Insights Insights Confluence Commentary


Confluence Commentary

Bear Markets – Did You Know?

If you’ve watched the news or browsed the web at all recently, no doubt you have seen the term “Bear Market” quite frequently. This term is often used when the worlds’ stock markets go through difficult periods, but what does it mean? And what should investors do about it? Here are five points to consider that will hopefully offer you perspective and confidence:

  1. What is a Bear Market? A bear market is generally defined as a stock market decline of at least 20%. The recent market decline (S&P 500) we’ve experienced in 2020 went from the peak in February to the trough in March of -34%.
  2. How often do bear markets occur? Since 1949, the S&P 500 has experienced 10 declines of at least 20%, or one every 7 years on average.
  3. How long do they typically last?  Since 1949, the average bear market has lasted about 14 months. The average bear market total return was -33%.
  4. Bull vs. Bear – Good News! Since 1949, the average bull market has lasted nearly 5 times as long as the average bear market. The average bull market lasted about 71 months and had an average total return of 263% over that time period.
  5. A $10,000 hypothetical investment in the S&P 500 in 1980 (with dividends being reinvested) would have grown to more than $870,000 by the end of 2019. During that time period, the investor would have experienced 4 bear markets, 20 market corrections of 10% or more, and 5 recessions.

Key Takeaway: As difficult and unsettling as bear markets can be, it is important to understand that we “earn” the bull markets by being disciplined and patient during the bear markets. The reason that equities can make relatively high returns over time is that those returns are unpredictable in the short-term.

Sources: Capital Group, RIMES, Standard & Poor’s, 2020; MFS Market Insights, 2020; Vanguard Understanding market downturns, 2020; JP Morgan Guide to Markets, 2020.

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