Kierkegaard stated that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. Ironically, the year that we all thought was synonymous with perfect vision, 2020, turned out to be proof of this statement. The year was one of the most tumultuous in modern history, marked by developments that were historically unprecedented. But the year also demonstrated the resilience of people, institutions and financial markets.
For investors, the year was characterized by sharp swings for stocks. March saw a 33.79% drop in the S&P 500 Index, as the pandemic worsened. This was followed by a rally in April, and stocks reached their previous highs by August. Ultimately, despite a sequence of epic events and continued concerns over the pandemic, global stock market returns in 2020 were above their historical norm.
One major theme of the year was the perceived disconnect between markets and the economy. How could the equity markets recover and reach new highs when the economic news remained so bleak? The market’s behavior suggests investors were looking past the short-term impact of the pandemic to assess the expected rebound of business activity and an eventual return to more-normal conditions. Seen through that lens, the rebound in share prices reflected a market that is always looking ahead, incorporating both current news and expectations of the future into stock prices.
Moving into 2021, many questions remain about the pandemic, new vaccines, business activity, changes in how people work and socialize, and the direction of global markets. Yet 2020’s economic and market tumult demonstrated that markets continue to function, and that people can adapt to difficult circumstances.
2020’s outcomes remind us that a consistent investment approach within the guidelines of a financial plan is the most reliable way for investors to achieve their goals.
As always, pelase contact us if you don't have a financial advisor or would like to review your plans.
Please take a moment to view our Q4 2020 Market Review.
J. Brent Everett
Chief Investment Officer
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