After a brutal sell-off in May, investors are looking for shelter.
The major averages all fell this month on concerns around global growth and U.S.-China trade, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices losing over 6%, and the Nasdaq Composite falling nearly 8% as of early Friday trading.
But for those seeking safety, the near-term outlook may not look particularly appealing, with the Trump administration’s multifaceted escalation of its trade war policies weighing on the broader market, says Aswath Damodaran, NYU Stern School of Business finance professor and Wall Street’s so-called dean of valuation.
“There is no safe place in this market. You can’t buy high-dividend-yield stocks. You can’t buy high-cash-flow stocks,” Damodaran said Thursday on CNBC’s “Fast Money.” “They’re not going to provide you the protection on price.”
He spoke hours before President Donald Trump’s surprise threaten to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican imports beginning June 10 if Mexico does not take action to “reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens” crossing into the U.S.
“If you want value,’” Damodaran said, “you’ve got to go where it’s darkest, and it’s darkest right now for companies that are most exposed to China: the Boeings, the Caterpillars, the Nvidias, the Apples."
That may seem counterintuitive, as these four stocks have all but become poster children for the trade war’s negative effects on the U.S. stock market, but for those with a long-term investment plan, this may just be the right strategy, Damodaran said.
“The market is pricing in an extended trade war, which means if you’re buying these stocks, you’re not buying them for the near term, you’re buying them for the long term,” he said. “Now, [it depends on] how much of a strong stomach you have, but that’s what I’d look at.”
Naturally, this strategy comes with a few major caveats, he added. This is “a market where prices are not going to be protected,” so even if investors buy stocks they see as “safe,” they’d do well not to focus too much on intraday moves, he said.
“To the extent that this trade war continues and it continues to inflict damage, stock prices can go anywhere,” Damodaran said. “It doesn’t matter how much of a dividend yield you have, what cash flow protection you have. I think prices are going to be impacted across the board. So, if you’re looking for safety in the sense of, ‘I’m going to collect my dividend [and] my stock is going to be pretty protected,’ I think you might be looking in the wrong place because this is a market that’s going to be volatile.”
As such, some investors may want to simply “collect the dividends, not check [their] brokerage account for a couple of years and come back in 2021,” the professor said.
“I think politics, as much as economics, is going to play a role for the next 18 months,” Damodaran said. “And that’s going to mean that there’s going to be no quick resolution to any of the big problems that are hanging over the market.”
Stocks sank Friday morning, after Trump’s latest tariff threat.