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Data: FactSet; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

For millions of American investors, it's been the best form of whiplash. We're now one year to the day from the stock market's low point — a year in which they more than recouped the stunning losses they saw in the late winter of 2020.

Why it matters: Never before has the market swung so swiftly from extreme pessimism to extreme optimism. Over the past year the S&P 500 has moved from being at a three-year low, to rallying by an astonishing 76% and hitting new all-time highs.

Flashback: The bottom, for the markets, came as the number of COVID-19 cases was still relatively small but rising exponentially, with no end in sight. The only way to prevent millions of deaths was to lock down economies around the world, bringing commerce to a halt and vaporizing trillions of dollars' worth of economic activity.

  • The markets were in a tailspin, with the S&P 500 crashing by 34% in the space of just over a month. Only the bravest investors tried to catch that falling knife.
  • Since then, the economy has bounced back from its locked-down state, the federal government has approved more than $5 trillion of stimulus — much of which went straight into the market — and the Federal Reserve has promised to do everything in its power to keep money loose and employment rising.

The big picture: Stocks have never risen so much in 12 months. The previous record was a 61% rise ending in June 1983.

  • The riskier the asset, the higher the return: Bitcoin has soared by almost 800% over the past year, with Tesla stock not far behind. Safe-haven investments like gold and Treasury bonds have fared much less well.

By the numbers: An investor with a broadly diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds would have seen $1,000 turn into $1,658 over the past year.

  • A highly risky bet of $500 each on Bitcoin and Tesla a year ago would be worth $8,221 today.

The bottom line: Americans with investments have done very well over the past year. For the millions of unemployed, however, many of whom have no investments at all, that will come as little comfort.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.