Top 20 Incredible Stock Market Statistics and Facts
The stock market is probably the most essential component of the free-market economy. It supports democratized access to trading and exchange of capital while attempting to level the playing field for investors of all kinds. That’s not to say that professional money managers and big investors don’t have certain advantages and privileges. Still, only a free-trade stock market offers an arguably fair chance for everyday individuals.
One does not necessarily need stock market statistics and facts to understand the effect these markets can have on the global economy. That became evident to everyone ten years ago, when the world was plunged into the second most damaging recession in history. The Great Recession was a testament to how fragile the economy can be.
However, what’s more troubling is that we are probably not aware of all the effects that crisis will have on the course of history. It’s important to keep a careful eye on things: Preventing a crisis is far better than dealing with its fallout, especially when the next one could prove to be even more catastrophic.
The goal of presenting stock market stats and facts here is to pool together all the most exciting data and up-to-date information for you to read, share, and keep in mind. Staying informed is the first step toward a healthy economy.
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The Key Statistics on Stock Markets - Editor’s Choice
- The United States represents 54.5% of the world stock market capitalization.
- In 2018, the global market cap shrank 14.9% from the year before.
- During 2020, the global market cap soared to a record $95 trillion.
- About 10% of US households hold international equity.
- The current bull market has been going on for a record ten years.
- On average, the market performs the poorest in September.
Interesting Stock Market Statistics
In November 2020, total market capitalization reached a record $95 trillion, surpassing pre-coronavirus levels.
After the massive drop caused by the pandemic, the stock market experienced steady growth in the previous few months. This growth was especially evident in November when the US-election projections foresaw a Biden victory, and the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine injected a healthy dose of optimism into the stock market, bringing about a slight surge in value.
There are 19 stock exchanges in the world with a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion.
(TradingHours.com; The Wall Street Journal)
These stock exchanges accounted for more than 87% of global market capitalization in 2015. Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange have more market cap between them, than the rest of the exchanges on the list combined.
In 2020, two US companies, Alphabet and Amazon, joined this elusive $1 trillion club, although they both dropped back out before the market closed.
Middle-class households have lost more than half of household equity holdings since 1989.
(A Wealth of Common Sense)
One of the more worrying current stock market statistics is the ever-growing class gap. In 1989, middle-class citizens owned 15% of all household equity holdings, while in 2016, they held just over 5%.
Contrast this with the fact that the top 0.1% wealthiest US citizens’ equity holdings rose about 5% in the same period, and the true danger inequality presents to the US market becomes crystal clear.
About 10% of US households hold international equity.
(A Wealth of Common Sense)
This is one of the more encouraging stock-trading statistics: the US stock market trends over the past decade reveal that American households are increasingly diversifying their portfolios. Since the Great Recession in 2008, the share of global equity Americans are holding has constantly been on the rise, encountering only small bumps on the road.
During the past decade, this share in the world equity market has risen by almost 15%, fueled by economic recovery and international investing becoming less costly and restrictive.
Stock market declines of 5% to 10% generally require a month’s recovery time.
(Guggenheim Investments; Spence)
Stock market crash statistics pulled from historical data show that the most commonly experienced market declines are the easiest to recover from, especially when compared to bigger pullbacks. A drop of 10-20% usually takes four months of recovery, while a 20-40% decline takes 15 months.
The most significant market drops we’ve experienced were drops of more than 40%, which last for an average of 22 months but take about 58 months to recover from, making them potentially catastrophic.
When it comes to full-blown stock market crashes, like the one in 2008, the average recovery time is 151 months (13 years).
The current US bull market is ten years old and counting.
To better illustrate how incredible this is, just take a look at stock market statistics of historical data. Bull markets have, on average, lasted for about 4.5 years each. Therefore, the current boom is twice as long as the average, but also the longest in American history.
What makes this bull market unusual is not that it happened after a recession, which was expected, but that it maintains slow-but-steady growth.
This was made possible by record-low interest rates and record-high corporate profits, mostly from the rising tech industry. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon are now the most valuable corporations in the world, and their rise to join Microsoft at the top has helped the market quadruple its capitalization since the worst days of the financial crisis.
In March 2020, the 10-year bull streak came to an abrupt end due to the pandemic but continued only 33 days later. Whether this represents a continuation of the previous bull market run or a beginning of a new one is up to debate.
In 2018, the United States represented 40.01% of global market capitalization. In 2020, this figure rose to 54.5%.
(Seeking Alpha; Statista)
The US global market cap has reached this level for the first time since 2005 due to a strengthening dollar and gains in American equities. An ongoing decline in most international equity markets has helped boost the US share of the global market cap.
China is the country that took the biggest hit since the 2016 American presidential election. On election day, the US made up 36.53% of the world market cap compared to China’s 10.21%. A sudden drop pushed China back into its current fourth place on the list, behind Japan and the UK, as the stock market graph below shows. France is fifth with 3.2%, and Switzerland holds sixth place with 2.7%.
On average, stock market corrections happen once every two years.
A stock-market correction is a market decline of more than 10% but less than 20%. These sorts of drops are significant but just below the threshold for starting a bear market. They used to happen about once a year at the beginning of the century, but market corrections have become less frequent after World War II.
Since the beginning of 1980, there have been 13 corrections in the S&P 500. The average length is 92 days, with an average 14.8% decline in stock market value percentage. In the same period, declines have surpassed 20% only five times.
Valued at $2.25 trillion, Apple leads the world’s corporations in market capitalization.
As the American technology sector exploded after the global recession, Microsoft’s primacy was challenged by two new rivals for the honor of being the most valued company in the world. For years, it’s been in a close race against Google and Apple; Amazon has recently joined the fight, too.
In August 2020, Apple became the first publicly traded US company to reach the $2 trillion global equity market capitalization milestone. Interestingly, Apple was also the first US company to cross the $1 trillion mark, and then double its value in the span of two years.
With a 27.6% market share, the information technology sector leads the US stock market in market capitalization.
The face and the size of the US stock market have changed drastically as technological innovation and the rise of giant corporations move the share of capitalization more toward modern digital solutions.
Healthcare holds second place with 13.44% of market capitalization, followed by consumer discretionary in third, with 12.7%. Communication technologies maintain a traditionally strong position, currently occupying fourth place with 10.79%.
More than 80% of the stock market is now automated.
Automation is taking over many industries, and stock markets are certainly not immune to the appeal and advantages of machine-run algorithm trading. That is why stock market statistics show that machines already do the vast majority of US trades.
Computers use advanced mathematical models to make high-speed online trading decisions, creating a market that is more focused on short-term movements and sell-offs than on long-term outlook, to the dismay of many analysts and investors.
Share repurchases return to the $200 billion range in the first quarter of 2020.
(Siblis Research; Fortuna Advisors; S&P Dow Jones Indices)
In 2020, the total value of the stock market increased by over $13 trillion. This explosive growth reflects the widening gap between corporations and private investors. In fact, share repurchases in 2019 amounted to $709 billion, which dwarfs the amount of money drawn from mutual funds, although this was 8% lower than in 2018.
Research published in 2020 has shown that companies have spent a record $3 trillion on share buybacks in the 2015-2019 period. The pandemic brought this trend to an end, bringing share repurchasing back down into the $200 billion range in Q1 2020.
Corrections are least likely in the third year of a presidential term.
(Yardeni Research; The Balance)
Stock market statistics by year recorded from the past two centuries show that average S&P 500 returns are the highest right after midterms and in the third year of a president’s term. This has become known as the “Presidential Cycle Theory” of stock returns.
The numbers seemed to support the theory for a long while, but the idea seems to have less predictive power in the 21st century, as the S&P index rose in the first year of the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations.
Historically, the average S&P 500 returns for each year of a presidential term go from 5.2% in the first year, 4.8% in the second year, 12.8% in the third year, and 5.7% in the fourth year.
This data can be attributed to the power of uncertainty: Uncertainty causes poor stock performance leading up to the midterm elections, and investors are more cautious as a result.
After the midterms, investors begin to ease back into the market, knowing that there will be at least two more years of political stability before the next election, and stocks start performing better.
Fascinating Facts About the Stock Market
The stock market usually performs the worst in September.
The September Effect is one of the most fascinating phenomena of the financial world. Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 have averaged a slight decline each September since 1950. Since Nasdaq started operating in 1971, its composite index has also slightly decreased during this month of the year.
What makes stock market facts like this one so interesting is that such occurrences were never related to market events and news and kept happening in stock markets across the globe.
The September Effect has begun to dissipate in recent years, and large market declines in September are not happening as much as they did before 1990. One of the explanations for this is that investors have started selling their stocks in August as preparation for the September Effect.
Since 1903, every day at the New York Stock Exchange starts with the ringing of a bell at 9:30 a.m.
The opening bell was usually just what the beginning of the trading day was called, but the New York Stock Exchange has rung an actual bell ever since it replaced a Chinese gong that was used before 1903.
And while this is undoubtedly one of the more interesting facts about the stock market, it has also become an iconic and famous event. The opening bell has become one of the most-watched daily events in the world.
The ceremony itself was not that publicized or popular before President Ronald Reagan asked to ring the bell in 1985 during his reelection campaign.
Ever since then, the NYSE opening bell has been a magnet for celebrities, sports stars, and leaders of the world’s biggest corporations. It is now considered a prestigious honor and an excellent platform for visibility in the internet and social media age.
The most expensive stock in the world is Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.
It is only the rarest investment statistics that most professionals agree on. One of them is that Warren Buffet is probably the greatest investor of all time. It seems fitting that the most expensive stock in the world belongs to his firm, Berkshire Hathaway.
This corporate colossus owns some of America’s best-known companies, brands like Dairy Queen, Geico, and Duracell. It also has huge stakes in giant companies like Coca Cola and American Express.
What really makes Berkshire stock worth $320,250 (October 2020) per share is the fact that the company never did a stock split, meaning that it never devalued the worth of a single share.
Established in 1602, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange was the first in the world.
(Columbia University Press)
There are some strange tidbits among stock market fun facts, and this is one of them. Belgium, Venice, and others traded in loans and debt, but no official stock exchange existed before 1602. It was only then, in the small town of Amsterdam, that the first stock exchange was established.
This historic decision was made possible by the creation of the first multinational corporation ever, the Dutch East India Company. This was the first company that issued stocks and one of the wealthiest and most powerful corporate entities that ever existed. It came about due to fierce European competition for supremacy in trade with Asia, and it transformed the Dutch nation forever.
The Dutch East India Company didn’t give power to private investors. The company was owned by directors, but the huge share it had in the total market cap of the stock market brought unprecedented prosperity to the people.
Changes in stock prices were expressed as fractions until the year 2000.
Before the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered all stock markets in the United States to convert to decimal quotes by April 9, 2001, market price quotes were based on fractional quoting.
For instance, the minimum spread was 1/16 of a dollar, or $0.0625. After decimalization, the minimum spread was set to $0.01 for stocks over $1 and $0.0001 for stocks under $1.
Decimalization made a cumbersome and outdated system much more understandable to investors. It also positively affected stock market performance by making trading more efficient and better organized, which was necessary for the US to keep up with the international competition.
Before 2001, the London Stock Exchange and the Paris Bourse were ahead of American stock markets, pushing Congress to enact the law and implement decimalization, which ended a tradition that can be traced to the 17th century.
Australia has had the best performing share market in the world from 1900 to 2009.
(Market Watch; interactive investor; The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
During the past century, Australia posted 7.5% after-inflation returns per year, which are the highest among the world’s 19 major markets. The country also placed second-lowest in volatility, proving how stable and prosperous this period has been. In comparison, US stocks generated a 6.2% return in the same span.
Australia’s excellent performance is even more pronounced with the recent rise of China. The Asian giant is the biggest Australian trade partner in terms of both imports and exports, while Australia is China’s sixth-largest trading partner.
Australia has an incredible amount of valuable metals, coal, oil, and natural gas, and it is one of the world’s biggest exporters of beef.
The mining sector is so crucial for Australia that two of the biggest Australian stocks in the Standard & Poor's ASX 200 index are miners BHP and Rio Tinto. In 2020, the best-performing market was South Korea, with a price return of 37.9%.
Women first worked on the New York Stock Exchange in 1943 due to a shortage of male workers during World War II.
(CR Fashion Book)
For the first half of the 20th century, the NYSE was open exclusively to men, same as the older building that housed the exchange from 1792 to 1903. But the exchange was left short of clerks and runners during World War II.
This temporarily opened the NYSE doors to women for the first time in the famous stock market’s history, allowing them to work on the trading floor. This lasted until 1947.
Women were banned again until 1965 when Muriel "Mickie" Siebert bought a seat on the exchange and became the “First Lady of Wall Street.” For the next decade, Siebert was the only woman working at the NYSE, earning herself recognition and having a room on the seventh floor named in her honor.
Stock market stats clearly mirror the stability and prosperity of our interconnected world. The Global Recession proved to everyone how fragile and damaging a significant market retraction can be, amplifying the need to avoid such drops in the future.
Today’s record bull market may be prolonged further than anyone could have predicted, and we may not see a recession for many years. However things play out in the near future, there is one thing that stock market statistics make quite clear: More exciting and perhaps frightening changes await us all.
From technological disruptions to the ever-shifting face of the modern world economy, there is plenty to be hopeful and cautious about as we enter the third decade of the century.
I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.
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