Aug 6, 2009
A buy-and-hold for stocks appears to work well for long periods (such as 1975 - 1999) but then does poorly for extended periods as well, such as the most recent ten years. Isn't it clear that there are "seasons" for stocks that make the climate favorable or unfavorable for investors?

EFF: We always emphasize that ten years is not a long period for stock returns, and ten-year periods with negative market premiums are common. A long period is basically an investment lifetime (35+ years).

KRF: After the fact it is easy to identify periods in which stocks did well and periods in which they did poorly. But if you want to use these "seasons" to build an investment strategy, you have to identify them before they occur - and that is not so easy. The seasons analogy creates the false impression that, like spring, summer, fall, and winter, the favorable and unfavorable periods follow a regular and predictable cycle. Droughts in Australia might be a better analogy. We don't know when the next one will occur and we don't know how long it will last when it does.

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