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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The stock market is near all-time highs, which makes for a great time to plan for a big sell-off, even if you don’t expect one to come.

Why it matters: A sell-off that sends the stock market down 10% from current levels would be very average by historical standards.

  • Regardless of whether you expect the market to go lower, most would agree that it’s better to formulate an investment strategy during times of calm than times of stress.

What they’re saying: “I think we make the best decisions when they are in a vacuum,” Invesco chief global market strategist Kristina Hooper tells Axios.

  • “It's very, very hard,” she says of sell-offs. “You get caught up in the moment, and you just assume that whatever direction the market is this moment is the way it is going to be heading.”

State of play: Hooper identified a handful of market headwinds that are on the radar of many investors.

  • There’s the spread of COVID-19, which threatens to disrupt economic activity as infection rates rise in many regions of the world.
  • The timing of tighter monetary policy is of high interest, as a premature move by the Federal Reserve could do more harm than good for long-run economic growth.
  • And then there’s the statutory debt ceiling, which the U.S. is expected to hit on Aug. 1. While there are short-term workarounds for this issue, congressional brinkmanship threatens to disrupt the Treasury’s ability to finance the government’s debts.

Threat level: “No bull market is completely devoid of setbacks," Edward Jones investment strategist Angelo Kourkafas says.

  • "Even the second-longest bull market on record (2009–2020) had its share of blemishes. During that period, there were six 10% corrections driven by a variety of factors, including growth scares, trade wars, oil prices and shifts in Fed policy," he says.

Yes, but: “What we have seen thus far is a market that rebounds rather quickly,” Hooper says. “I wouldn't be surprised if we saw that again.”

The bottom line: There’s no way to know for sure ahead of time if a sell-off will prove to be a buying opportunity or something far worse. But formulating a sell-off strategy before it happens seems like sound advice.

Go deeper

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Oct 12, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Report: Oil execs split on decarbonization plans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A lot of discussion about oil companies' climate efforts compares U.S. and European majors, but a new report shows there's no strategic consensus in the wider industry.

Driving the news: Deloitte's analysis says separate approaches have emerged as companies prepare for long-term declines in demand in a world that will still likely use huge amounts of oil for decades.

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FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

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Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

Capitol Police officer indicted for obstructing Jan. 6 investigation

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping hide evidence of a participant's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Driving the news: Officer Michael A. Riley, 50, is accused of telling the unidentified participant, referred to as "Person 1," in the Jan. 6 riot to delete posts from Facebook, which showed them in the Capitol during the attack.