As 2021 went on, I became increasingly concerned about the potential for a full-blown stock market crash. With global stocks soaring in 2019, 2020, and 2021, I was sceptical that this bull (rising) market could keep going in 2022. Like all winning streaks, it must eventually come to an end. Hence, in the final quarter of 2021 and repeatedly in December, I warned about the growing risks of another market meltdown.
A stock market crash has been a long time coming
It’s tough to be a rational investor in a world of irrational exuberance fuelled by near-zero interest rates. Younger investors largely choose to ignore my warnings about speculative investments. In my experience, they want to talk about only two things: cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin) and Tesla. Hardly anyone under 30 wants to discuss ‘boring’ investing: buying shares in quality businesses for the long term. And when high spirits, speculation, and excessive risk-taking drive prices, the risk of a stock market crash multiplies.
One notable billionaire made 99% of his current wealth after his 50th birthday. And here at The Motley Fool, we believe it is NEVER too late to start trying to build your fortune in the stock market. Our expert Motley Fool analyst team have shortlisted 5 companies that they believe could be a great fit for investors aged 50+ trying to build long-term, diversified portfolios.
Some bubbles have already burst
In financial jargon, a 10% decline from peak prices is deemed a ‘correction’. A ‘bear market’ — or stock market crash — begins when prices dive by 20% or more. And that just hasn’t happened in most major markets. For the record, the US S&P 500 index hit a record high of 4,818.62 points on 4 January. It now stands at 4,363.61 — losing 455.01 points and down nearly 9.5%. On Monday, the index entered correction territory, but has since gained ground. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index peaked at 16,212.23 points on 22 November. It now stands at 13,559.89, diving almost a sixth (-16.4%) in two months. Thus, the Nasdaq is in correction territory and closing in on a bear market.
That said, there has definitely been a stock market crash in what I call ‘spec tech’ — speculative technology stocks. Tesla has collapsed 34% from its all-time high and is now up a mere 1.6% over 12 months. Meanwhile, the price of Bitcoin has collapsed from its peak of nearly $69,000 in early November to $37,217.70 as I write. That’s a collapse of almost half (-46.1%). Ouch.
UK stocks are holding up well
Generally speaking, the riskier an asset, the more its price has fallen in 2022 (and since November for tech stocks). What’s more, even low-risk government bonds have lost significant value in January, on fears of multiple rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve. But here in the UK, there are no signs of a stock market crash. In fact, London shares have held up pretty well so far in January.
On Friday, the FTSE 100 index closed at 7,466.07 points. That’s just 152.94 points below its 52-week high of 7,619.01 — a modest decline of just 2%. In 2021, I repeatedly argued that UK stocks were too cheap in historical and global terms. Now, as high-priced assets dive, the UK stock market is holding up nicely. In London at least, the stock market crash is happening elsewhere.
To sum up, after a year of excessive risk-taking, January is set to be the worst start to a year for US stocks in history. Even so, I still view the US market as largely overvalued. And with lower liquidity and rising interest rates on the horizon, I’m braced for higher volatility in 2022. But I’m still going to keep investing, buying cheap UK shares on low ratings and high earnings yields — and paying juicy cash dividends!