.
“My clients’ portfolios have strong defensive barriers that include bonds and cash for short term needs,” she told ConsumerAffairs. “Therefore, there is no need to sell equities in a panic.”
As for people sitting on large amounts of cash, she suggests the current market swoon represents an opportunity to put that money to work.
Farther to fall?
But others are not so sure stocks don't have farther to fall. Ari Wald of Oppenheimer is a technician who bases market calls on a reading of the charts. He tells CNBC that he believes stocks are in what he calls a non-recessionary bear market and they have not quite reached a bottom. He predicts the S&P 500 still has another 130 points or so lower to go.
Brett Arends, a columnist for Marketwatch, also sees more potential downside, writing that the market is cheaper, but not yet cheap. He maintains the underlying value of companies in the S&P 500 still don't justify their prices, even after this month's declines.
“None of this means the current slump must get worse anytime soon,” he writes. “The only short-term cause of a market selloff is the same: more sellers than buyers. At some point more buyers appear, while some sellers pause for breath.”
He says Wednesday's partial recovery from a terrifying morning plunge is a “hopeful sign.” Still, he says it might be a little too early to go bargain hunting.