Market Returns Through a Century of Recessions


What does a century of economic cycles teach investors about investing? Our interactive exhibit examines how stocks have behaved during US economic downturns. Markets around the world have often rewarded investors even when economic activity has slowed. This is an important lesson on the forward-looking nature of markets, highlighting how current market prices reflect market participants’ collective expectations for the future.


Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing risks include loss of principal and fluctuating value. There is no guarantee an investment strategy will be successful.
Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.

notes and data sources

  • In US dollars. Stock returns represented by Fama/French Total US Market Research Index, provided by Ken French and available at http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/ken.french/data_library.html. This value-weighed US market index is constructed every month, using all issues listed on the NYSE, AMEX, or Nasdaq with available outstanding shares and valid prices for that month and the month before. Exclusions: American depositary receipts. Sources: CRSP for value-weighted US market return. Rebalancing: Monthly. Dividends: Reinvested in the paying company until the portfolio is rebalanced.

  • Growth of wealth shows the growth of a hypothetical investment of $100 in the securities in the Fama/French US Total Market Research Index from July 1926 through December 2019.

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based on quarterly data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis; quarterly data not available prior to 1947. Percentage change in GDP based on business cycle peak to trough quarter as reported by National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

  • Industrial Production, Inflation, and Unemployment based on monthly data from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED); Unemployment data not reported prior to 1929.

  • All calculations are cumulative.

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