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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

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Trump's volatile return to the stock market

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

Why it matters: The medium-term promise of Trump's media company is that it will replace Twitter for anybody wanting to keep track of Trump's messages. The short-term promise is that it can be a hot new speculative vehicle for people wanting to get rich quick in the stock market.

Updated 14 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.