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  • Writer's pictureRobert Baharian

COVID Stock Market Anniversary

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

I distinctly recall the days leading up to it. We were in complete lock down. It was absolute manic. Huge daily swings in the markets. It was wild. I was loving it - weird, I know. We wouldn't know it then, but the market bottomed out on the 23rd of March 2020. Last week marked the 2 year anniversary of the COVID market bottom.

Since then, and at the time of writing this piece, the US stock market is up around 203.1% excluding dividends. And yet, many of the stay at home stocks are back to where they were at the bottom of the market. Having skyrocketed to the moon, they have crash landed back to earth. Investing is so much fun, yet it's so boring at the same time. Depending on how you execute your trades.

In today's chart, let's take a look at what the last 24 months has looked like.

Not a bad return, ey?

During the recovery from the stock market collapse, I created this chart which I would share on a regular basis. It was my favourite chart by far, and I think it still is. I compared the recovery from the GFC to that of the recovery of the COVID crash. I hadn't updated it for a little while, so I decided to update it today. And here it is.

Pretty crazy isn't it? I'm not saying the present recovery follows the previous one lock step, but it's pretty darn close, don't you think? A random walk? There is no alternative (TINA)? A fear of missing out (FOMO)? Low interest rates? Maybe a combination of all? Or maybe, just maybe, company earnings are going bonkers? I mean, isn't that what drives share price? Here's what company earnings per share looks like (S&P 500) since 1990. You make the assessment:

Investing is hard, let a long during times of panic and crisis. As we have seen during the most recent geopolitical events unfolding and the impact this has had on the stock market, these things don't last forever. I get it, it's hard to see your portfolio value decline in value without any end in sight. It's the perception of control that human beings seek.

I decided to go back and look at all the bear markets (decline of 20% or more) since 1929 in the S&P 500. I looked at the peak, the trough, how much the market fell (excluding dividends, price only), the number of days the market fell, and the number of months. I then calculated the number of days it took to recover if you had invested in the previous peak, the number of months, and the number of years it would have taken to recoup your money and breakeven. Out of curiosity, I then calculated the gain one would have made if they had perfectly timed the previous market bottom to the next peak - unrealistic, yet interesting. Here is the data:

The average drawdown since 1929 during a bear market is around 33%. The average number of days is 331, or around 11 months of declines before the market bottoms. If you invested in the peak of the market at the time, it would take on average 1,383 days to recover, or around 46 months, or just under 4 years (3.86 to be exact). And if you had perfectly timed the market and invested at the bottom during that time, you would have more than doubled your money up until the following peak.

During this entire time, the stock market has returned a cumulative return of 25,480%, or 6.14% pa plus dividends of around 4%, which brings the total annualised return to over 10% pa. Not a bad rate of return for just sitting in your seat. This however, is the challenge. So too, is the challenge to accept that we are not that special. That we are all not above average. I'm not saying don't try and swing for the fences, go for it. But please don't do it with your entire portfolio. Portfolio construction is a complex area. It requires expertise and an understanding of financial markets and how they interact. Sure, when it all hits the fan, everything collapses. I get it. And this is why it's even more important to be able to design a portfolio that's right for you. Understanding your personal goals, personal cash flows, and your personal tolerances will help with designing a portfolio that brings together your balance sheet and your life.


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