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How to play the stock market now
Larissa Fernand
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November 26, 2008

As the Sensex gyrates, we are flooded with queries on whether it is time to sell or buy. Once again we say what we have always advocated -- don't change your investment pattern based on the market. Irrespective of what you hear and see, do not act impulsively. Change it only when there is a change in your personal circumstances and goals.

Here are three simple tips to get you through a turbulent market.

1. Don't sway from your goals

If you are going to need money in the next year or two, then do not channelise your savings to the stock market. Because though no one knows the direction of the market, chances are that it may not pick up in this time frame, certainly not in 2009.

Think like a long-term investor, not like a stock trader. Equity is an investment for the long-term investor. Opt for it only if you do not need the money for at least 3 to 5 years. 

2. Stick to your asset allocation

You must first decide how much of your money must go into equity or debt. This should be based on your age, goals, liabilities, dependents and income. Once you have made up your mind, do not assume that it's alright to alter your basic asset allocation with sole reference to the market situation and with no regard to a change in your personal situation.

So if you had decided on keeping 60 per cent of your assets in equity, stick with it. Don't just rush into fixed deposits because interest rates seem seductive. On the other hand, just because the prices of stocks have hit tempting lows, don't get over enthusiastic and pull out all your current investments in debt and deploy it in equity funds or stocks. 

3. Don't attempt to time the market

Don't keep waiting for stocks to get whiplashed one more time to buy. On the other hand, once you invest, don't expect the market to oblige you and bounce back immediately. No one knows for sure if the market has bottomed out or worse is still to come. But it's probably safe to say that we are far near the bottom than the top.

If you are investing in an equity mutual fund, go for a systematic investment plan (SIP). In this way, you benefit if the market is going to tank some more. Even if it does not, chances of a rally happening in the immediate future are dim and you are buying units at a low cost right now.

In conclusion, it would be wise to say -- Don't let the news stress you out. So if the market crashes one day and has extreme volatility the next, don't let that get to it. The short-term direction of the stock market can always be adverse. If you are in for the long term, you have nothing to fear. Stay calm!

Also read

Why this is the best time to invest in equity

Why stock market crashes are good for you


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