Monday, August 04, 2008

A global bear market in shares

The global bear market in shares continues, as Bloomberg reports that nearly all of the countries in the MSCI World Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index have entered bear market territory, as they define it.

"All of the 23 developed nations in the MSCI World Index except for Canada have experienced bear-market plunges of 20 percent or more since September as credit losses surged and record commodity prices stoked inflation. Brazil last week became the 23rd out of 25 developing countries in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index to enter a bear market. Only Jordan and Morocco avoided such slumps."

Of course, Bloomberg, like almost everyone else these days, is using the 20 percent rule (a drop of 20 percent from the price high) as their threshold for determining bear markets. Of course, if you're using this arbitrary marker as a guideline, you're likely to find that you've already seen (and sat through) a substantial portion of the average bear market decline.

So let's get a trader's definition of a bear market. The following definition is taken from Victor Sperandeo's book, Trader Vic - Methods of a Wall Street Master.

"Bear market - A long term downtrend (a downtrend lasting months to years) in any market, especially the stock market, characterized by lower intermediate lows (those established in a time frame of weeks to months) interrupted by lower intermediate highs."

Boom, there you have it. Lower highs, lower lows, upmoves usually made on diminishing volume, downlegs accompanied by expanding volume. That's a bear market. Forget all this "20 percent" nonsense.

And by the way, go check out Vic's book if you haven't already; lots more on identifying and classifying bull and bear markets here, and that is just a very small part of an excellent book which covers the principles of speculation, trading psychology, economic principles, and more.

Back to the lecture at hand: ever since the S&P 500 dipped below the magical 20 percent mark in July, the global bear market has been confirmed in the minds of journalists and US market watchers.

Still, while most major global indices are in the midst of longer-term downtrends, Deepak Mohoni notes that "most global indices are also in intermediate uptrends", and that the "major global markets have held on to their intermediate uptrends". So far, so good, but the longer-term trend for many of these markets seems decidedly bearish.

For those who would like a further view of this year's global stock market returns, please see Bespoke Investment Group's global stock markets performance table, as well as Investment Postcards' recent stock market performance round-up. You may find some bright spots here and there!