Is This a Speed Bump or Beginning of a Bear Market?

| February 13, 2018
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Back to reality...
After months of eerie calm, stock market volatility has returned. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) – a measure of how turbulent investors expect stock markets to be during the next 30 days – appeared to fall asleep in November 2016. For more than a year, a level of serenity that is rarely associated with stock markets prevailed and U.S. share prices moved steadily higher.
It appears that time is behind us. Barron’s wrote:
“With February’s swift stock market correction, volatility has arrived and will probably stay awhile. The downturn last week ended a streak of 404 trading days without a 5 percent drop in stock prices from the previous high – the longest such streak in market history.
The last correction came in February 2016, when stocks dropped 15 percent. Investors then fretted that Chinese economic growth might be slowing, which turned out to be a false alarm. Long term, the latest nose dive might yet become just a bull speed bump, but there’s already been plenty of pain.”
So, is this a speed bump or is it the beginning of a bear market? A bear market, generally, is a decline of 20 percent or more, and it is normally accompanied by a recession, which is a significant decline in economic activity.
In general, financial firms and publications do not anticipate a recession in 2018, but forecasting recessions can be challenging.
No matter what happens, the key is keeping your head. At times like these, emotion grabs investors by the throat, and it can be difficult to recall markets and economies tend to move in cycles. Historically, bull markets lead to bear markets, which lead to bull markets. Likewise, economic expansions are followed by contractions (recessions), which are followed by expansions.
U.S. stock markets rallied on Friday, but the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, Dow Jones Industrial Index, and NASDAQ all finished the week more than 5 percent lower.

photo by:   Bull and Bear stock market illustration  © Elena Shumnaia | Dreamstime.com

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