Sudden market downturns can be unsettling. But historically, US equity returns following sharp declines have, on average, been positive. A broad market index tracking data since 1926 in the US shows that stocks have tended to deliver positive returns over one-year, three-year, and five-year periods following steep declines. Cumulative returns show this trend to striking effect, as seen in Exhibit 1.
On average, just one year after a market decline of 10%, stocks rebounded 12.5%, and a year after 20% and 30% declines, the cumulative returns topped 20%. Over three years, stocks bounced back more than 30% from declines of 10% and 20%, although—while still positive—returns were not as impressive after 30% declines. But five years after market declines of 10%, 20%, and 30%, the average cumulative returns all top 50%.
A look at the data makes a case for sticking with a plan. Handsome rebounds after steep declines can help put investors in position to capture the long-term benefits the markets offer.