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Opinion: Why stocks still suffer bear markets even when the U.S. economy is growing

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If you think a bear market can’t happen while the U.S. economy is growing, think again.

It certainly would be nice if economic growth provided reliable protection from bear markets. The Conference Board, for example, projects that real U.S. GDP growth for all of calendar 2021 will be 6.6%. Bank of America is projecting a 6.5% growth rate. Both estimates are more than double the 2.7% annualized average growth rate over the past 50 years.

The occasion to disabuse you of any wishful thinking about bear markets and economic growth is the National Bureau of Economic Research’s recent pronouncement that the pandemic-induced recession came to an end 15 months ago. Since the bear market on Wall Street came to an end at almost precisely the same time, you’d be excused for thinking that the two are highly correlated.

But you’d be wrong, for two reasons. The first is that the stock market anticipates recessions by a…

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