Equity markets have seen a much-welcomed reprieve recently with broad US, International, and Emerging Market indices up 11.6%, 15.3% and 6.9% QTD through 11/11/20221. However, looming recession headlines continue to spark angst with investors, who may be wondering what the impact might be if one does occur.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (“NBER”) defines a recession as a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months2. However, the NBER’s official recession announcements are delayed from the actual recession periods.
The global financial crisis offers an example of how markets incorporate expectations ahead of official recession announcements. Exhibit 1 below shows the performance of the S&P 500 index from 2007-2010. The grey shaded area represents the actual time period of the recession (December 2007-May 2009), and the yellow circles indicate the dates when the NBER announced the beginning and ending of the recession, December 2008 and September 2010, respectively.
By the time the recession was announced, the market had already experienced most of its decline. By the time the end of the recession was declared, the market had already experienced a significant recovery.
|Exhibit 1: US Recession and Stock Market Performance During the Global Financial Crisis3
S&P 500 Index, January 2007 – December 2010
If we look at the recessions going back to the beginning of 1980, when the NBER began officially announcing recessions, two-thirds of the time the market had already reached its bottom prior to the formal NBER announcement as shown in Exhibit 2 below.
|Exhibit 2: Recession Announcements vs US Stock Market Lows
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. Business cycle peak and recession announcement dates sourced from the National Bureau of Economic Research. US market represented by the Fama/French Total US Market Research Index. The Fama/French Indices represent academic concepts that may be used in portfolio construction and are not available for direct investment or for use as a benchmark. See “Index Description” below.
While talk of a recession can be discomforting, history shows us that often the worst has already passed. Trying to time the markets during recessionary periods may cause investors to miss out on brighter days ahead.
We think the most sensible approach is to remain disciplined with one’s asset allocation. If investors are considering a change to their asset allocation, this decision should be driven by changes to goals or risk tolerance rather than expectations of market performance.
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