Jan 19, 2009
The US economy is in a recession. Does it make sense to own stocks during a recession?

EFF/KRF: There is no evidence that market timing in response to economic events enhances expected returns. The market tends to lead economic activity. Stock prices tend to fall in advance of recessions and rise in advance of economic upturns. To time markets successfully, you have to come up with better forecasts of economic activity than those already built into stock prices. We don't know anyone who can do this.

Moreover, investors who try to time the market by selling after news of a recession is already in prices are probably reducing their expected returns. Although realized returns are too volatile to make strong statements, there is some evidence that expected stock returns are relatively high during recessions and low during expansions. One can avoid the higher risk of stocks during recessions, but apparently only by passing up higher expected returns.

Eugene F. Fama
The Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Kenneth R. French
The Roth Family Distinguished Professor of Finance at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
This information is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily Dimensional Fund Advisors and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors of the general partner of, and provide consulting services to Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.