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Extreme Optimism to Extreme Pessimism

Just like Melbourne weather, the stock and financial markets can and do change really quickly. Last week I talked about investor sentiment at multi-year highs, and the fact that professional money managers were allocating to stocks at the highest level since January 2022 - all coinciding with the most recent peak in the stock market. Ironic, no?

Today, it's geopolitics and inflation, and the stock market has gone from extreme optimism to extreme pessimism, as all of a sudden there is plenty to worry about (see chart below). A decline of about -6% from it's end of March peak. Please. If you cannot digest a -6% decline in the stock market, this game isn't for you. It makes it easy to forget the stock market rallied 28% in a period of six months.

Readers and followers would have heard me talk about this before. The average drawdown in any given year in the stock market is -14%, so things can get a lot worse before they get better. Here's an extract from our upcoming Financial Market's Handbook, which illustrates this point. The red line is performance of the stock market in that calendar year, and the blue dots represent the drawdown during that year. As you can see, each and every year, the stock market experiences some degree of decline, this is not unusual at all. In fact, the stock market spends more than half its time in a state of drawdown. And 2024 is no different.

So, where are we today? This chart below from Jurrien Timmer of Fidelity perfectly sums it up perfectly. It's measuring the stock market's return and duration of cyclical bull markets for different periods as represented by a time series spiral. You can see a pop in markets during The Great Depression, large spike yet short lived. Contrast that to 1982 - 1987 in yellow, and everything in between. The black line is where we are today relative to other periods. My personal opinion is that we've got a little while to run in this cyclical bull market.

Does this mean the market won't decline during this time? Of course not, it's part of the journey. Wobbles are perfectly normal, and they do not signal the end of a bull market. We're transitioning from multiple expansion to earnings growth, and it will be those companies that continue to grow earnings that will be rewarded. And you wonder why the biggest companies around the world continue to grow in value? It's because they continue to grow their earnings, it quite simple actually - we tend to over complicate these things.

Take the long view.


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