The S&P 500’s close below 3,837.25 on June 13 didn’t just signal the birth of a new bear market – it also marked the death of the most recent bull market.
And what a bull it was.
But before we look back at the best S&P 500 stocks of the pandemic bull market (see the table below), let’s take a moment to acknowledge this change in the cycle.
Active investors grappling with the official onset of a bear market might want to review the best stocks to buy for 2022, which are designed to account for a range of outcomes through year-end and beyond. Those same active investors also might want to consider adding names that tend to hold up well in down markets, such as the best stocks to buy for a bear market.
As for our now-defunct bull market, recall how improbable it seemed at the time. When COVID-19 first swept across the globe in early 2020, the S&P 500 lost more than a third of its value in little more than a month. And when the market did at last mercifully bottom on March 23, few at the time could guess that it was about to generate extended and stunning returns.
For the record, the pandemic bull market began on March 23, 2020, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, and it ended on Jan. 3, 2022, which was the S&P 500’s most recent – not to mention record – closing high.
Thus, our late, lamented bull market lived for 21.4 months – a period in which the S&P 500 increased 114.4% on a price basis and 120.4% on a total return basis (price appreciation plus dividends).
But as remunerative as the pandemic bull proved to be, it was truly distinguished by the rapidity of its gains.
Since World War II, there have been seven bull markets in which the S&P 500 increased at least 100%, says Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial. The pandemic bull market holds the record for doubling in the shortest amount of time (or not quite 17 months), the strategist notes.
The Best S&P 500 Stocks of the Bull Market
Interestingly, most of the stocks that were the pandemic bull market’s biggest early winners – work-from-home darlings, home improvement retailers, consumer staples giants – faded once COVID-19 began to release its grip.
As the table below shows, energy sector names and pandemic-recovery plays in the gaming industry make numerous appearances among the best S&P 500 stocks of the bull market. The financial sector is also amply represented.
And as for top-performer Tesla (TSLA, $647.21)? Remember that the bull market ended on Jan. 3. Shares in Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company have lost more than 45% of their value ever since.