NEW YORK (Reuters) - The bull market for stocks turned nine years old on Friday and, despite being long in the tooth, appears poised to set the record as the longest in history, buoyed by global economic growth and stronger company earnings.
It is unlikely to be a smooth ride, however, as investors have already had to endure a 10-percent market correction sparked by inflation concerns and heightened volatility, which is likely to continue throughout the year.
“Bull markets just don’t die of old age, they die of recessions and economic slowdowns,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in New York.
The S&P 500 index has rallied nearly 305 percent since hitting a closing low of 676.53 on March 9, 2009, in large part due to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy in the wake of the financial crisis.
(GRAPHIC: S&P 500 vs 10-yr Yield during bull market - reut.rs/2FlB2ZF)
The gains since, uninterrupted by a decline of 20 percent or more, rank this bull market as the second longest ever and about six months behind the bull run from October 1990 to March 2000 during the tech boom.
Gains are expected to continue as global economies are in a period of synchronized growth after years of dealing with the aftereffects of the Great Recession. Also expected to boost equities are improving corporate earnings, aided by a tax overhaul in Washington, which has reduced what was seen by many as stretched valuations.
“The earnings growth picture for this year continues to get better on a weekly basis,” said Hogan.
(GRAPHIC: Stock valuations during bull run - reut.rs/2FngM9I)
With fourth-quarter earnings reporting nearly complete, S&P 500 companies scored growth of 15.3 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. That growth rate is currently expected to be topped in each quarter in 2018, highlighted by earnings growth of 21.9 percent in the third quarter.
The strong earnings growth could turn into a headwind, however, as results this year will be tough to top in 2019.
“When you look to 2019, it’ll be very hard to repeat those numbers,” said Jonathan Mackay, investment strategist at Schroders Investment Management in New York.
“Next year will probably not be as good. Then you’re probably getting into the last stages of the cycle.”
A recent poll by Reuters showed stocks will build on the recent recovery from a sell-off earlier this month to rack up an over-8-percent gain for the year, led by corporate profits and a robust economic expansion.
Since the correction low on Feb. 8, the Dow and S&P have yet to regain prior levels, while the Nasdaq hit a record on Friday, powered by a gain of nearly 14 percent in the technology sector.