Despite strong returns this year, U.S. equity markets remain stuck in a relatively narrow 20% trading range that has prevailed for almost two years. Volatility has increased, but the long running tug-of-war between bulls and bears has yet to be resolved. Important Disclosures
Some have called this the most hated bull market in history. The S&P 500 Index finished the first half of 2019 at 2,942, only slightly lower than its all-time closing high of 2,954 reached on June, 20, 2019. S&P 500 six-month return, inclusive of dividends, is an impressive 18.5%, the best first half since 1996. Important Disclosures
The market has been on a wild ride. December 2018 was the worst December for the S&P 500 since 1931. Then, the first quarter of 2019 was the best first quarter in over 20 years. From sentiment to markets to economic data, there are a plethora of opposing extremes.
Just as investors were settling in for a modestly positive year, U.S. equity markets sold off sharply in the fourth quarter. The sell-off rattled market participants. In this environment, keeping our heads about us and trusting ourselves is critical to achieving long-term investment success, particularly with doubters all around us.
Global equity markets rose during the first half of 2017. In fact, annualized returns are on pace for the fifth best showing in 30 years. The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) generated a total return of 4.45% during the second quarter of 2017, bringing its year-to-date return to 11.82%.
During the first quarter of 2017, the S&P 500 Index generated a total return of 6.07%. Almost all of the gain, 5.36%, occurred between early February and early March. Since the election, the S&P has returned slightly over 10%.
During almost all of the second quarter, U.S. equity markets seemed impervious to bad news. Through June 23, the S&P 500 traded in a 100 point range between 2,025 and 2,125, close to its record high of 2,134 in May, 2015. Then came Brexit.
The S&P Index ended 2015 at 2,044, almost exactly where it started the year at 2,059. Including dividends, the Index’s total return for the year was +1.38%. Volatility was higher than in any year since 2008. Market performance was very concentrated.
Much changed in the third quarter. The narrow trading range that characterized the first seven and a half months of 2015 was breached in mid-August with a significant market decline and increased volatility.