Stock Market Outlook 2021: Bull Market, But Buckle Up

In what may become the second year of a bull market, where can investors look for returns, amid the appearance of historically high valuations?
By Andrew Slimmon – Stock market returns in 2020 eerily resembled the trend in 2009—that is, the strength of the first year emerging from a deep stock market recession. While past performance does not necessarily predict future results, being an active equity investor does require understanding historical moves.

Last year, as the market recovered from its drop in March, many investors were way too bearish in retrospect, keeping too much cash on the sidelines. Once the rally began, volatility dropped, and the bull market climbed significantly before the bears eventually capitulated late in the year.

Now in 2021, amid hope and excitement that the pandemic might soon be behind us as vaccines are distributed, investors may actually find it tougher to generate the kind of stock market returns we saw last year in the midst of COVID-19. Strange I know, but as we saw last year, equity returns need not align with what is the current state of the economy. Instead, stocks this year may resemble their performance in 2010, i.e., year two of the bull market that started in 2009. After the S&P 500 Index’s stunning 68% return from the March 2020 low to the end of the year, stocks likely need to take a breather, much as they did in the second quarter of 2010. Importantly, however, overall returns of a second year of a bull market are historically positive, like in 2010.

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We should therefore brace ourselves for a lot more stock market volatility in 2021. This will likely shake out the reluctant bulls, those who only recently put their cash to work in equities, at the exact wrong time. Based on history, investors should hold tight and keep eyes on the longer term. The second year of a new bull market historically performs quite well overall, though it tends to be more gut-wrenching along the way. more>

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