The US stock market has taken us on a bumpy ride in recent years. This volatility has tested investor discipline and prompted some people to question their commitment to stocks. While no one knows the future, looking at the past helps provide a better view of long-term market performance and puts the recent market volatility in perspective.
The above chart shows the historical distribution of US market returns since 1926. The performance years are stacked in ascending order by return range. This chart illustrates that:
Market performance over the past two years has been extreme by historical standards. In 2008, US stocks experienced their second-worst calendar return in eighty-four years. Then, in 2009, stocks rebounded strongly to deliver a return in the top quartile of the historical distribution.
Over the long term, the market’s positive return years have outnumbered the negative return years. Since 1926, the market has experienced a positive return in almost three-quarters of the calendar years.