Bear markets

In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, everything is a mess, and just when you think you understand something, you peel off a layer and find deeper complications beneath. Nature is anything but simple.

– Richard Preston

This time is different from our prior history with recessions. Previous recessions come to be following an excess of some sort — credit, over-consumption, excess capacity - rarely do expansions merely come to an end. Policy makershad a playbook in terms of what monetary and fiscal tools could be used. Yet, the cause of this recession (yes, we are entering a recession, in Canada, the United States and globally) is biological and therefore, something completely different.

We doubt a return to ZIRP (zero interest-rate policy) by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Canada or other central banks will work to solve the short-term economic impact of a great and substantial pause in economic activity that the world is going through – let’s just call it The Great Pause for now.  This was evident by the global sell-off on Monday despite the Federal Reserve unveiling a bazooka of stimulus measures.  However, these measures will help to make sure that the plumbing in the financial system is working and it will provide fuel for the recovery once we mitigate the impact of COVID-19.  We are far from that today. Fiscal policy meanwhile, will provide a better cushion near-term for those individuals and businesses affected economically as entire countries and borders around the world shut down for what is projected to be several weeks.

Where do we go from here? No one knows. Will North America follow the Chinese/South Korean path or the European path. The question of whether we will enter a recession is not if, but how long and how severe? Any attempts to answer that are futile; we just don’t have enough information and the information is changing daily, if not hourly.

What we do know, after the recent days’ volatility, the S&P 500 and S&P/TSX Composite Indices are each down approximately 30% from their record highs. What has caught everyone by surprise is the pace of the sell-off. The bear market of COVID-19 will go down as the fastest sell-off in history. Since 1968, we have had 12 bear markets with an average drawdown from the peak of approximately 32%. Our team believes that equities have the potential for more downside.  Our valuation and earnings projections suggest the potential for further downside of -5% to -15%.

What do we do about it? We were underweight equities in our model portfolio ahead of the market crash.  At these levels despite the potential for further downside – as bottoms are impossible to predict - we believe valuation is starting to look compelling and worth selectively adding to equities at this point.

We will be watching the rate of infections in Europe and North America. If we can follow the China/South Korean path, that at least provides a benchmark of what to expect going forward. We have yet to fully appreciate the economic impact of the containment effort, but we will be paying attention for an inflection point.

We are truly in unprecedented times. Be smart about your daily decisions.

Previous Bear Market Experiences

Peak

Value @ Peak

Trough

Value @ Trough

Drawdown

# of days (peak to trough)

Breakeven Date

spx @ breakeven

Days to Recover

2/19/2020

3386.15

3/16/2020

2386.13

-29.5%

18

Hopefully Soon

 

Hopefully Quickly

9/20/2018

2930.75

12/24/2018

2351.1

-19.8%

66

4/23/2019

2933.68

81

4/29/2011

1363.61

10/3/2011

1099.2

-19.4%

109

2/24/2012

1365.74

99

10/9/2007

1565.15

3/9/2009

676.5

-56.8%

356

3/28/2013

1569.19

1021

3/24/2000

1527.46

10/9/2002

776.8

-49.1%

638

5/30/2007

1530.23

1166

7/17/1998

1186.75

8/31/1998

957.3

-19.3%

32

11/23/1998

1188.21

59

7/16/1990

368.95

10/11/1990

295.5

-19.9%

63

2/13/1991

369.02

86

8/25/1987

336.77

12/4/1987

223.9

-33.5%

72

7/26/1989

338.05

414

11/28/1980

140.52

8/12/1982

102.4

-27.1%

429

11/3/1982

142.87

58

9/21/1976

107.83

3/6/1978

86.9

-19.4%

363

8/15/1979

108.25

366

1/11/1973

120.24

10/3/1974

62.3

-48.2%

437

7/17/1980

121.44

1462

11/29/1968

108.37

5/26/1970

69.3

-36.1%

370

3/6/1972

108.77

451

Average

     

-31.7%

267

   

478

Median

     

-27.1%

356

   

366


Source:  Bloomberg, Manulife Investment Management.  Current Bear Market Statistics as of end of day March 16th, 2020

The following chart illustrates the price change from the peak for the 2018, European Financial Crisis, Asian Currency Crisis, 1990 Recession, Current Sell-Off and 1987 Stock Market Crash bear markets.  The chart shows how many days it took to recoup the losses from the peak.
The following chart illustrates the price change from the peak for the 2018, European Financial Crisis, Asian Currency Crisis, 1990 Recession, Current Sell-Off and 1987 Stock Market Crash, Great Financial Crisis and Dot.Com bear markets.  The chart shows how many days it took to recoup the losses from the peak.

Macan Nia, CFA
Senior Investment Strategist

A rise in interest rates typically causes bond prices to fall. The longer the average maturity of the bonds held by a fund, the more sensitive a fund is likely to be to interest-rate changes. The yield earned by a fund will vary with changes in interest rates.

Currency risk is the risk that fluctuations in exchange rates may adversely affect the value of a fund’s investments.

The opinions expressed are those of Manulife Investment Management as of the date of this publication, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. The information and/or analysis contained in this material have been compiled or arrived at from sources believed to be reliable but Manulife Investment Management does not make any representation as to their accuracy, correctness, usefulness or completeness and does not accept liability for any loss arising from the use hereof or the information and/or analysis contained herein. Manulife Investment Management disclaims any responsibility to update such information. Neither Manulife Investment Management or its affiliates, nor any of their directors, officers or employees shall assume any liability or responsibility for any direct or indirect loss or damage or any other consequence of any person acting or not acting in reliance on the information contained herein.

All overviews and commentary are intended to be general in nature and for current interest. While helpful, these overviews are no substitute for professional tax, investment or legal advice. Clients should seek professional advice for their particular situation. Neither Manulife, Manulife Investment Management Limited, Manulife Investment Management, nor any of their affiliates or representatives is providing tax, investment or legal advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. This material was prepared solely for informational purposes, does not constitute an offer or an invitation by or on behalf of Manulife Investment Management to any person to buy or sell any security and is no indication of trading intent in any fund or account managed by Manulife Investment Management. No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee returns or eliminate risk in any market environment. Unless otherwise specified, all data is sourced from Manulife Investment Management.

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Philip Petursson

Philip Petursson, 

Chief Investment Strategist and Head of Capital Markets Research

Manulife Investment Management

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Kevin Headland

Kevin Headland, 

Senior Investment Strategist

Manulife Investment Management

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Macan Nia

Macan Nia, 

Senior Investment Strategist

Manulife Investment Management

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