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Economy down, markets up?

A recurring conversation with clients and fund managers of late has been around the current relationship between the economy and the stock market.

Some find it hard to fathom that stock markets can experience positive weeks in the face of so much concerning economic data, and that markets are being overly optimistic about the recovery.

Others feel that the worst of it has already been priced into markets and that the economic recovery is already well under way. For example, 20m people lost their jobs in the US earlier this year but 2.5m people were newly employed only last month.

Whatever your view, the dislocation between economic data and the stock market continues to raise eyebrows. This might feel very odd but it is in fact nothing new – it’s always been this way.

The list of economic, social and political events that have troubled the world in the last 20 years alone is long. Some events were very worrying at the time but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget them.

Looking at the list, 🟢  indicates calendar years where global stock markets went up with 🔴  being those years where markets ended lower (as measured by the MSCI World Index):

🔴 2000 – Tech stock bubble bursts

🔴 2001 – 9/11 terror attacks

🔴 2002 – 9/11 after effects / Euro becomes legal tender

🟢 2003 – SARS

🟢 2004 – Asian tsunami

🟢 2006 – Bird flu

🔴 2008 – Global Financial Crisis

🟢 2009 – Swine flu

🟢 2010 – UK coalition government / Flash crash

🔴 2011 – Japan earthquake / Arab Spring

🟢 2012 – European Debt Crisis / MERS

🟢 2013 – Taper tantrum / Quantitative easing

🟢 2014 – Oil price collapse / Ebola

🟢 2015 – China currency devaluation

🟢 2016 – Brexit referendum result / Trump elected

🟢 2017 – Zika virus

🔴 2018 – US / China Trade war

🟢 2019 – May resigns-Johnson elected / Trump impeached

⚫️ 2020?

That’s a lot to worry in anyone’s book. But interestingly, had you invested in markets on 1st January 2000 and simply stared out of the window for 20 years, you’d have seen your money rise by around 197% (source: FE Analytics, income reinvested). And depending on the exact point you entered the market in the last 20 years, your return might well have been even higher.

There’s no obvious pattern to be found in this simplistic data, but if this look back in time tells us anything, it’s that:

  1. We can’t reliably predict or assume how markets and economies will move.
  2. Economic concerns don’t automatically result in prolonged stock market falls.
  3. Markets tend to move on from shocks much faster than we might expect.

We don’t know where we are in the recovery at this moment, so for those of you already invested in markets, the message remains the same – hang tight, things will continue to improve over time.

For those still sat on the sidelines waiting for a market recovery (also known as higher prices!), if now isn’t a reasonable time to get your financial plan going, when is?

As ever, if you need help and advice or you have questions about what all of this means for your financial plan, please do get in touch.

Simon Ben-Nathan

Investments carry risk. The value of your investment (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.