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Stocks fall into bear market with S&P 500 now off 20% from record


Rising recession fears pushed US stocks into a bear market on Friday with the S&P 500’s decline from its all-time high in January now reaching 20%.

The S&P 500 dropped 2% on Friday, putting the benchmark for US stocks 20.7% below its intraday record reached in January. The index is now headed for a close that’s more than 20% below its January record closing level as well.

So to most on Wall Street, this is now the first bear market to hit since the rapid decline in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

“Stocks are still liberally priced and the psychology that drove them upward for a decade has turned negative,” wrote George Ball, chairman at investment firm Sanders Morris Harris. “The average bear market lasts a year (338 days, more precisely). This downturn has run for only one-third of that, so it probably has more downside room to run, albeit punctuated by interim rallies.”

Now that the S&P 500 is down 20% from its highs, that puts the start of the bear market at early January.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 455 points, or 1.5%, with the benchmark dropping despite a strong open. The Nasdaq Composite dipped 2.2% and is already deep in bear market territory, trading 31% off its highs.

For the week, the Dow is off by 4% for what would be its first 8-week losing streak since 1923. The S&P 500 is down 5% for the week, while the Nasdaq is off by 6%. Both indexes are on pace to fall for a seventh-straight week.

Biggest S&P 500 losers during bear

ticker Company % off 52-week high
ETSY Etsy 75.4%
PYPL PayPal 74.6%
NFLX Netflix 74.1%
MRNA Moderna 73.0%
UAA Under Armour 66.0%
PENN Penn National Gaming 64.6%
ALGN Align Technology 63.4%
CZR Caesar’s Entertainment 60.2%
GNRC generic 59.6%

Source: FactSet

The S&P 500’s tumble into a bear market comes as the US has been dealing with inflationary pressures not seen in decades. Those have been worsened by a surge in energy prices — which was exacerbated in large part by the start of the Ukraine-Russia war.

The jump in inflation then led to the Federal Reserve hike rates in March for the first time in more than three years. Earlier this month, the central bank got even more aggressive and hiked rates by half a percentage point.

At first, the sell-off losses were centered around highly valued growth and technology stocks. However, the sell-off eventually broadened to other parts of the market. Through midday Friday, energy was the only positive S&P 500 sector year to date.

Biggest Nasdaq losers in the bear market

Zoom Video Communications ZOOM 78.64%
DocuSign DOCU 76.55%
PayPal Holdings PYPL 74.65%
Netflix NFLX 74.19%
Moderna MRNA 73.14%
pinduoduo PDD 71.99%
Lucid Group LCID 69.25%
Zscaler ZS 64.44%
Align Technology ALGN 63.51%
MatchGroup MTCH 58.69%

Source: FactSet

Then this week, poor quarterly reports and outlooks from Walmart and Target raised concern over companies’ abilities to deal with inflation and consumers’ willingness to pay higher prices — putting even more pressure on the S&P 500.

“At some point the market will turn, but it won’t be until these winds are shifting, inflation is coming down and consumers are feeling good about spending money again like they want to and are used to. These are pretty long cycles,” said Johan Grahn, head of ETF strategy at Allianz Investment Management.

The March 2020 bear market lasted just 33 days before the S&P 500 ended up rebounding to record highs again as investors bet on internet companies which thrived during the pandemic.

Wall Street continued dumping shares of semiconductor stocks Friday on recession fears. Shares of Nvidia fell 5%, Advanced Micro Devices declined 4%, and Marvell Technology slipped more than 2%.

Bank stocks declined on those same fears. Shares of JPMorgan Chase dropped 2% and Bank of America fell nearly 4%.

Elsewhere, shares of Deere fell nearly 14% on Friday after the heavy equipment maker reported a revenue miss. Shares of Caterpillar declined more than 5%. Industrials like Deere and Caterpillar are seen as barometers for the global economy.

Meanwhile, the Fed has signaled it will continue to raise interest rates as it tries to temper the recent inflationary surge. Earlier in the week, Chair Jerome Powell said: “If that involves moving past broadly understood levels of neutral, we won’t hesitate to do that.”

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That tough stance on monetary policy has stoked concern this week that the Fed’s actions could tip the economy into a recession. On Thursday, Deutsche Bank said the S&P 500 could fall to 3,000 if there is an imminent recession. That’s 23% below Thursday’s close.

According to Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research, “There’s a possibility we can see this bear market bottom out in the upper 20% area, so remain less than a 30% bear market, but you know between 25 and 30%. ”

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Correction: The Dow was on pace for its first eight-week losing streak since 1923. A previous version misstated the year.