An interesting study was done by Morgan Stanley Europe, in which they looked at the last 19 bear markets and subsequent rallies. I’m not sure how much weight you can put on these results since every bear market is unique in its own right, nonetheless it provides a good frame of reference for debates.
What the Morgan Stanley team found was that the median bear market resulted in a -57% decline over 30 months and the ensuing rally equaled about +71% over 17 months. The problem is that our bear market in the U.S. was much shorter than the median timeframe despite its steepness – the fall effectively began in October 2007 and bottomed in March 2009 (about 17 months in duration). Since the decline was faster in duration, does that mean the advance will be as well? Not sure. Our current rally has lasted about six months, which implies there is about another year for the rally to continue based on this data.
As I alluded to earlier, it’s hard to compare an average to a period in which we had financial institutions dropping like flies (i.e., Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WaMu, Fannie Mae, AIG, etc.) and people were hiding in caves – you knew it was really serious when it even caused voracious consumers to save money…imagine that. At the end of the day, stock and index prices eventually follow earnings. Because of the severity of this downfall, earnings came down faster than prices because fundamentals deteriorated faster than cost cutting could take place. When the economy begins to recover, the opposite will occur – businesses will not be able to hire and spend as fast as earnings are growing. It will be a nice problem to have, but nonetheless characteristic of a typical economic recovery.
In the U.S., the consumer will have a lot to say about the shape of the recovery since they account for about 2/3 of our country’s economic activity. The other “X” factor will be to what extent government legislation will have an impact on the economy. There will be opportunities available domestically and internally, but in order to survive the chaos, one needs to have a diversified and balanced global approach.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.