The S&P 500 barely avoided a bear market. Here’s how stocks have fared after previous ‘near misses’

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The S & P 500 just missed the dreaded milestone of falling into a bear market, and that could mean strong gains for the benchmark index going forward. At one point last week, the S & P 500 was down more than 19% from a record closing high set in early January. However, a bounce on Friday helped the index dodge a bear market — which is typically defined as a 20% drop from a recent high on a close-to-close basis. That marks the sixth time since 1978 that the S & P 500 has tumbled more than 19% but did not enter a bear market, according to Credit Suisse. The previous five instances have been followed by monster gains over the next 12 months. After the March 1978 trough, for example, the index rallied 13% over the next year. The S & P also posted gains of more than 37% after reaching its October 1998 and December 2018 lows. It also rallied 29% after bottoming in October 1990 and 32% after an October 2011 slump. Gains in subsequent three and six months have also been strong. To be sure, Credit Suisse pointed out that the market may not have the Federal Reserve to help it out this time, as it did in many of those prior near misses. “On three of these occasions, there was an obvious catalyst (with the benefit of hindsight) that explained the low, with the Fed easing or hinting at easing on each of these ‘near miss’ bear markets,” the bank said. This time around, the Fed has been raising rates to quell the strongest inflationary pressures seen in decades, and Credit Suisse thinks the central bank is unlikely to reverse course. “We struggle at the moment to see an obvious immediate catalyst to stop further falls. It seems highly improbable that the Fed would ease or hint at such a course of action.

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