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Market View

If history is any indicator, recent market action may signal another long-term buying opportunity.

 

Chart 1. A Resilient U.S. Stock Market Has Rebounded from 15 Corrections Since 1975
Price performance of the S&P 500 iIdex, August 31, 1975–August 28, 2015, with percentages in shaded areas representing declines from previous peaks

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices. A correction represents an index decline of 10% (approximate in 2012).
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. For illustrative purposes only and does not represent any specific Lord Abbett mutual fund or any particular investment. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees and expenses, and are not available for direct investment.

 

In light of the recent China-fueled market volatility, we published a special Market View on August 26, featuring insights from our investment professionals on a wide range of asset classes. As we resume our regular weekly format, we’ll turn our focus to the investment implications of the current volatility for U.S. equities. Specifically, how should long-term investors approach episodes of U.S. equity market turmoil like the current one?

As we’ve reminded our readers before, in many ways, the one certainty of investing is volatility. Sudden shifts in the market can trigger emotional responses that cause investors to make irrational decisions, raising the chances of negative outcomes. And nowhere was that more evident than in the market action of August 2015. The S&P 500® Index shed 5.5% for the month through August 28, according to Bloomberg, as China’s decision to devalue its currency on August 11 raised fears about global economic growth.

The market’s volatile August included a decline of over 12% in the S&P 500 from its May 21, 2015 peak, putting it in correction on August 24–25. (Corrections are typically defined as market declines of 10% or more, according to Yardeni Research, while bear markets are defined as declines of 20% or more.) The S&P 500 followed that with a rally of more than 6% on August 26-27 for its best back-to-back gains since the beginning of the bull market in 2009, according to Bloomberg.

Long-term investors have seen this movie before. They are well aware that within any multi-decade period, both bull and bear markets are likely. Market volatility often causes investors to make hasty emotional decisions that can have a negative impact on their portfolios’ returns. During the past 40 years, the S&P 500 realized an average annual total return of 11.4%, according to S&P Dow Jones index data compiled by Confluence. However, to have benefited from such performance, an investor would have had to stay the course through periods of significant volatility.

Corrections of 10% or greater have happened over 15 times over the last 40 years, or an average of about once every three years. Until recently, investors had enjoyed a period of relative tranquility, with the last correction occurring nearly four years ago. The only correction-free stretch that was longer than this lasted from 1990–98.

Let’s put this most recent correction in perspective. Chart 1, the so-called “mountain chart,” is rather well known and widely cited in investment research. The reason for its widespread use is that it carries a simple, and powerful, message: After each correction in the past 40 years, the U.S. equity market has typically continued upward. 

What’s the likely explanation for the market’s long-term resilience? Two consistent long-term U.S. trends: economic growth and increasing corporate profits. Of course, the overall upward path of both has contained periods of declines in both gross domestic product (GDP) and corporate profits—developments that tend to lead to market corrections. But unless you believe the trajectory will somehow fundamentally change, and the U.S. economy and corporate profits enter periods of sustained decline, then any downturn is probably just temporary, and likely will be followed by recovery.

Could the August 26–27th rally mark the start of the rebound from the most recent stock-market correction?The bounce-back was certainly encouraging, but the jury is still out. Indeed, market moves like the ones we’ve seen recently do signal investor concern about the economic and market fundamentals. Are they right to be worried? To get a clearer view, we turned to Lord Abbett Partners Zane Brown and Milton Ezrati.

Zane Brown, Fixed Income Strategist
Certainly, the situation now is much different than what it was back in 2008. There is concern about China, but China really does not define the financial condition of the United States, nor of many U.S. companies. When we look at a slowdown in the U.S. economy, and then look at U.S. trade with China, we find that only 1% of U.S. GDP is related to exports to China. That is not going to evaporate. Concerns about China are worthwhile if one has a portfolio of Chinese securities, or investments that are heavily tilted towards emerging markets. But U.S.-centric companies that are poised to benefit from a 2.0–2.5% growth level here in the United States are not likely to be adversely impacted by the economic slowdown that we are witnessing on the other side of the world. 

Milton Ezrati, Senior Economist and Market Strategist
U.S. equity investors should look at the fundamentals and realize that the Chinese economy is not imploding as is implicit in the recent sharp stock declines. They should recognize that the U.S. economy is continuing to show signs of modest, though not particularly robust, growth, which should result in earnings expansion for U.S. companies. All of these things suggest that the fundamentals are in place to support the U.S. equity market and that once this emotion-driven volatility runs its course, there will definitely be buying opportunities.

 

MARKET VIEW PDFs


  Market View
  U.S. Market Monitor

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