Can stocks extend their first-quarter win streak?
Investors betting on steady expansion
NEW YORK — The zigzag in the stock market this past week may leave you wondering queasily: Will this quarter build on the blockbuster gains from the start of the year or wipe them away?
History suggests the winning streak will continue.
Over the past 30 years, strong quarters like the one that ended in March have tended to be followed by more gains. Smaller gains, usually, but gains nonetheless.
From 1982, the start of what some consider the modern era of investing, through the end of last year, there were 17 quarters in which the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10 percent or more.
Only twice were those gains followed by a losing quarter. In both cases, the loss was small: 1.1 percent and 0.1 percent. The other 15 times, the average gain in the subsequent quarter was 6.6 percent.
The two losses both came when the economy was just emerging from recession, periods that are ripe for market bumpiness as investors try to gauge whether the worst really is behind them.
This time around, the recession has been over for almost three years. And though the market has had quarterly swings, it has moved mostly higher. Investors are betting that a steady, if unimpressive, expansion is under way.
The S&P gained 12 percent from January through March, its best first quarter since 1998. That followed a gain of 11 percent in the quarter before, from October through December.
And the record is also promising when the market racks up two consecutive double-digit quarters. It's happened three other times since 1982. Each time was followed by a third quarterly gain averaging about 5 percent.
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