S&P 500: Inflation Adjusted Chart Looks a Little Different

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Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Babak

When you have to look at the same chart over and over again it can get a bit boring so here’s the ‘real’ S&P 500 - inflation adjusted:

SP500 inflation adjusted long term chart

The chart shows monthly data from 1900 to February 2009 and is logarithmically scaled so that a percentage move in any year is comparable to other years. I’ve used the CPI (monthly) data available from official US government sources. Some say it is under-reported but what other real alternatives do we have? Removing the distorting effect of inflation is important for long term charts and also because we know that the Fed is doing all it can to create inflation. The most recent data shows the largest one year increase in money supply.

Like walking down your hometown streets, things look similar but different. For example, the chart doesn’t show the massive double top that is now recognized by everyone. Also, from 1900 to 1950, the market tread water after inflation. Then a roaring bull market followed, to then be deflated by an equally intense bear market.

Most interesting is that the bear market low is July 1982 - not 1975 as we usually see on non-inflation adjusted charts. This is where the bull market that followed next was launched. The inflation adjusted level of 238 acted as support, just as it had acted as resistance on so many occasions (temporarily pierced only by the roaring bull market of the 1920’s).

A similar situation is setting up today. We had a bull market that took us to new inflation adjusted levels and subsequently almost all the air was let out because the market is now back to where it broke out from the 1968 top. To be accurate we have a little more air to let out before the market ricochets off that level once again.

Assuming that this is the playbook the market is following; and if not, cheer up! we can only go to zero.