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Has the stock market historically outperformed following equity bear markets?

Following prior bear markets, stocks have generally achieved above-average returns in the ensuing years.

Higher-than-average performance after significant drawdownsAs addressed in our accompanying piece, equity markets have generally delivered positive returns to investors more than three quarters of the time over periods longer than one year. That probability is even stronger when starting from a point like today when the market is down more than 20% from its recent peak.

How strong have these returns historically been? As shown in the chart above, in the post-World War II era, average returns on the S&P 500 have exceeded the long-term average returns for the index over the one- and two-year periods following a decline of 20% or more. In the two years following the onset of a bear market, the S&P 500 has, on average, outpaced the average two-year return by about five percentage points.

It’s important to note that the returns presented above shouldn’t be viewed as a forecast of future returns. Even the 12% average annualized return for the S&P 500 since 1946 appears high by recent standards. Structural factors (demographics, labor force growth, and capital market factors) paint a different picture today; expected returns for the next decade are below that average. The important point is not the level of returns, but that the relative performance of stocks has tended to be stronger coming out of downturns.

Of course, each period is subject to its own unique circumstances. Historical averages are an imperfect predictor of the future but can be effective in providing some context and perspective. Nevertheless, our analysis of prior cycles confirms that bear markets tend to provide relatively attractive entry points to invest in stocks viewed through the lens of a multiyear investment time horizon. Patience has typically been rewarded.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investments include risk and have the potential for loss as well as gain.

Data sources for peer group comparisons, returns, and standard statistical data are provided by the sources referenced and are based on data obtained from recognized statistical services or other sources believed to be reliable. However, some or all of the information has not been verified prior to the analysis, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness. Any analysis nonfactual in nature constitutes only current opinions, which are subject to change. Benchmarks or indices are included for information purposes only to reflect the current market environment; no index is a directly tradable investment. There may be instances when consultant opinions regarding any fundamental or quantitative analysis may not agree.

Plante Moran Financial Advisors (PMFA) publishes this update to convey general information about market conditions and not for the purpose of providing investment advice. Investment in any of the companies or sectors mentioned herein may not be appropriate for you. You should consult a representative from PMFA for investment advice regarding your own situation.

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