All things considered, most of us would like the stock market to go up. That’s not how it works though.
The stock market goes up. It goes down. It goes up again. But, over a long period of time, for like the last century, it generally goes up.
There’s no reason to think that the general historical trend of the stock market going up over time won’t hold. We are in a really tough place to hold the line on that long-term thinking though.
The first six months of 2022 were the worst first half of a year for the stock market since 1970. The S&P 500 dropped about 21 percent from its peak in January. The Nasdaq has had its largest percentage drop since its inception. It has not been a good time for investors.
Overall, the S&P 500 has shed $8.2 trillion since the start of 2022. That is a lot of money to have evaporate.
Analysts blame a number of factors for the precipitous decline of the stock market. Inflation is surging, and consequently, the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. COVID-19 continues to disrupt economic activity in China, where new lockdowns are still being instituted with some frequency. Supply chains have yet to untangle themselves. And, of course, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown a big geopolitical wrench into the gears of the global economy.
There are some signs of hope, however. For one thing, there is not meaningful data to imply that the stock market’s performance in the first half of a year really means much of anything at all. In 1970, for example, that last year when stocks tanked for the whole first half of the year by about 21 percent, the stock market rebounded to gain 27 percent in the second half of the year. A similar rebound certainly isn’t guaranteed in 2022. But there is some historical precedent.
July has already seen some modest growth in the stock market. Job numbers remain robust. The U.S. trade deficit is down month over month, another good sign.
Despite some silver linings, most Americans remain pessimistic about the economy. One new survey found that 52 percent of Americans report that they are worse off financially than they were a year ago. Only 14 percent said they were better off financially than they were a year ago, a record low for this particular survey. Of course, what Americans say and the reality of the situation are two different things. Americans’ behavior doesn’t exactly indicate dire financial straits.
Some commentators do see the current stock market slump as a buying opportunity. If history is a lesson, the stock market typically recovers from a bear market within approximately two years. And looking very long-term, there has never been a negative annualized return over any 20-year period.
Still, it is not a good time to be meticulously checking your 401(k) balance. Keep that money in there though — and if you can, buy more stocks on the cheap.
Savvy investors know that time after time, again and again, a bad stock market inevitably turns itself around and surges back into the black. When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
It could be coming faster than you might think though, especially if the Fed successfully engineers that soft landing they’ve been shooting for. When the stock market recovery does come, you definitely don’t want to be left behind. So, stick in there, stay with it, and try not to give in to all the economic gloom.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.