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Market cycles: Riding the rollercoaster of stocks

Ever wondered why the stock market seems to have more mood swings than a teenager? Read on to know the answer

Market cycles

With your portfolio value soaring high one moment, and the very next minute, it’s as if the sky is falling, with stock prices tumbling faster than you can say ‘bear market comes to the world of market cycles!

A market cycle is like a Bollywood drama – it has its ups, it has its downs, but above all, it’s full of surprises. Each cycle tells a unique story, driven by economic trends, investor sentiment, and unpredictable events.(remember the great crash of 2020 due to a certain pesky virus?)

In the Indian stock market alone, which currently boasts a total market capitalisation of over $3.5 trillion, these cycles have led to significant swings. The SENSEX, a key benchmark index, soared to an all-time high of over 62,000 points in late 2022, only to retreat to around 57,000 points during March 2023.

But why should you care about these cycles? Well, understanding market cycles can be the difference between making your fortune in investing or watching your hard-earned money vanish faster than a plate of piping hot samosas at a family gathering. 

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of booms, busts, bulls, and bears, shall we?

What are market cycles?

Market cycles are the recurring patterns of ups and downs in the financial markets. These cycles are driven by various factors, from investor sentiment to economic indicators, and they can last for months, years, or even decades.

Market cycles are like the seasons of finance, with each phase bringing its own set of opportunities and challenges.

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Market cycles are generally categorised into four phases:

1. Accumulation phase 

This is the start of the upward trend where informed investors start buying into the market when it is at its lowest point or the “bottom.” This phase is characterised by pessimism, with most investors exiting the market due to previous losses.

Astute investors and institutions quietly scout for undervalued stocks with growth potential. For instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the accumulation stage was in full swing as investors sought out stocks the crisis had battered. They saw the potential for these stocks to rebound and took advantage of the opportunity.

2. Markup phase:

As we move into the markup stage, stock prices begin to rise, and investor sentiment turns optimistic. It’s when investors start to believe that the market has hit its bottom and is on the upswing.

With the progress of vaccine rollouts and declining COVID-19 cases, investors grew more hopeful about the future of the economy. This surge in optimism led to a demand boom for stocks expected to benefit from the impending economic recovery.

For instance, sectors like pharmaceuticals, IT, and consumer goods in India gained momentum during the markup stage. Investors turned bullish on these sectors, driving their stock prices upward. 

3. Distribution phase

This is the peak of the market cycle, where prices are at their highest. Investor sentiment is highly optimistic, and there is widespread participation in the market. Informed investors start selling off their holdings during this phase.

Trading volumes surge, and investor sentiment shifts from optimism to caution. In December of the previous year, the Indian benchmark indices reached record highs, propelled by factors such as increased retail and domestic institutional investor participation, favourable government policies, and a rise in credit demand.

However, recent developments, including tensions between Russia and Ukraine, interest rate hikes by major central banks, consumption slowdown in India due to inflation, and expensive stock valuations, have triggered a correction in the Indian stock market. 

This correction suggests a potential shift in the market cycle, leading to heightened volatility and uncertainty in the short term.

4. Markdown phase

In the markdown phase, we witness the final act of the market cycle. This is when the market experiences a sharp decline, and investor sentiment turns sour. It’s often triggered by factors such as economic recessions, declining corporate earnings, or significant global events that shake investor confidence.

In this stage, caution is key as the market faces challenges and navigates stormy waters. It’s a time when investors need to weather the storm and assess the long-term potential of their investments.

Also Read: Indian startup valuations hit rock bottom

How do market cycles work?

You might be wondering how market cycles come to life? The captivating world of market cycles unveils itself when trends emerge within a specific sector or industry in response to groundbreaking innovation, fresh product offerings, or changes in regulations. 

These fascinating patterns, often referred to as secular cycles, bring about periods where multiple companies in an industry experience similar growth patterns in revenue and net profits. It’s a cyclical dance that plays out in the business realm.

However, here’s the catch: spotting market cycles in real-time is as challenging as finding a needle in a haystack. 

They rarely have clear beginnings or endings, leading to debates and confusion among analysts and strategists. But, experienced market veterans acknowledge their existence, and many investors actively seek ways to profit from them by making strategic moves ahead of the curve.

Also Read: How to benchmark like a boss: Your guide to investment success!

In the world of finance, market cycles and market trends are like two sides of a coin. While market cycles bring the rise and fall of stock prices, market trends guide us on the path the market takes over time.

Market trends can change based on a new product launch, a quarterly earnings report, or even a tweet from a CEO! These are short-term changes influenced by immediate factors.

Market cycles, on the other hand, are like the tectonic plates of the Earth. Their movement is slower, driven by substantial, structural changes in the economy. Think interest rates, GDP, and inflation.

As an investor or trader, having the ability to anticipate the market cycle in advance is like having a superpower.

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Hunny Meghani

A curious mind, a love for writing, and a passion for all things finance - that's me in a nutshell. Whether I'm exploring the latest stock market trends or diving into the nitty-gritty of personal finance, marketing, and AI. I'm always on the hunt for the next big story.

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