Freedom and Free Markets Stand Tall Over Terror

Three times in 75 days, terrorists have struck the United Kingdom, destroying lives and changing people forever. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives, families, friends and property were directly affected, as well as the entire nation as it heals.

This is an all-too-common occurrence lately -- from London to Manchester, Paris to Nice, San Bernardino to Orlando, Berlin, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Normandy, Norway, Egypt, Brussels and Copenhagen.

But even as terror attacks become increasingly frequent, this we are very confident in: Demons who don't value human life -- and the destruction and terror they sow -- are no match for resilient, free people. In our view, markets' increasing steadiness in the face of tragedies like this is a profound testament to the power of freedom and free enterprise to overcome those who seek to destroy our way of life.

When 9/11 happened almost 16 years ago, it was a legitimate shock to markets. The Western world had dealt with terrorism before, from Oklahoma City and the first World Trade Center bombings to Lockerbie and the IRA's campaign of terror, including the Manchester bombing in 1996.

But 9/11 was on a massive scale and hit institutions of finance and government, shaking America's foundation. When the stock market re-opened on 9/17, the S&P 500 plunged 11.6% in 5 days.[i] But on 9/24, markets turned back up. Though the dot-com bear market (which began way back in March 2000) would continue for another year, stocks enjoyed a powerful (though brief) rally. By 10/11, the S&P was back at pre-9/11 levels.

At year's end, it was up 5.1% since 9/11.[ii] The attack was horrific, but as time passed and America gritted her teeth and got on with it, investors fathomed the power of free societies' ability not to let terror block everyday life and commerce.

In a way, 9/11 inoculated markets against terrorism. It forced investors to confront the reality of a massive strike that killed thousands, and accept the possibility that it could happen again, at any time, with no warning. Markets have lived with that knowledge for 16 years now.

The Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the 7/7 attacks in London the next year reinforced the risk. On both occasions, markets dipped the day of the attack, but quickly moved on. Society, of course, took longer to heal. But for markets, terrorism's surprise power was gone. Investors knew the score, knew what they were dealing with.

As terrorist strikes became even more frequent during this bull market, their market-moving power dwindled even further.

U.K. stocks finished Monday a shade higher. France's CAC 40 fell -0.08% on 11/16/2015 -- the first trading day after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks -- but rose 2.8% the next day.[iii]

Germany's DAX rose 0.3% on 12/20/2016, the first day after the attack at Berlin's Christmas market.[iv] Belgium's BEL-20 rose 0.2% the day of the Brussels bombings and inched up another 0.1% the day after.[v]

We wish these examples taught a lesson investors would never need in the future, but we aren't blind to risk and reality. That being said, while terrorism is a reality today, we believe freedom -- and free people's solidarity, creativity and resilience -- will prevail over those who would render destruction.

And while market cycles will always be with us (and this bull market will one day end), overall and on average, we expect stocks to continue registering their own defiance by marching onward and upward.

Fisher Investments is an independent, fee-only investment adviser serving investors globally. To learn more about Fisher Investments, please visit

The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of Fisher Investments editorial staff. It should not be regarded as personalized financial advice and no assurances are made the firm will continue to hold these views, which may change at any time based on new information, analysis or reconsideration. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

This content is not associated with TheStreet editorial team.