“If you torture numbers enough, they will tell you anything.”   -Yogi Berra, Yankee great and Hall of Fame catcher

Don’t shoot the messenger, but historically,  it is widely considered a new bull market once stocks are more than 20% off their bear market lows. This is similar to when stocks are down 20% they are in a bear market. Well, the S&P 500 is less than one percent away from this 20% threshold, so get ready to hear a lot about it when it eventually happens.

I’m not crazy about this concept, as we’ve been in the camp that the bear market ended in October for months now (we started to say it in late October, getting some really odd looks I might add), meaning a new bull market has been here for a while. Take another look at the great Yogi quote above, as someone can get whatever they want probably when talking about bear and bull markets.

None the less, what exactly does a 20% move higher off a bear market low really mean? The good news is future returns are quite strong.

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We found 13 times that stocks soared at least 20% off a 52-week low and 10 times the lows were indeed in and not violated. The only times it didn’t work? Twice during the tech bubble implosion and once during the Financial Crisis. In other words, some of the truly worst times to be invested in stocks. But the other 10 times, once there was a 20% gain, the lows were in and in most cases, higher prices were soon coming. This chart does a nice job of showing this concept, with the red dots the times new lows were still yet to come after a 20% bounce.

Here’s a table with all the breakdowns. A year later stocks were down only once and that was during the 2001/2002 bear market, with the average gain a year after a 20% bounce at a very impressive 17.7%. It is worth noting that the one- and three-month returns aren’t anything special, probably because some type of consolidation would be expected after surges higher, but six months and a year later are quite strong.

As we’ve been saying this full year, we continue to expect stocks to do well this year and the upward move is firmly in place and studies like this do little to change our opinion.



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