How far might the S&P 500 fall in a recessionary bear market? The 2002 and 2020 stock market lows were both produced by “recessionary” bears; based on history back to the 1920s, those two lows stand out as the priciest bear market bottoms on record—and it’s not even close.
Losses in the Russell 2000 Growth Index and the NYFANG+ Index have topped 40%, and the only true equity rockstar, spawned by a 13-year secular bull market, has watched her fund’s value drop by more than three-quarters. Yet there’s still a televised debate as to whether this decline is even a bear! Could there be a more devious creature on the face of the planet?
In a couple of weeks, final second quarter EPS for the S&P 500 will confirm the fastest recovery ever from a recession-related earnings decline. That’s old news, and before it has even hit the tape. But we’ve had a sneak peak from the monthly, 12-month trailing EPS numbers published by MSCI for its USA Large Cap Index. Those figures showed that EPS exceeded their pre-COVID peak in May, and the latest reading (through August) is already 22% above the prior high! Simple trendline analysis suggests that EPS for U.S. Large Caps are likely higher today than they would have been in the absence of the COVID pandemic and hyper-stimulative response.
The ultimate question is whether the Fed’s recent “insurance cuts” are enough to overcome uncertainties about trade talk—and the upcoming election—to avert a recession. We updated our “Slowdown vs. Recession” study to see where we stand now. The bottom line is: It’s too early to rule out a recession.