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5 Lessons About Volatility to Learn From the History of Markets

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In 2018, the re-emergence of volatility took many market participants by surprise.

After all, aside from a few smaller, intermittent spikes over the course of the current bull market, volatility has largely been in a long-term downtrend since the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Whether there is more volatility lurking ahead this year or whether the markets continue to calm, it’s worth looking at the last century of market history to put these recent bouts of volatility into context.

Learning From the History of Markets

Today’s infographic comes to us from New York Life Investments and it goes back in time to show us that the volatility experienced in 2018 was neither exceptional or unusual.

Here are five important lessons to learn from it all:

5 Lessons About Volatility to Learn From the History of Markets

This infographic is available as a poster.

With volatility back on the table again, investors are re-learning what it’s like to cope with a sometimes tumultuous market.

Higher volatility can be a source of uncertainty for even the most seasoned investors, but a look at historical data over the last century helps to ease these concerns.

5 Lessons About Volatility

Here are five lessons about volatility that we can learn from the history of markets:

Lesson #1: Volatility isn’t new
Volatility isn’t a new phenomenon – and it’s actually as old as the stock market itself. In fact, if you look at historical swings in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you’ll see that many of the biggest ones were more than 80 years ago.

Lesson #2: Volatility is actually the status quo
In the last century, volatility has been ever-present in the markets, and between 1935 and 2018 the S&P 500 has seen:

  • 4,563 total days with +/- 1% price movements
  • 1,094 total days with +/- 2% price movements

That works out roughly to a 1% price swing every trading week – and a 2% price swing every month. Yet, over this lengthy time period, and after all of that volatility, the S&P 500 has grown by 25,290%.

Lesson #3: Any short-term volatility disappears with a long-term view
Daily price swings can feel like a roller coaster. But if you take a step back and look at the big picture, this volatility is just a blip on the radar.

For example, if you look at a chart of the S&P 500 from August 1990 to February of 1991, you’ll see that daily volatility was rampant. But zoom out to a 10-year chart, and these daily or weekly swings are barely noticeable.

Lesson #4: Volatility can be easily weathered with a resilient portfolio
Given that volatility has been around forever and that it’s extremely common, that makes it fairly unavoidable. Therefore, to weather periods of volatility, it is imperative to build a resilient portfolio by diversifying between different asset classes.

Certain assets are better at weathering periods of volatility than others. Here are some traits to look for:

(a) Low correlation with the market
These assets can zig when others zag, making them a valuable hedge (Examples: Gold, alternative assets, municipal bonds)

(b) Generates cash flow
When times are uncertain, the market puts extra value on assets that are generating real cash flow (Examples: Stocks that pay dividends, or bonds that pay interest)

(c) Defensive or non-cyclical
During uncertain times, there are still companies with stocks that will thrive. They are usually bigger companies with conservative balance sheets and durable competitive advantages. (Examples: Quality stocks in healthcare, consumer staples, telecoms, REITs, and utilities sectors)

Lesson #5: Volatility reminds us that there is no reward without risk

Investing in stocks comes with risks, but it also comes with the best returns over time:

Asset TypeAnnualized real return, 1925-2014
U.S. Equities6.7%
Government Bonds2.6%
Cash0.5%

If stocks offer the best long run gains – and volatility is an unavoidable aspect of investing in stocks – then we must learn to accept volatility for what it is.

Even better, we must learn to build resilient portfolios that can weather any storm, while minimizing these effects.

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Infographics

How Heart Health Can Keep Your Portfolio Beating

Through thematic investing strategies lies an opportunity to invest in a long-term, powerful trend that impacts nearly one in two people: heart health

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Heart Health

This infographic is available as a poster.

Visualizing the Big Business of Heart Health

Heart health affects almost one out of every two Americans, creating implications on both personal and economic levels. At the same time, this means that there is an opportunity for investors to get behind heart-health innovations and holistic solutions.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we explore this growing ecosystem and how it can benefit both the future of health and your portfolio.

Why Invest in Heart Health?

Each day, the heart beats 100,000 times—equal to a staggering 3.5 billion beats in a lifetime.

However, this crucial organ is affected by many ailments. Heart disease tops the list as the number one killer among Americans: 650,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease annually.

In response, multiple industries from Big Tech to wellness are actively working on heart health solutions. By 2030, the cardiovascular disease tech market is projected to reach $40B, making it a growing market for investors to dive into.

Below, we explore some case studies of companies that are aligned with healthy hearts and preventative solutions.

The Fight to Detect Heart Disease

Irregular heartbeats are a key symptom of stroke and hospitalization. In fact, the most common and costly reason for preventable hospital stays is heart failure:

  • 1.1M hospital stays annually
  • $11.2B total annual costs

To combat this, Apple and Stanford Medicine launched the Heart Health Study to develop an algorithm that detects irregular activity.

How the Apple Heart Study app worked

  • Participants wore Apple Watches that detected irregular heart rhythms, known as atrial fibrillation
  • 2,161 (0.52%) were notified of irregular heart rhythms, prompted to schedule a telehealth consultation, and were sent ECG patches to wear for a week

Of these notified participants…

  • 34% Experienced atrial fibrillation
  • 76% Sought medical attention

Along with the algorithm’s 84% positive predictive value, the Apple Heart Health study promoted higher engagement with health services and telehealth providers. Heart health is big business, and Big Tech is only getting started.

Innovating the Tools for Living

Type 2 diabetes is another major risk factor for heart disease. To help fight against diabetes, Fitbit is at the intersection of heart health and technology with glucose monitoring.

Among the projects it has under development:

  • $6 million investment in Sano, a company developing a coin-sized patch for glucose tracking
  • Partnering with Dexcom to monitor how physical activity influences diabetes in a pilot program

While it’s clear that preventative tools are critical on an individual level, their impact on a community-wide scale is striking. For example, for every $1 invested in bike and walking trails, almost $3 in health costs are prevented.

Reversing the Trend: Why It’s a Good Move

A key part of preventing heart failure is to get moving—both before and after critical issues arise.

Importantly, activewear has become one of the top performing categories in fashion since quarantine took hold. As a leader in activewear, Lululemon is designing smart clothing with innovative and lightweight materials.

Another avenue they have ventured into is home fitness, with its acquisition of Mirror in July, 2020 for $500 million. Health and wellness have boomed in the age of COVID-19, and Lululemon’s shares have climbed significantly:

Price Return (2020)

  • LULU: 49.6%
  • S&P 500: 16.3%
  • DJIA: 7.3%

It’s clear that activewear is deeply interwoven into consumer demand.

The Future of Life-Saving Strategies

The problem with heart disease is that the related costs are only intensifying.

By 2035, the direct medical costs linked to cardiovascular disease are estimated to top $748 billion, while indirect costs are projected to reach $368 billion.

But this also means that there’s a promising area of investment opportunity—with the potential for life-changing impact. As societies are hit with the twin threats of COVID-19 and aging populations, the demand for integrative heart solutions is more urgent than ever.

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Infographics

What Lies Ahead: 2021 Economic Projections and the Year in Review

Are 2021 economic projections looking up? As we look back on a historic year, this graphic outlines key growth forecasts for the year ahead.

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What Lies Ahead? 2021 Global Economic Projections

View the high resolution version of this infographic. Buy the poster.

With over 1.4 million deaths worldwide, COVID-19 has impacted nearly every corner of society.

Yet, hope seems suddenly near. Crucial vaccine developments are emerging, with many of the 320 vaccines in advanced trials. Still, questions remain around the timing and effectiveness of the potential vaccine. With this in mind, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that this year, global real GDP will fall –4.4%, bouncing back 5.2% in 2021.

As we look back on a historic year, this infographic from New York Life Investments traces the notable events of 2020, along with growth forecasts for the year ahead.

2020: Year in Review

From a deadly virus to U.S. elections, how did we get to where we are now?

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, $12 trillion in global fiscal response helped stabilize the economy. Despite financial markets facing their sharpest drop in 30 years, the S&P 500 rebounded in record speed—recovering losses in under four months.

 S&P 500 Price Returns Global COVID-19 Cases
January-1%27
February-9%11,948
March-21%87,091
April-11%883,804
May-7%3.23M
June-5%6.15M
July0%10.48M
August7%17.63M
September3%25.57M
October0%34.09M
November11.7%*46.17M

Source: European CDC via Our World in Data
*As of November 27, 2020

In April, oil prices dropped into negative territory for the first time ever. The combination of both a demand shock and supply shock led oil futures to fall to -$37.63. Since then, oil prices recovered modestly, hovering close to $45 in November.

In another historic event, wildfires ravaged through the West Coast of the U.S., burning five million acres across Oregon, California, and Washington. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continued to climb. Global reported cases exceeded the 25 million mark by September.

Finally, on November 16, Moderna announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective, just days after the 2020 president-elect, Joe Biden was announced.

Despite the number of record-breaking incidents over the year, the tech-dominated S&P 500 held steady. Here is how key economic figures have materialized against the backdrop of 2020:

1. Government Debt

Government debt rose 20% relative to GDP in advanced economies, while debt has grown at a slower pace in emerging market and low-income countries.

Gross Debt Position (% of GDP)20192020
Advanced economies105%125%
Emerging market and middle-income economies53%62%
Low-income developing countries43%49%

Source: IMF

2. Inflation

Overall, inflation was lower than pre-pandemic levels, sitting at around 1.5%.

While commodities and medical supplies saw their prices rise, weak global demand for overall goods cancelled out these inflationary effects.

3. Sector Performance

Service sectors were hit among the hardest as social distancing measures were enacted to stave off the pandemic.

In the first half of 2020, accommodation, arts, and entertainment sectors fell close to 15% compared to 2019. Meanwhile, banks were cushioned with cash reserves in the event of unexpected risks, breaking roughly even in year-over-year growth.

While the economy has encountered numerous challenges, the IMF expresses cautious optimism for the year ahead.

2021: Global Growth Outlook

Since the IMF’s June projections, economic growth forecasts have somewhat improved. Primarily, optimism is being driven from Q2 GDP growth that exceeded expectations.

Global Growth ForecastsApril JuneOctober
2020-3.0%-4.9%-4.4%
20215.8%5.4%5.2%

Source: IMF

By contrast, pre-pandemic projections for 2020 and 2021 were 3.3% and 3.4%, respectively.

Over 2020, China enacted several strict measures to contain COVID-19 early in the outbreak, a key factor behind its economic momentum. Meanwhile, India is projected to rebound 8.8%—higher than any other country in 2021, according to IMF-reported countries.

While several factors remain uncertain, what will pave the way for a global recovery?

Analysis of a Successful Global Recovery

Growth projections are improving, but economic success will hinge on these three layers.

 3 Layers for Economic Success 
1The path of COVID-19Public health measures & the race for a vaccine

Impact on domestic economic activity
2Global consumer demandTourism activity

Remittance flows
3Financial market sentiment and capital flowsSupply disruptions

Policy effectiveness

To prevent further unwanted outcomes, it will be essential that policy support is not withdrawn too soon.

The Road to Recovery

With these factors in mind, how could global conditions transform in the months ahead?

Best Case ScenarioWorst Case Scenario
Accelerating global demand

Maintaining liquidity for countries in need

International cooperation

Fair and equal vaccine
implementation across countries
Weakened economic activity

Tightening lending conditions for countries in need

Protectionist measures

Country-level vaccine disparities

In the face of these obstacles, the health of the global economy rests on sufficient consumer demand, capital flows and COVID-19 containment. With news of vaccine developments underway, the outlook is appearing a bit brighter.

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