For example, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index has risen from a level of 17 in 1950 to 1,540 at present. But deduct the returns achieved on the 40 days in which it had its highest percentage gains—only 40 out of 14,528 days!—and it would drop by some 70 percent, to 276. Or eliminate the 40 worst days; then, the S&P would be sitting at 11,235, more than seven times today’s level. A good lesson, then, about “staying the course” rather than jumping in and jumping out.
The same concept applies to individual stock investments as well. (hat tip to Arpit Ranka)
Empirical research has shown that 80%–90% of investment returns have occurred in spurts that amount to 2%–7% of the total length of time of the holding period. The rest of the time, stocks’ returns have been small. With stocks, you have to be in to win. We believe that value-oriented stocks with extreme investment characteristics are likely to beat the returns from cash over the long run. Index funds stay fully invested with no cash. The long-run odds of having your portfolio generate returns in excess of returns from fully-invested index fundsIf you can buy something for a meaningful discount to its value, then buy and stay the course. If you try to time your purchase too precisely, chances are it will suddenly run up with out you.
are enhanced by keeping cash to a minimum and staying as fully invested as possible. (Note: It is a little painful for us to write this section because, in our past, we often sat on our thumbs with too much cash in clients’ portfolios before empirical research and our own analysis convinced us of the error of our ways. We were not knowingly market timing, but were overdiversifying: Instead of investing 3% of portfolios in a perfectly good bargain stock, we invested 1% because we wanted to buy more at even lower prices. Cash, and lower investment returns, were the residual of this process.) - Tweedy Browne Partners. (Link)