The Worst Decade for Stocks Ever?

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It has really been a terrible decade for stocks. But how bad? The worst decade in the history of the United States stock market, announces the Wall Street Journal.

In nearly 200 years of recorded stock-market history, no calendar decade has seen such a dismal performance as the 2000s.

Investors would have been better off investing in pretty much anything else, from bonds to gold or even just stuffing money under a mattress. Since the end of 1999, stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange have lost an average of 0.5% a year thanks to the twin bear markets this decade.

There's no way to spin this as good news.


But here's the very thin silver lining! This is not the worst 10-year period for stocks in history. It's just the worst calendar decade. That statistic is, as the WSJ authors acknowledge, a little quirky. And this decade is particularly quirky because it began at the tip of a dot-com bubble and ended in the slog of a full on world recession. By contrast, the worst 10-year period in US stock history ended in 1938.

But enough silver. The really scary thing here is what happens when you factor in inflation. The purpose of investing in company stocks, after all, is to find investments that beat inflation or government bonds. And since 1999, the S&P 500 has lost an average of 3.3% a year on an inflation-adjusted basis.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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