It must be impossible to run a publicly traded company today. To make intelligent business decisions you need to have a clear view of the environment: the economic outlook, competitive forces, costs to manufacture and to ship within the United States and to and from abroad in a world of global supply lines. Interest costs are important when you run calculations to make brick and mortar investments. Should you sell stock or issue bonds to pay for your forward plans, which might even include buying back shares.

I respect that business challenge because, as a portfolio manager, I have needed answers to similar questions. My responsibility is to carefully shepherd the assets of my clients to protect those assets and hopefully make them grow faster than inflation. The ante is upped on that challenge when the backdrop is changing dramatically not from week to week but from day to day.

On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted: “China wants to make a deal so badly. Thousands of companies are leaving because of the Tariffs, they must stem the flow.” “At the same time China may be hoping for a Democrat to win so they could continue the great ripoff of America.” Last week the U.S. officially labeled China as a currency manipulator as Beijing allowed its exchange rate to fall to over 7 renminbi per U.S. dollar, a price it hasn’t seen since 2009.

Monday, in round numbers, the Dow fell 400 points. On Tuesday, Trump decided to publicly pull back the threat of new tariffs set to kick in in September. Stocks rose by 400 points. Then Wednesday, down 700. None of this is normal.

Trump insisted for months that China was paying the cost of the tariffs he was adding to imports, Trump said Tuesday he wanted to save American consumers from the peril of paying vastly more for Christmas merchandise this year. He thus admitted that it was the consumer (who supports 68% of our economy) who would pay that cost, not China. Tariffs are a penalty paid by the end purchaser. In our country, that is everyone who shops for anything,especially if it is made abroad.

Trump has ridiculed China’s slowing growth rate. Even so, in the June quarter, China’s GDP grew at 6%, twice our 3% rate. Trump’s Tax Reform Act has failed to deliver economic growth. Cutting corporate taxes from 35% to 21% didn’t induce companies to bring back manufacturing jobs. Why not? Because business leaders are just as challenged to know how to operate in this very erratic business environment as I am to invest well for my clients.

We have held 25% cash for several weeks now. I reduced some positions because I was cautious and they had reached our target prices. The plan was to redeploy those assets elsewhere. However, I just couldn’t pay up for stocks on spikes. So instead I determined the prices I would like to pay if markets corrected, and held that cash. Now it gets tougher. How do you know when to take action?

Trump has frightened everyone into believing the economy is destined to turn down because very low interest rates are not low enough. Investors are pouring into bonds as a safe haven even accepting very low returns below the now rising rate of inflation. I still believe that stocks with secure dividends and reasonable multiples of real earnings (not losses) will serve you best once this chaos subsides. When that will be is hard to know.

Joan Lappin CFA has been called an “investment guru” by Business Week and a “top manager” by the Wall Street Journal. The Sarasota resident founded Gramercy Capital Management, a registered investment adviser, in 1986. Email her at Follow her on twitter: @joanlappin. Her past columns appear at Neither she, Gramercy Capital, nor its clients own any security mentioned in this column.