Friday, December 23, 2022

2022 duration of declines the worst since 1977

While the 25% peak-to-trough drop in the S&P 500 ranks in the lower range of bear-market wipeouts, it took a particularly jagged route to get there. At 2.3 days, the average duration of declines is the worst since 1977. Throw in three separate bounces of 10% or more and it was a market where hopefulness was squeezed as in few years before it.

This may explain why despite a smaller drawdown, pessimism by some measures rivals that seen in the financial crisis and the dot-com crash. Safety crumbled in government bonds, which failed to provide a buffer for beat-up equities. Buying put options as a way to hedge losses didn’t work either, adding to trader angst.

While stocks headed to the Christmas break with a modest weekly decline, anyone hoping for the rebound from October lows to continue in December bounce has been burned. The S&P 500 slipped 0.2% in the five days, bringing its loss for the month to almost 6%.

That would be just the fourth-worst month of the year in a market that at times has seemed almost consciously bent on wringing optimism out of investors. Downtrends have been drawn out and big up days unreliable buy indicators. Consider a strategy that buys stocks one day after the S&P 500 posts a single-session decline of 1%. That trade has delivered a loss of 0.3% in 2022, the worst performance in more than three decades.

“There’s an old saying on Wall Street to ‘buy the dip, and sell the rip,’ but for 2022, the saying should be ‘sell the dip, and sell the rip,’” Justin Walters, co-founder at Bespoke Investment Group, wrote in a note Monday.

It’s a stark reversal from the prior two years, when dip buying generated the best returns in decades. For people still conditioned to the success of the strategy — and until recently, many were — 2022 has been a wakeup call.

“There was nowhere to hide for a whole year — that’s a big issue,” Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz SE and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, said on Bloomberg TV. “It’s not just returns, it's correlation and volatility that have hit you in a big way. Is it done? No, it’s not.”

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