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History says stock market unlikely to hit a new high soon

Friday is the anniversary of the S&P 500's all-time intraday high, but don't expect a new one anytime soon. In fact, if history is any indicator, we're lucky to still be in the same ballpark as we were a year ago.

The record high that was set a year ago — 2,134.72 — has held for 252 trading days as of the close Wednesday, which makes it the 13th-longest record between highs, according to a CNBC analysis. What's interesting about this streak is how volatile the market has been. Except for a few streaks including those in 2000 and 2007, the current run is one of the most topsy-turvy in the index's 59-year existence.

In nearly 15,000 S&P 500 trading days, there have been 990 highs. That's 6.6 percent of the time. The vast majority of those highs lasted for fewer than five days. That means the typical trend for the market is to continue rising and setting new records.

When the market has hit a new high, only 19 times in the past did we have to wait more than 100 days for the next high to happen. We are in one of those periods now, having waited more than 250 trading days. The longest was more than five years' worth of trading days that started in January 1973.

The two times in this century the market has been more volatile since the most recent high were following the dotcom bust in 2000 and during the financial crisis. The crisis streak began after a record high of 1,576 in October 2007. The market went 1,382 days without a new high until the bull market that eventually led to last year's record.

While investors could find it frustrating to see no new high in a year, it's not unusual, and there could be a long drought before any improvement. The 3.6 percent drop over the past year is on the low end for streaks this long. Normally, these high-water marks give way to precipitous falls: Think the 40 percent drop following the 2007 high or the 24 percent fall a year after the dotcom bust.

A particular high's streak (or the number of days before another high) naturally tend to be short.

In a bull market, a day's high can easily be beaten the following day. But like anything else in a business cycle, bull markets don't last forever. After busts, it can take years and even decades before they're broken. It took the Nasdaq almost 15 years to recover the highs it had seen in 2000.

By analyzing the frequency of highs, we can get a sense of the historical precedent for the current situation and potentially a glimpse at how long investors have to wait before a new record high.