The 'Average' Stock Is Already in a Bear Market

For most companies, the bear market is already a reality.

U.S. Outlook: a Bear Market for Equities in 2016?

While the major equities indexes might not yet be in a bear market, that's not necessarily the case for the 'average' stock.

The S&P 500 is down just over 7 percent from its May high, but the average stock in the larger S&P 1500 was down 24 percent from its high as of yesterday's close, according to new research from Bespoke Investment Group. A bear market is defined as a decline of 20 percent or more, meaning the average stock has already reached that threshold. 

The pain is being felt particularly among companies with smaller market values, as Bespoke notes:

"Not surprisingly, small cap stocks have been hit the hardest as the average stock in the S&P 600 Small Cap Index is down 27.6 percent from its 52-week high. In the midcap S&P 400, the average decline is 23.6 percent. For large cap stocks in the S&P 500, the average decline from a 52-week high is not quite bear market territory, but at 19.9 percent, it’s pretty darn close."

Breaking it out by sector, it's not surprising to see that energy has been hit the hardest given the massive decline in oil prices, but even technology, materials, and healthcare have also entered bear markets. Here's more from Bespoke:

"As you might have guessed, energy has been the drag, but the decline is extraordinary. On an average basis, stocks in the sector have been cut in half from their 52-week highs. The next closest sector is materials, but at an average haircut of 31.9 percent, the decline, while painful, is significantly less."

Bespoke goes on to point out that consumer discretionary is perhaps the most interesting case given that it was the top-performing sector last year but is the third worst when it comes to the average stock's decline. One acronym explains that: 'FANG' (otherwise known as Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc., and Google Inc., or Alphabet Inc.).

The mighty Amazon carried the sector last year with a surge of more than 100 percent and a sector weighting of more than 10 percent. 

With worries over a potential de-fanged FANG continuing apace, one wonders whether such companies will be able to carry the broader sector (and indexes) in 2015.