Should Investors Fear Recessions?

Spring 2021, by the CIO office (NBC)


Investors should be fearful of recessions as they entail heavy financial losses.


It is true that the most turbulent periods for markets are generally concomitant with recessions. As such, those with eyes riveted on daily stock exchange prices are very likely to experience fear in times of economic downturn. 

However, if we step back from market fluctuations and look, rather, at the historical performance of a basic balanced portfolio (60% stocks, 40% bonds) during the last six recessions, we see that the average return was actually zero. Not something to celebrate, but far from the financial catastrophe many seem to believe - especially when we consider returns in the previous and following years. What's more, let's not forget that recessions are relatively rare events, covering only 15% of the last 50 years. 

Therefore, it is not the recession that investors should fear, but fear itself... or rather the risk of materializing heavy losses, when in the grip of emotion, at an untimely moment. 

(data via Refinitiv)

The information contained herein was obtained from sources we believe to be reliable, but is not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. The opinions expressed are based on our analysis and interpretation of this information and are not to be construed as a solicitation or offer to buy or sell the securities mentioned herein. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of National Bank Financial.


The securities or investment sectors mentioned herein are not suitable for all types of investors. Please consult your investment advisor to verify whether the securities or sectors suit your investor's profile as well as to obtain complete information, including the main risk factors, regarding those securities or sectors. This document is not a research analysis produced by the Research Department of National Bank Financial.


National Bank Financial is a subsidiary of National Bank of Canada. National Bank of Canada is a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (NA: TSX).

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