The Market Is Flat


Written by: Jon McGraw

It’s a rare occurrence—something that has happened just 12 times since 1926, according to Fortune—but the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) has remained in a narrow trading range for seven months. For every sector that has delivered performance gains (for instance, health care, software and consumer discretionary), there has been one with losses that have offset those gains (for instance, energy, materials and industrials).

The S&P 500’s unremarkable gains year-to-date are owed to just a handful of stocks, which Barron’s said means the market has bad breadth. That’s not a good sign, but it’s not a bad sign, either. Less breadth doesn’t always signal the end of a bull market:

“Big downturns are almost always preceded by a lack of breadth, which is one reason some folks are preparing for the end. There’s only one problem: Declining breadth doesn’t always signal the end of a bull market. From September 4 to October 13 of last year, the S&P 500 outperformed the equal-weighted version of the index by more than 1.5 percentage points [a measure indicating lack of breadth], leading to similar calls that it was time to bail. The S&P 500 gained 8.5 percent during the next three months.”

Fortune’s analyst reviewed the historical data for the dozen years that offered similar market performance during the first seven months of the year and found that a range of outcomes is possible. The S&P 500 Index could:

  • Remain relatively flat: It happened in 1994.
  • Deliver a loss over the full year: It happened in 1930, 1941 and 1990.
  • Deliver a gain over the full year: It happened during the remaining eight years.

The median return for the 12 years was 6 percent.

Reading stock market tea leaves is no easy task. That’s why it’s important to remain focused on your financial goals and the strategies you’ve selected to help pursue them.

Data as of 7/31/15 1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 1.2% 2.2% 9.0% 15.1% 13.3% 5.5%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 0.5 2.4 -6.1 6.8 3.1 2.7
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 2.2 NA 2.6 1.5 3.0 4.3
Gold (per ounce) 1.6 -8.4 -14.5 -12.2 -1.6 9.8
Bloomberg Commodity Index -1.6 -12.0 -28.3 -14.0 -7.5 -5.5
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index 1.0 -0.9 9.1 9.9 12.4 6.8

If You Sleep More, You May Earn More Money

Researchers were trying to evaluate the importance of sleep, so they focused on two American cities in a single time zone: Huntsville in Alabama (on the eastern edge of the central time zone) and Amarillo in Texas (on the western edge of the same time zone). The sun sets an hour later in Amarillo, so the assumption was made that people get less sleep in Amarillo than they do in Huntsville.

The findings reported in Time Use and Productivity: The Wage Returns to Sleep, by Matthew Gibson of Williams College and Jeffrey Shrader of the University of California, San Diego, were people who get one hour less shut-eye, over a long period of time, earn about 4.5 percent less.

From an economic perspective, the idea may seem counterintuitive. After all, when you’re snoozing you’re not producing. However, from a psychological point of view, it makes a lot more sense. A British study of 21,000 employees found those who slept six hours or less each night were less productive than employees who slept for seven or eight hours.

Of course, sleep wasn’t the only issue that lowered productivity. According to the study, physical inactivity, financial worries, mental health issues, musculoskeletal issues, bullying, impossible deadlines and unpaid caregiving all negatively affected workers’ output.

Sleep issues, however, may become more important as we become attached to devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones. Research described in Scientific American found two hours of tablet use before bedtime suppressed melatonin release. Melatonin is a hormone that lets us know it’s time to sleep.

So, if you are having trouble getting to sleep and use a smartphone or tablet before bed, you may want to turn down the brightness of your glowing screens before bed—or switch back to good old-fashioned books.

Weekly Fun—Think About It

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success … such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

Nikola Tesla, Inventor of the Tesla Coil