A Case Study in the Market’s Long Term Resilience

An article in CNBC recalls the demise of Lehman Brothers in 2008 that “unleashed a new level of panic and pain” in the markets and the highlights how buying shares of the doomed firm would have left investors underwater for a long time afterward—but not forever.

From today’s viewpoint, the article says, “buying on Lehman eve has been redeemed and rewarded by the passage of time, the resilience of corporate America and the durability of the bull market that’s followed.”

By March 2009, the article explains, things were looking pretty dim as the S&P 500 had declined another 40 percent. But the outlook improved:

Three years after the crisis, the article says, the S&P 500 had nearly recovered its “post-Lehman losses” but stock returns still trailed bonds. At the five-year mark, things seemed more stable. But the article argues that it’s best not to “underestimate how fragile and unconvincing this economic and asset-market recovery seemed along the way—and therefore how hard it often was to maintain the faith that over time the market will bail out investors’ imperfect timing.”

The article concludes that, although in September 2008 it might have been “premature and humbling” for investors to assume that all the market’s bad news was is “in front of our noses,” such an assumption would not have been incorrect.