Markets rallied Monday, when the S&P 500 closed 2.6% higher and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2.3%. Those swings, in a single day, were huge. Tuesday’s markets built on that momentum. Now mind you, we are still far below the highs of January.
But this does raise a question: Are we finally done with sad markets, or at least the worst of them? Or are we in store for disappointment?
Anyone with a 401(k) or savings in stock — and that’s 58% of the country, according to Gallup — has probably looked at their investments with horror at some point over the past 10 months. The Dow was, as of Tuesday morning, still down 18% from its high in January.
“By every definition, we have definitely been in a bear market,” said Mark Lehmann, CEO of JMP Securities.
So why did markets suddenly become happy on Monday? Could it be that the worst economic data is behind us? “Everything that could have gone wrong in the third quarter kinda did,” Lehmann said.
Don’t get him wrong — inflation is stubborn, a recession’s probably on its way, earnings this quarter are probably going to be dismal. It’s not that things can’t get worse, it’s that maybe they aren’t going to get worse than markets already expect them to get, said Jon Maier, chief investment officer at Global X ETFS.
“One day does not make a sustained rally. Neither does two, but directionally we are moving in the right direction with the market knowing all of these things,” Maier said.
But of course, things could get worse for markets.
“We would argue we are still in a downtrend, we are still kind of in that bear market,” said Sameer Samana, senior global markets strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
Bear markets follow a pattern: They go down, and they just sputter around for a while, hit bottom and finally break through. Right now, we’re in the sputter phase.
“As time goes on and, you know, some of that hawkishness of the Fed starts to dissipate — first quarter of next year is probably the most likely timing — then what you should hope to see is markets start to slowly kind of break back up out of it,” Samana said.
But the moment at which markets recover will not feel like the moment we — consumers, the economy — are recovering. It may, in fact, be close to our darkest economic moment.
And that’s because the market does not represent the economy of today. It represents the economy of months and years down the road.
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