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Barry Ritholtz

You Can't Predict Future Markets After Flat Years

Sorry. There's no certainty a correction or big gains will follow.
Look at the data.

Look at the data.

Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

U.S. markets essentially made no gains in 2015. The major indexes are more or less flat for the year to date. The Nasdaq-100 Index has done best, gaining about 8 percent, driven by a handful of big winners such as Amazon, which is up 116 percent for the year. Yet the flat returns belie a big increase in volatility, including a selloff of almost 20 percent at the end of the summer that investors had made up by late fall.

There have been two ways of predicting what flat years mean for future returns. Some bearish traders assert that the flattening of indexes is a sign that the bull market, which began almost seven years ago, in March 2009, has grown old and tired. In this view, flattening indicates that markets are setting up for a major correction or worse.