The New York Times published an article this weekend highlighting that the current 10-year stretch that ended last month was the worst for the S&P 500 in at least the last 82 years. The Times looked at total returns for the S&P 500, and below we provide a similar analysis of the 10-year rolling price change of the Dow Jones Industrial Average going back to 1910. As shown, there have only been four other periods where the 10-year return has been negative, and three of the four periods saw returns float around the negative to flat line for quite some time. While it may have taken "buy-and-holders" a few years to end up making money if they got in early when the 10-year returns went negative, they did end up making money.
When looking at 10-year returns, however, where the market was 10 years ago is just as big of a factor as where it is now. Ten years ago, the market was just about to hit the peak of the Internet bubble, and once it burst, the 10-year return was destined to take a big hit right about now.
Below we highlight a hypothetical 10-year return chart going out to 2012 if the Dow were to stay right at its current level. As shown, the return would continue to get negative and drop all the way to -29.49% in January 2010 before finally starting to head higher. And even if the Dow stayed the same, it would end up turning positive again by late 2011, since the market had fallen so much by late 2001. If the market gets worse in the next couple of years, the 10-year returns are going to get worse. But even if the market heads sharply higher from here, the 10-year returns will still be negative to flat until we get past 2010.