Tuesday, May 2, 2017

This Is What The Bull Market’s Last Gasp Looks Like

Stocks Often End The Party With A Bang.


By Mark Hulbert
MarketWatch
May 2, 2017

Might this bull market about to gasp its last gap? If only we were so lucky.

I’m only half kidding: The stock market more often than not produces some of its most spectacular returns right before a market top. So if the bull is about to end, the last few weeks could still be breathtaking.

To be sure, many market timers for years now have been predicting the end of this amazing bull market, and so far they’ve been wrong. So there’s nothing particularly new about the recent spate of predictions that the bull market is about to end.

But it’s nevertheless important to know what the final stages of bull markets look like: They typically come to an end when the last few remaining bears throw in the towel and turn bullish, and more often than it takes an extraordinary rally to do the trick.

Our task therefore is not to get seduced by that rally into thinking that the market has reached a “permanently high plateau,” to quote the infamous phrase of Irving Fisher, the economist who declared that right before the 1929 stock market crash.

Consider what I found upon measuring the Dow Industrials’ DJIA, -0.13% return during all bull markets since 1930. I relied on the bull-market calendar maintained by Ned Davis Research, eliminating from consideration the handful of bull markets that lasted less than six months. The Dow’s annualized return in those bull markets’ final three months was 49.6% on average. To put that into context, the Dow’s annualized gain during all months of bull markets has averaged 37.4%. (See chart, below.)



Fortunately for the bulls, the stock market’s return over the last three months is markedly lower than these historical averages. The Dow’s gain on an annualized basis for the three months ending April 30, for example, was 17.2%; the S&P 500’s SPX, +0.17% was even lower at 14.5%. Those returns are nothing to sneeze at, of course, but a lot more modest than what history would suggest for the last three months of a typical bull market.

The usual qualifications apply as always when drawing conclusions from the historical data, the most important of which is that there are no guarantees. Indeed, it’s entirely possible this bull market will end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Still, keep in mind that bull markets often are quite seductive right before they die. So when the time comes, don’t get carried away.


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