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Investor Whiplash: Understanding Market Dynamics and Human Behavior

Humans are inherently influenced by their cognitive and emotional biases, particularly when making investment decisions. A key example is the recency bias, which skews judgment based on recent events. The remarkable performance of the "Magnificent 7" stocks in 2023 is a case in point, propelling the S&P 500 and NASDAQ to gains exceeding 25% and 40%, respectively. This surge followed a tumultuous 2022, where many advisors grappled with client fears over substantial market losses, only to confront FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in 2023 as indices rallied.


A Closer Look at 2-Year Performance of the "Mag7"


When looking at the performance of the Magnificent 7 over the last 2 years, the overall performance is not as stellar as most investors would perceive it to be. Three of the 7 stocks in the Mag7 suffered losses during the 2-year swing.



Tesla was the big loser down nearly 30%. Meanwhile, NVIDIA bucked the trend with an outsized gain of over 68%. The major indexes displayed either modest gains or losses. The rollercoaster down and back up reflects the volatility and risks of chasing the high flying segment of the market. In addition, major market indices displayed either modest gains or losses, reflecting the volatility and risks of chasing high-performing stocks.



The Perils of Chasing Returns


The S&P 500 index, notably, has shown a significant dominance of its top 10 large-cap stocks, which were responsible for 75% of the previous year's returns. However, this concentration also increases market vulnerability, exemplified by the nearly 50% drop in NASDAQ in 2022.


One should be cognizant that the S&P 500 Index and many other are capitalization weighted. Investment strategies that focus on indices like the S&P 500 and NASDAQ create a self-fulfilling cycle. This cycle disproportionately benefits top stocks, increasing their market cap and influence. The downside is evident during market downturns, where these stocks face substantial selling pressure, leading to amplified losses.


Recently, there has been a growing interest in value and dividend stocks. Investors are recognizing the potential in these undervalued stocks, which offer dividends, suggesting a potential long-term shift that could lead to sustained impressive returns.


Market Outlook for 2024


The market complexion in 2024 is anticipated to be markedly different from 2023, presenting new opportunities and challenges. Inflation is expected to remain elevated above the Federal Reserve's 2% target.


The Fed's actions, such as reducing their balance sheet and maintaining higher interest rates, will likely continue to tighten economic conditions and pressure consumers. As trailing indicators start reflecting this stress, a market correction is expected, followed by a cooling of inflation and a potential easing by the Fed in the latter half of the year.


In conclusion, while the attraction to high-performing stocks and indices is strong, it is crucial for investors to be aware of market dynamics and inherent biases. Emphasizing diversification and maintaining a long-term perspective are essential strategies for navigating the complexities of the stock market.


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Unless otherwise indicated all performance is sourced from Bloomberg.

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