WisdomTree Minds on the Markets
Minds on the Markets
Minds on the Markets
ARCHIVE: April 24, 2023
Let 1989 Be Something of a Post-2020 Guide
Sometimes the stock market needs a big occurrence, an event, a feather ruffling, before it can kick off a new leadership cycle. Looking back over the generations, the S&P 500 Value Index dominated its Growth counterpart for essentially the entirety of the 1970s and 1980s. Similarly, Japanese stocks beat U.S. stocks for much of that period too.
That stopped in 1989.
When it comes to “important events of 1989,” the end of a stock market cycle isn’t exactly what comes to mind. The Tiananmen Square massacre and fall of the Berlin Wall marked that year as one of the most important of the 20th Century. Because we are in the business of analyzing markets, there is something else that we always put on the chalkboard: the December 29, 1989 peak in Japan’s Nikkei 225.
The second-largest economy at the time, Japan entered its slow-rolling asset market malaise during a period that most of us associate with positive stock markets. The S&P 500’s legendary 1990s bull run had catalysts. For one, the USSR’s 1991 disintegration ushered in the Peace Dividend as eastern bloc nations came into the western alliance. Another shock of the time—Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait—proved only a short-lived scare for the oil markets.
Meantime, Japan’s 1990s experience was to be juxtaposed with the go-go state of the U.S. in that era. While the American-led rise of internet commerce and first stage web browsers brought excitement to its stock market, the focus in Japan’s capital markets was its run-in with demographic malaise. The country’s overpriced assets, from commercial property to stocks to apartments, set the course for the country’s first “lost decade.”
The stage was set for new market leadership by U.S. stocks in the 1990s, a bull market that left Japan’s laurels in the prior decade. The market’s sector favorites also changed. Whereas the 1980s rewarded Consumer Staples, Utilities and Healthcare, the 1990s’ Growth stock dominance stretched beyond Technology, bringing Media and Telecom into the fold.
Like in 1989, recent years have witnessed numerous historically significant shocks. The 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns are probably the most notable, as is that year’s social unrest, reminiscent of France’s 1968 protests or the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that same year. Though this go round does not have a Soviet collapse as a catalyst for a multi-year theme, there are rumblings of superpower shake-ups to deal with. Time will tell if Brazil, South Africa, Russia and others fall into China’s orbit, as many seers posit. Don’t forget Saudi Arabia; that country recently warmed relations with Iran, the plot twist being that the two foes were brought to the table by Beijing, not Washington.
The NASDAQ has been running higher since October, but even now it is only slightly above 12,000, having spent much of 2022 declining from a late-2021 high above 16,000. Its legendary 2009-2021 bull market witnessed a greater compound return than Japanese stocks did in their final 12 years from 1977 to 1989.
Changes in the social order, changes in inflation, changes in interest rates, changes in the global balance of power: that is a concise summary of just some of what we have seen from 2020 to 2023. While 1989 marked a leadership change from Japanese to U.S. stocks and from Value to Growth for the decade to follow, perhaps we will look back and mark 2020 as something like that: a moment that marks a transition out of Growth and into Value, maybe for a decade.
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