‘Stay invested’ — Raymond James CEO on investing amid Covid worries

Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly told CNBC on Friday that long-term investors should not be scared away from equity markets, despite the rise in coronavirus cases and other risk factors that weighed on Wall Street in October.

“The important message is stay invested,” Reilly said on “Power Lunch.” “If you’re afraid of some segments, that’s OK. You can adjust through this period of uncertainty.”

Reilly’s comments came on another down day for stocks, as U.S. indexes posted their worst weekly losses since March. That was back in the early days of financial markets having to grapple with the risks presented by the global Covid-19 outbreak.

In addition to rising coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe, investors in October also had to contend with next Tuesday’s presidential election and the almost dizzying back-and-forth negotiations in Washington around a fiscal stimulus package. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq recorded monthly losses.

Reilly said investors need to remember that owning stocks is “a long-term game,” despite the myriad short-term risks that exist. “Elections come up every four years, and the world seems to survive them, right?” said Reilly, who became chief executive of the financial services firm in 2010. He also was previously CEO of accounting powerhouse KPMG.

As the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic consequences present investors with challenges, Reilly said it is reasonable to shift portfolio composition by moving out of sensitive sectors such as airlines into more attractive opportunities like consumer staples.

“Certainly we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next six months with Covid. Long term, I think we all feel comfortable that the virus, we’ll be able to live with it, at least, and defeat it in some ways,” he said. “But short term, if you’re uncertain, go ahead and make some adjustments through that uncertainty, but don’t run away from the markets long term.”

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