Overstimulated? Stocks soar 75% in historic 12-month run

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New York Stock Exchange

FILE - In this Wednesday March 10, 2021 photo provided by the New York Stock Exchange, trader Phyllis Arena Woods works on the trading floor. A year earlier, a terrifying free fall for the stock market suddenly ended, ushering in one of its greatest runs. (Nicole Pereira/New York Stock Exchange via AP)

NEW YORK – It was one year ago that the terrifying free fall for the stock market suddenly ended, ushering in one of its greatest runs.

On March 23, 2020, the S&P 500 fell 2.9%. In all, the index dropped nearly 34% in about a month, wiping out three years’ worth of gains for the market.

That turned out to be the bottom, even though the coronavirus pandemic worsened in the ensuing months and the economy sank deeper into recession. Massive amounts of support for the economy from the Federal Reserve and Congress limited how far stocks would fall. The market recovered all its losses by August.

As time passed, the quick development of coronavirus vaccines helped stocks shoot even higher. So did growing legions of first-time investors, who suddenly had plenty of time to get into the market using free trading apps on their phones.

It all led to a 76.1% surge for the S&P 500 and a shocking return to record heights. This run looks to be one of the, if not the, best 365-day stretches for the S&P 500 since before World War II. Based on month-end figures, the last time the S&P 500 rose this much in a 12-month stretch was in 1936, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

All the furious movement has also raised worries that stock prices may have gone too far, too fast. Here’s a look at five trends that helped shape the market over the last year:

— TWO BULL MARKETS IN ONE

Wall Street’s big rally actually had two distinct stages. Early on, Big Tech stocks and winners of the suddenly stay-at-home economy pulled the market higher. Amazon benefited as people shopped more online, Apple hoovered up sales as more people worked from home and Zoom Video Communications surged as students and adults started meeting online. Tech stocks as a group are the market’s biggest by value, so their gains helped make up for weakness across other sectors as the economy continued to struggle.