Despite Recent Declines, This is No Bear Market

by: John Bethel

I don't make market calls. But that doesn't mean reading those who do isn't interesting reading.

It is.

Such as this from John Dorfman in his latest Bloomberg column regarding what he calls the "May meltdown":

Investors are asking two urgent questions. Was the May unpleasantness the start of a bear market after 3 1/2 years of gains? And given the force with which the Russell 2000 fell, is it time to abandon small stocks? In my opinion, the answer is "no'' to both questions.

Ned Davis Research Inc. in Nokomis, Florida, keeps excellent statistics on stock-market declines and bear markets, a study design that I created more than 10 years ago. The research firm finds that drops of 5 percent or more in the Dow Jones Industrial Average have occurred 355 times since 1900, or an average of 3.3 times a year. Only 31 times did the decline worsen into a bear market, defined as a drop of 20 percent or more. A bear market occurs about once every three years.

Then he writes:

So, more than 90 percent of all 5 percent declines don't turn into bear markets. Ned Davis Research conducted a similar analysis on the Russell 2000, going back to 1979. The small-stock index has experienced 74 dips of 5 percent or more, and nine bear markets. The frequency of declines and bear markets is about the same as for the Dow.

If the May meltdown is over, it was nothing other than a standard dip. And that's how I see it.

Corporate profits are healthy. The U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 3.6 percent pace year-over-year in the first quarter. Interest rates, though rising, are not high by historical standards.

How do I see it?

I don't see it -- calling bull or bear markets before they get here is outside my circle of competence.

Any money I might need in the next 5 years isn't in the stock market. The money that is invested in stocks is there with the long term view.

And I fully expect bad things -- usually unforeseen -- to happen along the way.