From its close on September 20th to its close on December 24th, the S&P 500 Index declined 19.8%, including a greater than 7% one-week (December 14-21) fall that had not been seen since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. The generally accepted technical definition of a bear market is a decline of 20% or more. While the S&P 500 barely avoided the official bear market designation, it sure felt like one.
Over the past 80 days, the US stock market has declined about 11%, and over the last 365 days, it is down about 1%. Foreign stock markets have declined about 9% over the last 80 days and are down about 10% for the last 365 days as well. The US bond market, typically a good hedge to the risk of stocks, hasn’t delivered much protection during the same time periods, being up about 1% in the last 80 days and down about 1% for the last 365 days.
Over the past few weeks the focus of our weekly posts has been on the volatility in the global equity market. We have sought to provide some insight into what’s driving global stocks lower and provide perspective on how frequently drawdowns like the one we are currently mired in occur. We hope these insights and perspectives have been valuable for you and helped to give you peace of mind.
After a long stretch of relatively calm and steady stock market gains, volatility has reared its ugly head over the past four weeks. Last week we detailed how interest rates have contributed to the recent stock market slump. While interest rates may be the driving force behind the quick and dramatic drop in stock prices, there are other factors at play. Trade tensions between the U.S. and its global trade partners are running high. There is uncertainty around the upcoming midterm elections. There is nervousness as companies are beginning to announce third quarter earnings. Housing sales are starting to slow. Geopolitical pressures are mounting in light of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia. All of these issues have played a role in the recent market volatility that has seen the S&P 500 decline in 15 of the 19 trading days in October.
Last year, there were eight trading days where the S&P 500 moved up or down by at least one percent. So far this year, there have been forty-one such trading days. Further, five of the last eight trading sessions have seen the S&P 500 move up or down by at least one percent. With the recent volatility in the stock market has some asking what’s next for the stock market and the U.S. economy.
Last Wednesday, October 10th, U.S. stocks suffered their worst losses in eight months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 3.2% and the S&P 500 declined 3.3%, both notching their worst losses since February 8th. The S&P 500 also posted its first six-day losing streak since November 2016, although a bounce back on Friday stopped that slide.
The MSCI Emerging Markets Index looks significantly different today than it did at its inception thirty years ago. For one, the market capitalization of emerging markets companies has increased from $52 billion in 1988 to $5.3 trillion as of May 31, 2018. This underscores the ability of emerging markets countries to contribute to the global economy, especially as global markets have expanded.
When the calendar turned from July to August, the United States economy celebrated its 109th consecutive month of expansion. This current period, which began in June 2009 following the Great Recession, is the second longest economic expansion in the history of the United States. While this current economic expansion is one for the record books, it sure hasn’t felt that way for a range of Americans who still don’t feel financially secure. As the chart below shows, annualized real gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of economic growth, is the lowest of any economic expansion since 1950.
In the past few weeks, there has been an increase in volatility in stock markets around the globe. The first bout of volatility spanning the last week of January and first week of February was caused by concern the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates at a faster pace than the markets were anticipating.
Talk of inflation has heated up in the last few weeks, with fears that higher than expected inflation could cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at a faster pace. This was one of the contributing factors to the recent volatility in the stock market and has driven U.S. Treasury yields higher.
Certain aspects of the tax bill signed into law at the end of last year have received significant attention from investors, and rightfully so. The final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered corporate tax rates, realigned personal tax rates, and capped or eliminated certain deductions (i.e. state and local tax deductions).
I spent last week at the TD Ameritrade national conference in Orlando, Florida. Having the markets decline rapidly while at a conference with over 2,000 advisors was a pretty interesting experience – you would expect panic. Instead, it seemed the market downturn brought advisors a sigh of relief. Why?!