One bad trading day is not the year.
The stock market has wavered recently.
A lackluster year just ended, and this year has started inauspiciously. You may be wondering … should you really be invested in stocks right now?
Yes, you should be.
In moments like these, investors should not panic and overreact to the headlines. Instead, they should take the long view of stock market investing. Impulsive selling now can lead an investor to try and time the market later, and market timing usually leads investors to make mistakes.
Stock market investing is a long-run proposition.
On a bad day, it may seem like the whole market is falling apart – but stock market performance is not measured only in days.
Consider the following statistics, which highlight some underpublicized truths:
**Even with their poor showing in 2015, stocks have advanced notably in the last three years. Across 2013-15, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 9.97%, the Nasdaq Composite 18.37%, the S&P 500 12.74%, and the small-cap Russell 2000 index 10.18%. The Dow Jones Internet index advanced 28.85% in those three years, the Nasdaq Biotech index 35.26%.1
**Just recently, the Dow gained 7.00% in a quarter. The Nasdaq rose 8.38% and the S&P 6.45% in the same interval. When did this happen? The fourth quarter of 2015. Yes, the same quarter that just ended with everyone talking about how sluggish the market was.2
**The S&P 500 did lose 0.73% in 2015 in terms of price return, but its 2015 total return (including dividends) was positive – a yearly gain of 1.38%.3
And now, some long-term historical perspective:
**Through the decades, the S&P 500 has recovered very well from many of its major one-day descents. Its January 4 plunge was comparable to its August 24 drop, when it was down more than 4% during the trading session and lost 3.2% on the day to close at 1,893.21. It took the S&P just three days to recover the entirety of that big loss. Before that, there had been 54 market days in the past 32 years in which the S&P had lost 3.5% or more. There were 45 year-over-year advances after such days, in contrast to 9 year-over-year retreats.4,5
**In the 88 market years from 1928-2015, the S&P had 63 profitable years with its average yearly gain being 21.5%. So across the rough equivalent of a human lifetime, the S&P 500 has advanced on an annual basis 72% of the time.6
**Looking at the 74 possible 15-year intervals of S&P performance occurring during 1928-2015, roughly 60% of these periods have seen the S&P post a compound return of 10% or better. During 1985-99, the index’s compound return was a striking 18.3%.6
Yes, there have been down years for stocks, severe ones among them – think of 2008. There have also been great years, and far more positive years than negative ones. You have to take the good years with the bad. It is simply part of stock market investing.
Those who sell when the market is down often buy back in well after the market recovers. Selling low and buying high is a formula for disappointment. Staying invested through market downturns positions you to buy quality shares when they are cheaper, and when stocks rally, you are in the market and ready to benefit.
A particular headline or economic indicator may jolt the market on a particular day, but you are not invested for one day – you are investing for a lifetime. We have many positive signs in our economy – solid hiring, appreciable wage growth, steady consumer spending, a strong housing market – and they may lead to better corporate earnings in 2016. So be patient; better days may be ahead for the market.