Despite recent stumbles, stocks are up nearly 75% in the past year

March 24, 2021, 9:56 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Yields are down. Futures are up. What could go wrong? Well, the mother of all traffic jams on the Suez Canal is roiling the energy markets, and vaccine rollout campaigns continue to bog down. But the screens have begun to flash red to green. It’s looking like the start of a risk-on day.

In today’s essay, we look back at a truly historic bull market run as it moves into a second year of gains.

But first, let’s see what else is moving markets.

Markets update


  • The major Asia indexes are a blur of red in afternoon trading, with the Hang Seng down nearly 2.2%. It’s fallen more than 10% since its Feb. 17 high, putting it in correction territory.
  • Defective packaging has forced Hong Kong and Macau to put the pause on the rollout of BioNTech COVID vaccine, denting their inoculation drives.
  • There’s a giant bottleneck in global trade this morning—a massive container ship has run aground in the Suez Canal, creating one heckuva traffic jam. The ship, the Ever Given, is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. Getting such a vessel unstuck could take days.


  • The European bourses were lower out of the gates with the Stoxx Europe 600 down nearly 0.5%, before rebounding some.
  • Autos are particularly weak today on concerns of global chip shortages.
  • AstraZeneca shares are down again on Wednesday as the drugmaker scrambles to address regulatory concerns about its COVID vaccine data. The drip-drip-drip of controversy is creating a big credibility gap.


  • U.S. futures have been climbing all morning. That’s after all three exchanges ticked lower on Tuesday, and the small-cap Russell 2000 cratered by nearly 4%.
  • 🚀🚀 Robinhood 🚀🚀 is 🚀🚀 going 🚀🚀 public 🚀🚀, CEO and co-founder Vladimir Tenev tweeted a few hours ago.
  • Speaking of which… shares in GameStop have tumbled by more than 15% overnight after the retailer posted top- and bottom-line duds. CEO George Sherman didn’t open the earnings call to questions, a move that didn’t go over very well with the antsy Reddit brigade.


  • Gold is up, trading around $1,725/ounce.
  • As is the dollar.
  • The Suez roadblock is sending oil prices a tad higher with Brent pushing above $62/barrel.
  • Bitcoin is more or less flat, trading around $55,000.


Happy stocks-iversary!

Where were you one year ago? Locked down, at home, no doubt.

As you no doubt recall, on March 23, 2020, the gut-wrenching markets-drop that began in February reached its nadir. And, from that point, stocks began to climb. And climb. And climb. And climb.

“We’ve come a long way since then,” writes Deutsche Bank research strategies Jim Reid in an investor note this morning, “with the annual change in the S&P at an astonishing +74.78%, making that the biggest rolling 12-month increase in the index since 1936.”

Had you put a grand on an ordinary Nasdaq-tracking ETF, that $1,000 would be worth $1,952 as of yesterday. (My colleague Chris Morris does a series of these calculations, including for Bitcoin the S&P 500. The upshot? Eye-watering returns.)

To put the 75% stocks rally into further perspective, Fortune‘s Anne Sraders reports the rally “represent the strongest one-year rebound from a bear market ever (even beating out 2009’s big 68.6% one year rally).”

The historic data reveals a load of good news for bulls. Typically, these rallies run well into a second year, as LPL Research demonstrates in the chart below. On average, their data-crunchers show, the Year 2 return comes to a “solid 16.9%.” (See yellow bar, at far right.)

That’s the good news. The same historical data shows plenty of volatility in the second year, too. You can see this in the chart’s black bars, with pull-backs that take stocks down as much as 10.2% on average.

True bulls prefer to look forward, but I have one more historical data point for you: one year ago today, on March 24, the S&P soared 9.38%. That was the day that truly started the “epic advance” as DB’s Reid calls it, enroute to score a string of fresh all-time highs.

Let’s see if history repeats itself.


Bernhard Warner

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