This Week's Losses: Some Historical Context

Unlike many of their developed market peers, U.S. stocks finally found their footing today, in the wake of the conclusion of the Fed's FOMC policy meeting on Wednesday. The S&P 500 , and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average both finished the day up 0.3%. That was hardly enough to undo the damage wrought over the previous two days; on the week, the S&P 500 lost 2.1% -- the fourth week of losses in the past five.

But let's put that loss into some perspective: While we have only witnessed one weekly decline that was larger this year, if we go back to Jan. 1950, we find that:

  • The S&P 500 fell during 43% of all calendar weeks in that time period.

  • Furthermore, among the losing weeks, roughly one in four produced a greater loss than the one we experience this week.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) , Wall Street's "fear index," declined 7.8% from the year-to-date high it achieved yesterday. Investors are still jittery at the thought of a near-term "roll-back" of the Fed's bond-buying program. At 18.90, the VIX remains elevated by recent standards, although, here again, it's instructive to seek some historical context. On that basis, today's closing figure is not particularly high; in fact, it's below the average daily closing value of the index from its inception in Jan. 1990, which stands at 20.3. (The VIX is calculated from S&P 500 option prices, and reflects investor expectations for stock market volatility over the coming 30 days.)

Instead of obsessing over daily changes in the index, investors would be better off listening to billionaire value investor Ron Baron, who, in an email to CNBC yesterday night, wrote "don't worry" about the volatility sparked by the Fed's new guidelines regarding its bond purchases, adding that he "doesn't think turbulence will last."

Mind you, he isn't a raging bull, either; he estimates it will take something like "nine or 10 years for [the] market" to double from its current level, while adding that "maybe it's five or six for us." Apparently, despite the rise of low-cost index ETFs, there are still investors who believe in the value of stock picking.

If you're one of those investors who still thinks there is value in stock picking, you should know that The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has just selected his No. 1 stock for this year. Find out which stock it is in the special free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

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Fool contributor Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned; you can follow him on LinkedIn. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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