A Bear Market for Most Global Indexes
The traditional definitions of a "market correction" and a "bear market" are 10% and 20% declines, respectively. All eight indexes on our global watch list have been in correction territory, and as of the end of last week, seven of the eight had dropped into bear territory. The S&P 500 is the one outlier. It has been hovering in the correction zone since January 13th. The UK's FTSE 100 is a near outlier. It dropped below 20% on February 9th, but after three days of bear stigma, it rallied to a 19.7% decline on Friday.
Here is a column chart illustrating the maximum decline to date and the most recent level of decline as of the market close on February 12th.
China's Shanghai Composite is in the deepest bear territory, down 48.6%, although the index is about two percent off its trough on January 28th. We should note that the Shanghai was closed last week for China's Spring Festival, during which time most of the other global markets declined over two percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed out last week at its interim low, which is the second largest decline on our watch list at -35.6%.
Japan's Nikkei first entered bear territory on January 20th. On January 29, six market days later, the Bank of Japan announced a policy of negative interest rates. Ten market days later, the Nikkei had plunged a dramatic 14.6%.
The two Eurozone indexes, Germany's DAXK (the DAX ex dividends) and France's CAC 40, closed out last week slightly off their interim lows set at the end of the previous session. India's SENSEX finished the week down 22.6%, fractionally off its interim low, also set in the previous session.
The S&P 500 and European indexes posted strong gains on Friday, thanks to a stunning rally in oil. March futures for West Texas Crude rose 12.32%.
A Focus on Major US Equity Indexes
Here is a snapshot of the declines in four US indexes. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has experienced the deepest decline of the big three. However, the small-cap Russell 2000 is now in bear territory. It first reached the -20% benchmark on January 13th.
The popular financial press is dominated of late by the bull/bear debate. It's certainly plausible that oversold equity markets are due for a sustained bounce. If so, does that mean the worst is behind us, the bullish case? Or will be bears be correct in expecting deeper declines ahead?