Stock Decline Not as Bad as Portrayed

There’s a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal that echoes what other media have been saying for the last 12 hours or so: “Stocks Finish Worst Week Since 2008.”

This does not mean stocks are in the worst shape since 2008. To the contrary, the major indexes have dropped in value to where they were about three years ago (Dow Jones and S&P 500) and only a little more than a year ago (NASDAQ).

That’s still unpleasant, but by how much depends on when your money was invested into the stock market. If most or all was before 2017, you’re still at or ahead of where you were three years ago. If most of it was invested last year, ouch! But remember, markets always come back (most recently, it took about five years to regain what was lost during the Great Recession, and then stocks soared from there).

Headlines are playing off the fact that the market indexes have fallen about 30 percent. This fall is from their all-time highs, however. A more accurate reflection on where we’re at with stocks is this look at Friday’s index closings relative to the last time they were this low:

  • Yesterday                       Last Time This Low
  • DJIA, 19,174                    Nov. 21, 2016, at 19,152
  • NASDAQ, 6,880               Dec. 31, 2018, at 6,739
  • S&P 500, 2,305                Feb. 12, 2017, at 2,351

Locally, one of the hardest hit publicly traded companies thus far is U.S. Bancorp. It closed at $32.57 a share Friday, its lowest price in more than five years and down 46 percent from its most recent high of $60.27 a share as recently as Dec. 8, 2019.

UnitedHealth Group’s shares closed at $206.60 Friday, down 29 percent from their most recent high of $289.40 on March 4, and down 32 percent from its all-time high of $305 on Feb. 19. Its price today is about the same as where it was at on Oct. 9, 2017, when it traded for $192.52 a share.

Target Corp.’s stock closed Friday at $97.40 a share, down only 25 percent from its all-time high of $129.21 a share Dec. 19, 2019, and still doing well relative to when it was last around this price only seven months ago.

General Mills also is doing well relative to where it’s been at recently, primarily because investors pummeled its stock during 2016, 2017 and 2018. It went from a high of $72.46 July 3, 2016, to a low of $37.38 by Dec. 9, 2018. Yesterday, it closed $53.37, compared with its last high price of $55.02 last August.

There will be buying opportunities in all of this at some point, but it’s unclear how much further stocks will decline, as they are expected to until governments provide some sort of assurance and certainty as to when people can go back to work.