The closer you get to retirement, the more important it becomes to avoid nasty, major stock market moves down, and capture those lucrative stock market moves up.
This fuels the drive for investors to know if the stock market will go up or down over the next few years with a higher degree of likelihood. Stock market expert Bob Farrell gave 10 timeless rules that help predict if the stock market will go up or down, inclduing mean reversion, market excesses, public buying and selling, direction, investor emotions, market depth, bear market stages, and expert agreement.
It can be a big mistake to focus only on what the stock market has done recently, yet this is a trap that snares many investors.
Farrell’s classic and timeless advice provides wisdom all stock market investors can use to help predict if the stock market will go up or down in the intermediate to near term.
In this post, I’ll address the revealing clues the stock market provides to help prediect stock market direction outlined by Bob Farrell to help manage stock market risk.
No one can argue against improving stock market gains while minimizing losses, making these 10 insightful rules valuable for all investors at any age.
Come On, Can You Really Know If the Stock Market Will Go Up or Down?
Amidst the talk that no one knows for sure where the market is headed, the smart money is measuring probability by observing the many clues for whether the stock market is more likely to go up or down at any given point in time.
Remember, with investing, we only have probabilities. That is all Warren Buffett has, that is all financial advisors have, and that is all you and I have.
While probability is far from certainty, wise investors consider probability from available information and observation.
First, reliable fundamental data on PE ratios, yield curve inversion, and various economic activities all provide valuable tools for predicting stock market direction.
Second, technical analysis provides another slew of revealing data used by advanced investors for forecasting whether the stock market will go up or down. In fact, now I primarily invest following a technical strategy that has beaten a stock bond portfolio with less risk based on 50 years of return data as outlined in my Allocate Smartly review.
In addition to fundamental and technical analysis, there’s plain ole common sense; this is where Bob Farrell’s stock market rules enter the picture. We can all relate to these basic rules to predict if the stock market will go up or down in the near term, even though we may choose not to at times.
Amidst the non-stop promotions for passive investing in the $1.5 trillion dollar financial services industry, the smart money is estimating probabilities for market direction, as well as analyzing what goes up when stocks go down.
So, let’s make the most of this free and revealing information in guiding us, too, toward whether the stock market will go up or down in the near term to aid us in building wealth and keeping stock market risk in check.
Bob Farrell’s 10 Stock Market Rules
Bob Farrell’s 10 stock market rules can significantly help every investor avoid the ongoing hype and herd mentality about stock investing to gain a much better understanding of the overall stock market and whether it is more probable to go up or down over the next few years.
These rules provide an insightful big picture perspective that can get lost in tracking portfolio performance.
It pays to step away from your own investments and look at the big picture. Big pictures reveal a lot that can help keep you on track to reach your retirement goals with a smile on your face. Thanks to sequence of returns risk, bull and bear markets play a huge role in determining how much longer until you can retire.
Below are Bob Farrell’s 10 Market Rules to Remember.
1. Markets Tend to Return to The Mean Over Time
Most stock investors know that there is an average amount the stock market moves up over time; this average is the reason people invest in the stock market in the first place. They plan to get a certain return based on what stocks have done in the past.
Over very long time frames, this annualized stock market return is about 10%. (Remember, this often used return number includes dividends reinvested and compounded, and retirees don’t reinvest dividends if they are living off investment income.)
A mean is a type of average. While a 10% average annual return sounds great, the occasional wild swings down that contribute to that average aren’t too great.
In fact, if those wild swings down hit in the few years before or after retirement sequence of returns risk can destroy an otherwise good retirement plan. A perfect example is the stock market crash in October 2007 through March 2009 when the S&P 500 dropped about 55%.
Investor emotions naturally come into play when you think about making 10% a year in the stock market vs seeing your stock portfolio decline by 55%, but it also helps to know that stock prices change to mean back toward the average.
Returning to this average, or mean, is called mean reversion, which was first observed by theory statistician Francis Galton. Mean reversion explains the way normal events follow extreme events. (1.)
During the pain of bear markets, it’s important to remember that stocks will eventually revert to the average by going back up over that average. Likewise, during the plentiful times when stock market values have swung up higher than the average valuation, it’s smart to remember that they’ll need to swing way back down under the average to get back to the usual average.
Not only can this mean reversion awareness ease investor emotions from the pain of net worth declines that occur during bear markets, but you can also tweak your investing decisions with this information to help build wealth by buying assets low, and selling higher, based on long term trends. This is logical and may sound overly simplistic, yet most investors don’t do it.
What keeps individual investors from factoring this reality into their stock market investing decisions? Needing to follow the herd mentality, lack of a plan, recency bias, emotional investing, and lack of knowledge about stock market cycles all contribute to losing money in stocks.
Simply knowing that markets revert to the mean helps you know if the stock market is more likely to go up or down over the next few years.
Looking to see how far the market has swung away from the mean, and in which direction, provides valuable and unbiased insights as outlined more in my post How to Not Outlive Your Money.
2. Excesses in One Direction Will Lead to An Opposite Excess in The Other Direction
After bear markets, many investors swear that they’ll never buy stocks again. Everything in the news is about the horrible losses that investors have had which fuels investor emotions even more. At this point, people HATE stocks to an excessive level even though they can be bought very cheaply.
Near the end of bull markets, however, everyone LOVES stocks. It feels like the great stock market performance will go on forever even though stocks are overpriced based on history and no longer connected to company earnings.
This excessive optimism is called “Irrational Exuberance” and it drives stocks to levels that are no longer supported by the true valuations of the companies in the stock market.
Below are some examples of stock market excesses that you may well remember, as I do.
Real estate valuations in 2006 were the result clearly excessive lending. Real estate and the financial firms lending money for real estate had to swing in the opposite direction to return to “normal” pricing following the excesses.
The tech boom in 2000 was also excessive. The stock index that held the cutting edge technology companies was the Nasdaq. It increased a whopping 85.59% in 1999 alone! This was clearly excessive.
Then, the Nasdaq declined over 39% in 2000, over 21 in 2001, and over 31% in 2002. Ouch!
But wait: These downswings were obviously excessive, so in 2003 the Nasdaq swung back up just over 50%! (2.)
These are great examples of exactly what Bob Farrell has explained so articulately. We can see how logical the return to normal pricing is after these excessive periods.
Of course, hindsight is 20 20, but wild excesses such as these make it clear that the stock market (as well as real estate and other asset classes) will need to go up or down periodically to shake out the excesses.
Do these wild swings matter for stock market investors? Only you can decide your own acceptable risk tolerance level and invest within it. (If you work with a financial advisor, this can be a great conversion to have with him.) In assessing if stocks will go up or down, observe when excesses occur.
3. There Are No New Eras — Excesses Are Never Permanent.
This investing rule is tied to the popular phrase that fuels many excessive valuations: “This time is different.”
Heading into 2000 in the midst of the tech bubble, everyone thought that overall business fundamentals were, in fact, different, because we would all be using new technology that would change the world forever.
As it turns out, we are, but even technology company valuations are affected by supply and demand, earnings, corporate leadership, and the economy.
There are no new eras. While the next bull or bear market may be a little different, stocks return to valuations that make sense in relation to their financials, and to historical norms.
Another excess that can be added here is that of Federal Reserve interventions that fueled the stock market to excessive levels in the 2010’s decade.
4. Exponential Rapidly Rising or Falling Markets Usually Go Further Than You Think, But They Do Not Correct by Going Sideways
The way I state this stock market rule is that trends last longer than you think. I have learned this truth time and time again during trends that are both up, and down.
I’ve seen this occur more on the upside, than downside, as bear markets can be swfit as we saw in 1987, 2018, 2020, and 2022.
All along the way up, the stock market climbs a wall of worry, another popular saying; then the stock market goes higher and longer than anyone thinks it will.
The average bull market lasts 9.1 years, so a bull market that lasted only a little over 5 years in the mid 2000’s seemed too short following the nasty 2001-2003 bear. (3)
The second part of this stock market rule is that markets don’t correct by going sideways. This implies that markets must go up or down, significantly, to return to the norm, or the mean, although stocks went down much less in the bear markets of 2018, 2020, and 2022 than the average bear market decline.
5. The Public Buys the Most at The Top and The Least at The Bottom
Yes, that’s us – the individual investors that Bob Farrell is referencing here.
It sounds so easy to buy stocks after they have gone down and sell them after they have gone back up in price, especially given the obvious stock market rules you see here from Bob Farrell. This is how wealth is made easily for those with the insight, discipline, and knowledge to pull it off by increasing portfolio cash to have funds to buy stocks after bear markets.
Nevertheless, research repeatedly shows that individual investors are the last to buy into the stock market before it goes down.
To help predict if the stock market will go up or down next, check to see if individual investors or institutions are fueling stock market direction.
6. Fear and Greed Are Stronger Than Long-Term Resolve
Most people invest based on deep rooted beliefs about money instead of the logic you see in Bob Farrell’s 10 Stock Market Rules or the reliable fundamental and technical data referenced previously. These often invalid money beliefs are usually related to childhood observations about money or previous investing mistakes.
Those invalid beliefs trigger emotional investing instead of logical investing. Yet, it’s hard to not be fearful about running out of money when you subconsciously operate on fear from past mistakes or depression era parents or grandparents.
Plus, as humans, fear is hard wired into our brains from the cave dwelling days; we had to be fearful just to survive. Now, most of us don’t have to be fearful to survive, so we subconsciously invent things to be fearful about to fuel that drive. Running out of money feels like an excellent thing to trigger worry.
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, it can be hard NOT to get greedy when you see that everyone you know has built wealth from the latest stock bull market. FOMO (fear of missing out) leads investors to finally get into stock markets after they have gone up near the top of market cycles where the fear of missing out overcomes logical investing.
These emotional investing patterns can be overcome by disempowering those limiting beliefs with journaling, reflecting, or financial coaching.
Investing from an overall wealth plan that defines investment goals and risk tolerance, as well as increasing investment knowledge can also resolve this mindset problem. Clarity and knowledge fuel better, more logical investing decisions and actions.
Knowing all this, observe if investors are acting based on fear and greed or logic to help predict if the stock market will go up or down next.
7. Markets Are Strongest When They Are Broad and Weakest When They Narrow to a Handful of Blue-Chip Names
To observe this rule in action, think of FANG stocks, the darlings of the bull market that began in 2009 and lasted throughout the 2010 decade. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google fueled this bull market.
These few companies accounted for a very disproportionate share of the overall stock market value in the later stages of this bull market.
The speculation and over exuberance around these companies can last longer than anyone expects as explained in rule 4 above, but eventually, they lose steam.
Weak markets that are concentrated on a few key stocks are less healthy and are more likely to go down; broad markets are stronger and are thus more likely to continue to increase longer term.
This rule can help investors avoid losing money in the stock market by recognizing when the market is driven by a narrow group of stocks set to crash.
8. Bear Markets Have Three Stages — Sharp Down, Reflexive Rebound, and A Drawn-Out Fundamental Downtrend
This stock investing rule will be important to remember during the worst of bear markets.
Markets tend to fall hard and fast once the finanical institutions begin selling; a quick glance at a stock chart reveals institutional selling volume.
Then the markets head back up several times retesting prior price levels. These movements can also be seen on stock charts easily.
During this time, there are little up trends inside of the large overall move down. These little up trends can give investors a good opportunity to sell stocks higher than the recent previous lows.
Don’t get too caught up in the small trends within the overall larger moves up or down, however, since these are tricky for even advanced investors. Instead, focus on the big picture asking if stocks are overvalued, fairly valued, or undervalued. This observation can help reduce risk in stocks.
Data is easy to get to provide the answer to this question and the bear market chart below is also very revealing for a good visual of the phases of prior stock bear markets.
Image Source – RealInvestmentAdvice.com
In the last stage that Bob Farrell refers to here, the prices drop to the point that the numbers make sense to draw buyers back into the markets again. This stage is based more on fundamental analysis. Again, you can see the logic here as you can in all of Bob Farrell’s stock market rules.
9. When All the Experts and Forecasts Agree — Something Else Is Going to Happen
In March of 1998 my mother and I got to take a private tour on the floor of the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) when we were in NY celebrating her 73rd birthday. We dined atop the World Trade Center afterward, and my heart swells as I type this, over both the loss of my mother and the many lives lost on September 11, 2001.
The NYSE was giving out Dow 10,000 hats anticipating that the Dow would pass above 10,000 for the first time ever that very day. The floor of the exchange was wild, and the excitement was contagious. It was a wonderful experience arranged by my husband, Larry Gaines, who now provides option trading education and knew the floor brokers from his trading career.
The seasoned broker who took us around the NYSE floor said to us “If you have money in the stock market, take your profits now. This won’t last much longer.”
The market continued its’ uphill climb for 2 more years as wealth was made by stock investors willing to take the risk. Trends last longer than you think they will, as addressed previously.
This also demonstrates rule 9, however, that when the experts agree that one thing will happen, something different is going to happen.
In the bull market which began in 2009, there were a lot of financial advisors agreeing stocks would go down in early 2013, 2016, 2017, and beyond. The market kept climbing, however, despite a couple of sharp, quick bear markets on it’s ascension.
Here’s what Bob Farrell is saying: When all the experts predict the market will go up, the probability is higher that it will go down. When the experts all agree the markets will go down, it’s more likely the market will go up.
As individual investors, this supports that it can be very hard to know who to listen to about investing. Knowing this rule, however, can help keep your wealth safe by knowing that you can’t listen to everyone, but you can, instead, look at the facts and data.
Here’s my video for How to Know if the Stock Market Will Go Up or Down with the 10 rules addressed in this post.
10. Bull Markets Are More Fun Than Bear Markets
This is the attitude that prevails in the media, and hence, the general public during bull and bear markets. Making money in bull markets is easy.
However, for tactical investors who are prepared for the bear market, with access to extra funds, or extra portfolio cash allocation ready to be invested at cheaper valuations, bear markets can be an opportunity to build wealth rather quickly. Many tactical investors rotate out of defensive investments such as bonds and into stocks during late stage bear markets to make money from lower stock prices.
Buying assets cheap can be quite fun and lucrative for investors who know how to make money when stocks drop. This is one of the strategies in related post How to Build Wealth where I write about the cheap asset method of wealth building.
Of course, for investors who are not invested in bull markets, the frustration of not being in the market can be no fun at all. So, bull markets are fun for those who have created wealth from them but the same can be said for bear markets. Ideally, smart investors will consider market valuations before investing in anything, allowing them to capitalize on both bull and bear markets.
To better predict if the stock market will go up or down, notice if most investors are having fun investing. When the fun reaches exuberance, look out, stocks are ready to fall.
Predicting Stock Market Movements and Age
The reality is that both bull and bear markets are as sure as death and taxes for stock market investors. Why gloss them over instead of accepting them as a reality, and preparing for bear markets by estimating how much stock market risk you have. Smart investors even take advantage of bear markets.
Note that for younger, long term investors who have decades to allow their stock investments to compound and grow slowly through stock market gyrations, forecasting if stocks are more likely to move up or down over the next few years is much less of an issue than it is for older investors preparing for retirement.
This is due to a usually overlooked sequence of returns risk that can destroy an otherwise solid retirement plan for older investors.
How to Know If the Stock Market Will Move Up or Down Summary
You can see that Bob Farrell’s 10 stock market rules are all beautifully intertwined into a wealth of investing wisdom.
One rule supports the other rules in a way that provides substance and truth. Incorporating these 10 often-overlooked realities into your investing can help you know if the stock market is more likely to go up or down over the next year or two with a higher level of probability. Remember, using probability to your advantage can guide you to build wealth at any age.
The best place to start is with my Ultimate Wealth Plan. You can get it here now.
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Related posts I think you’ll enjoy:
What Percentage of Cash Should Be in My Portfolio? where I explain asset allocation investing vs tactical investing
How to Build Wealth where I write about buying undervalued income generating assets
How Will Stock a Market Crash Affect Me? where I step you through estimating your stock market risk
Are Stocks Safe for Retirement? with eight important stock market risk factors
Investment Strategies Used for High Net Worth Clients with 5 risk management strategies a top financial advisor uses for his clients
- Joe Marwood – https://jbmarwood.com/mean-reversion-trading-strategy/
- First Trust Portfolios LP