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Markets in a Minute

Black Swan Events: Short-term Crisis, Long-term Opportunity

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This Markets in a Minute chart is available as a poster.

Black Swan Events COViD-19

black swan events

This Markets in a Minute chart is available as a poster.

Black Swans: Short-term Crisis, Long-term Opportunity

Few investors could have predicted that a viral outbreak would end the longest-running bull market in U.S. history. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed stocks far into bear market territory. From its peak on February 19th, the S&P 500 has fallen almost 30%.

While this volatility can cause investors to panic, it’s helpful to keep a long-term perspective. Black swan events, which are defined as rare and unexpected events with severe consequences, have come and gone throughout history. In today’s Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we explore the sell-off size and recovery length for some of these events.

Wars, Viruses, and Excessive Valuations

With sell-offs ranging from -5% to -50%, black swan events have all impacted the S&P 500 differently. Here’s a look at select events over the last half-century:

EventStart of Sell-off/Previous PeakSize of Sell-offDuration of Sell-off (Trading Days)Duration of Recovery (Trading Days)
Israel Arab War/Oil EmbargoOctober 29, 1973-17.1%271475
Iranian Hostage CrisisOctober 5, 1979-10.2%2451
Black MondayOctober 13, 1987-28.5%5398
First Gulf WarJanuary 1, 1991-5.7%68
9/11 AttacksSeptember 10, 2001-11.6%615
SARSJanuary 14, 2003-14.1%3940
Global Financial CrisisOctober 9, 2007-56.8%3561022
Intervention in LibyaFebruary 18, 2011-6.4%1829
Brexit VoteJune 8, 2016-5.6%149
COVID-19*February 19, 2020-29.5%19N/A (ongoing)

* Figure as of market close on March 18, 2020. The sell-off measures from the market high to the market low.

While the declines can be severe, most have been short-lived. Markets typically returned to previous peak levels in no more than a couple of months. The Oil Embargo, Black Monday, and the Global Financial Crisis are notable outliers, with the recovery spanning a year or more.

After Black Monday, the Federal Reserve reaffirmed its readiness to provide liquidity, and the market recovered in about 400 trading days. Both the 1973 Oil Embargo and 2007 Global Financial Crisis led to U.S. recessions, lengthening the recovery over multiple years.

COVID-19: How Long Will it Last?

It’s difficult to predict how long COVID-19 will impact markets, as its societal and financial disruption is unprecedented. In fact, the S&P 500 reached a bear market in just 16 days, the fastest time period on record.

black swan events

Some Wall Street strategists believe that the market will only begin to recover when COVID-19’s daily infection rate peaks. In the meantime, governments have begun announcing rate cuts and fiscal stimulus in order to help stabilize the economy.

Considering the high levels of uncertainty, what should investors do?

Buy on Fear, Sell on Greed?

Legendary investor Warren Buffet is a big proponent of this strategy. When others are greedy—typically when prices are boiling over—assets may be overpriced. On the flipside, there may be good buying opportunities when others are fearful.

Most importantly, investors need to remain disciplined with their investment process throughout the volatility. History has shown that markets will eventually recover, and may reward patient investors.

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Markets in a Minute

Visualizing the Growth of $100, by Asset Class

In this graphic, we show asset class returns across U.S. equities, bonds, real estate, gold and cash since 1970.

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This line chart shows the growth of a $100 investment between 1970 and 2023 by asset class.

Visualizing the Growth of $100, by Asset Class

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Which major asset class has generated the strongest returns over the long run? How do the returns of investments like bonds and real estate actually stack up?

To put investment returns in perspective, this graphic shows the growth of $100 by asset class over the long term, based on data from Aswath Damodaran at NYU Stern.

Comparing Asset Class Returns

Below, we show the returns of a $100 investment across major asset classes—from U.S. stocks to gold—between 1970 and 2023:

YearS&P 500Corporate
Bonds
GoldU.S. 10-Year
Treasury Bonds
Real EstateCash
1970$100$100$100$100$100$100
1980$226$181$1,578$141$229$192
1990$823$741$1,033$477$374$431
2000$4,060$1,886$734$1,067$536$682
2010$4,656$4,191$3,760$1,821$693$840
2020$16,890$8,349$5,059$2,802$1,155$891
2023$22,419$7,775$5,545$2,286$1,542$956

Numbers have been rounded. S&P 500 includes dividends. Cash represented by 3-Month U.S. T-Bills. Corporate Bonds represented by Baa corporate bonds. Real Estate represented by the Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

As we can see, a $100 investment in the S&P 500 (including reinvested dividends) in 1970 would be worth an impressive $22,419 in 2023.

Not only were U.S. stocks the top performing major asset class, they outpaced other investments by a wide margin. Consider how a $100 investment in corporate bonds would have grown to $7,775 over the period, or 65% lower than an investment in the S&P 500.

When it comes to gold, a $100 investment would have been worth $5,545 by 2023. During the 1970s and 2000s, gold boomed amid bouts of inflation and a falling U.S. dollar. By comparison, the S&P 500 saw much lower returns over these decades.

Real estate, another safe haven asset, grew on average 5.5% annually since 1970, with the highest gains seen in the decade through 2020. It’s worth noting that these numbers are from the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which is based on purely price changes over time.

Given that real estate is a unique asset class, this doesn’t necessarily illustrate the returns that homeowners actually receive, factoring in leverage, property taxes, insurance, and other expenses. From this price perspective, a $100 investment would have grown to just $1,542 by 2023 due to slower price growth through the 1980s and 2000s weighing on overall gains.

During both periods, the housing market crashed, taking years for the sector to fully recover. In fact, following the Global Financial Crisis, it took a decade for home prices to climb to their previous 2006 peak.

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Markets in a Minute

How Small Investments Make a Big Impact Over Time

Compound interest is a powerful force in building wealth. Here’s how it impacts even the most modest portfolio over the long-term.

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This bar chart shows the power of compound interest and regular contributions over time.

How Small Investments Make a Big Impact Over Time

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Time is an investor’s biggest ally, even if they start with just a modest portfolio.

The reason behind this is compounding interest, of course, thanks to its ability to magnify returns as interest earns interest on itself. With a fortune of $159 billion, Warren Buffett largely credits compound interest as a vital ingredient to his success—describing it like a snowball collecting snow as it rolls down a very long hill.

This graphic shows how compound interest can dramatically impact the value of an investor’s portfolio over longer periods of time, based on data from Investor.gov.

Why Compound Interest is a Powerful Force

Below, we show how investing $100 each month, with a 10% annual return starting at the age of 25 can generate outsized returns by simply staying the course:

AgeTotal ContributionsInterestPortfolio Value
25$1,300$10$1,310
30$7,300$2,136$9,436
35$13,300$9,223$22,523
40$19,300$24,299$43,599
45$25,300$52,243$77,543
50$31,300$100,910$132,210
55$37,300$182,952$220,252
60$43,300$318,743$362,043
65$49,300$541,101$590,401
70$55,300$902,872$958,172
75$61,300$1,489,172$1,550,472

Portfolio value is at end of each time period. All time periods are five years except for the first year (Age 25) which includes a $100 initial contribution. Interest is computed annually.

As we can see, the portfolio grows at a relatively slow pace over the first five years.

But as the portfolio continues to grow, the interest earned begins to exceed the contributions in under 15 years. That’s because interest is earned not only on the total contributions but on the accumulated interest itself. So by the age of 40, the total contributions are valued at $19,300 while the interest earned soars to $24,299.

Not only that, the interest earned soars to double the value of the investor’s contributions over the next five years—reaching $52,243 compared to the $25,300 in principal.

By the time the investor is 75, the power of compound interest becomes even more eye-opening. While the investor’s lifetime contributions totaled $61,300, the interest earned ballooned to 25 times that value, reaching $1,489,172.

In this way, it shows that investing consistently over time can benefit investors who stick it through stock market ups and downs.

The Two Key Ingredients to Growing Money

Generally speaking, building wealth involves two key pillars: time and rate of return.

Below, we show how these key factors can impact portfolios based on varying time horizons using a hypothetical example. Importantly, just a small difference in returns can make a huge impact on a portfolio’s end value:

Annual ReturnPortfolio Value
25 Year Investment Horizon
Portfolio Value
75 Year Investment Horizon
5%$57,611$911,868
8%$88,412$4,835,188
12%$161,701$49,611,684

With this in mind, it’s important to take into account investment fees which can erode the value of your investments.

Even the difference of 1% in investment fees adds up over time, especially over the long run. Say an investor paid 1% in fees, and had an after-fee return of 9%. If they had a $100 starting investment, contributed monthly over a 25-year time span, their portfolio would be worth over $102,000 at the end of the period.

By comparison, a 10% return would have made over $119,000. In other words, they lost roughly $17,000 on their investment because of fees.

Another important factor to keep in mind is inflation. In order to preserve the value of your portfolio, its important to choose investments that beat inflation, which has historically averaged around 3.3%.

For perspective, since 1974 the S&P 500 has returned 12.5% on average annually (including reinvested dividends), 10-Year U.S. Treasury bonds have returned 6.6%, while real estate has averaged 5.6%. As we can see, each of these have outperformed inflation over longer horizons, with varying degrees of risk and return.

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