A century in stocks
What counts as a “typical” year for the S&P 500? Luckily, we have 96 years of data to help us find answers.
In this chart, we bracket annual returns into 10-percentage-point ranges. Many of the outliers came during the Great Depression: punishing declines in 1930, 1931, and 1937 were intertwined with massive bear-market rallies in 1933 and 1935.
Conventional wisdom suggests that equities outperform in the long run, and that argument is bolstered by the plurality of years in the 10-20 percent and 20-30 percent gain brackets.
We also colour-coded each year, starting with 2024 as the darkest blue and implementing a gradual fade as we go back in time, to give a sense of how recent years compare to the historic distribution. The last 20 years are more or less in the centre of our chart, with the 2008 bear market the only outlier.