Weekly Update

April 1, 2016 Update

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A more nuanced definition of bull and bear markets

The stock market has familiar cycles dating back to at least the 1960s. The visual below (and the accompanying detailed set of tables below that) highlights these cycles and their direction. Each box in the graphic below shows the median return and duration for the seven of these cycles we’ve seen since 1968; but also the return and duration for the most recent phase of the current cycle. The cycles utilize the bull and bear market definitions pioneered by Ned Davis Research (NDR), which are more nuanced than the simple +20%/-20% traditional definition.

Chart 1: An expanded view of bull and bear markets

An expanded view of bull and bear markets

Recession Bear
Let’s start at the top with the Recession Bear-the typically-grizzly, ugly bear market accompanied by an economic recession-which ends one cycle and ushers in the next. Typically lasting a median 539 days and offering a decline of an average 30%; the most recent Recession Bear (October 2007 to March 2009) was in line with the median duration at 517 days; but trounced the median decline by falling nearly 54%.

Post-Recession Bull
After the bear’s mauling, the market then moves into its next phase in the cycle-the Post-Recession Bull-generating a median return of over 65% and lasting a median 474 days. The most recent Post-Recession Bull spanned from the market’s low in March 2009 to its first cyclical peak in April 2011. Both the return and duration in that phase significantly bested the historic medians-likely due to the magnitude of the preceding decline (the “rubber band effect”).

Before I get to the next phase, do note that there was one experience-in 1981-when the market turned on a dime and went back into a Recession Bear, following the Post Recession Bull. That of course was a function of another recession hitting the U.S. economy in short-order (the now famous double-dip recession of the early 1980s).

Echo “Bear”
Aside from that exception, normally Post Recession Bulls are followed by Echo “Bears”-or better put perhaps, No Recession “Bears” (using quotes because they don’t typically meet the traditional -20% definition). Another way to think about this phase is as the pause that refreshes. It’s currently most relevant because it’s the phase in which we officially sit presently-in fact, this is the second time we’ve been in this phase in the current cycle.

We first entered an Echo “Bear” in April 2011, when the market began its 17% slide into October 2011; after which it moved to the next phase-the Post-Echo Bull (which I’ll get to in a moment). But since the all-time high reached in May 2015, the market was down 15% by the February 2016 low-enough to put us back into an Echo “Bear”-from which it hasn’t yet sufficiently recovered for a move out of that phase.

This is the second time since the late-1960s that the market moved counter-clockwise from a Post-Echo Bull back to an Echo “Bear”-the other time was in 1987 courtesy of The Crash in October that year. As you can see in the median duration and return, these are perhaps better described as severe corrections; largely thanks to the absence of economic recessions.

Post-Echo Bull
When the Echo “Bear” ended in October 2011, we moved into a Post-Echo Bull, which lasted until May 2015, as noted above. Both its duration and return were meaningfully higher than the historic medians. But since last May, the market has suffered two relatively severe corrections; and the recovery since the February low has not been sufficient enough to move us back into a Post-Echo Bull.

So, the burning question is where we go from here. The short and accurate answer of course is no one knows. However, Schwab’s Liz Ann Sonders sees a low risk of an economic recession, which leads her to think the better bet is that this market will recover enough to bring us back in the Post-Echo Bull phase.

See the tables below for more detail on the history of each of these phases. The “%GPA” column shows gain-per-annum (annualized gain).

Nuanced definition of bull and bear markets

Do home prices drive happiness?

“Drive” is a heavy word for the relatively mild correlation shown below in a slide from a Deutsche Bank presentation.

Do home prices drive happiness?

Market Update

After last week’s brief pause, how would stocks close out a very strong month of March? Monday’s post-Easter session offered no clues as participation was lacking and trade listless and unchanged. Markets found happiness in Fed Chairwoman Yellen’s remarks Tuesday. Her tone was seen as being supportive of a very slow ramp in interest rates and a long extension of the low interest rate policy in place for several years now. Once more soothing central banks words lifted stocks, this time to a +0.9% day while tech stocks almost doubled that rise. Stocks added another +0.4% the following day with enthusiasm over the Fed notes still supporting while oil prices were challenged despite weakness in the U.S. dollar.
Markets marked time Thursday to end the month of March while awaiting Friday’s monthly employment report as a possible next catalyst. Friday’s market open looked a bit ominous with Japanese stocks having lost -3% overnight while European bourses were also lower by more than -1%. Oil prices fell sharply as Saudi Arabia appeared to moderate its calls for lower production levels which could support prices. The jobs report came in as expected and a weak open for stocks was quickly bought up as investors looked to bet on higher prices as April got underway.

Warm wishes and until next week.