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Excerpt from fund manager John Hussman's weekly essay on the U.S. market:

The current bull market has already lasted beyond the historical norm, and though the S&P 500's percentage gains of the past several years haven't been spectacular from a historical perspective, this has been among the longest periods the market has ever gone without a 10% correction...

I've noted before that the "median" bull-bear market cycle is 4 years in duration (with a regularity that is typically attributed to the election cycle). Since there's some variation though, the average is closer to 5 years: about 3.75 years of advance, at roughly 28% annualized, and about 1.25 years of decline at roughly -28% annualized. While the individual variations are very wide, an "average" bull market return is 152%, followed by a decline of about -34%, for a total return of about 67% (roughly 10.7% annualized).

It's important to notice what this implies. An average bear market ultimately turns a 152% bull market total return into a 67% total return over the full cycle. That is, less than half of a bull market's trough-to-peak gains are typically preserved when you measure from trough-to-trough. It's hard to emphasize this enough.

Consider even the unusually long advance from December 1994 through September 2000. During that period, the S&P 500 achieved a total return of 277%. During the ensuing bear market decline (to the October 2002 low), the market lost about 46%, resulting in an overall total return of 104% for the complete 8-year period. Even if you take the whole span from 1990-2000 as a single bull market, the ensuing 2-year bear reduced the total return from a 536% total return to a 245% full-cycle return.

In short, bear markets typically nullify over half of the preceding bull market advance. This is helpful to remember as investors rush to chase the speculative tail of an already aged and overvalued bull run...

The market's ability to defy valuations is ultimately temporary. Over the long-term, investors can get perfectly good results by focusing only on valuations and ignoring the quality of market action altogether. Over the short-term, however, this can be very frustrating because the market can defy valuations for months or in some cases years before ultimately wiping out those "speculative" gains by returning to more normal valuations...

I distinguish favorable valuations ("investment merit") from favorable market action ("speculative merit"). In some cases, favorable market action contains information about future improvements in fundamentals. In other cases, favorable market action just suggests that investors are willing to speculate on some "concept." It's likely that the current rally represents pure speculation, based on hopes of a "Goldilocks" economy. Though I continue to believe the Goldilocks thesis is entirely wrong, it may take weeks or even months for enough data to emerge to contradict it. In the meantime, you can't simply stand in front of investors saying "No. Stop. Don't. This will end badly." To paraphrase Warren Buffett, "a herd of lemmings looks like a pack of individualists compared with Wall Street once it gets a concept in its teeth..."

Even barring a full-fledged bear market, it's notable that the Dow has now gone over 900 trading days without even a 10% correction. The current advance is among the 5 longest uncorrected advances on record...

Suffice it to say that even if the market was to advance further by 10% or more (which I view as improbable), the likelihood of investors actually retaining the gain would be fairly negligible. We'll accept those risks that are appropriate, but there's no sense running off to juggle dynamite with the other kids, just because they're having fun right now.

Read more John Hussman weekly essay excerpts on Seeking Alpha.

Source: John Hussman: In the Long Run Valuations Rule