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Stock Market

Baby boom selling feared

Report foresees retirees' shift from stocks

baby-boom-selling-fears-wall-street-08-23-2011

Trader Jonathan Corpina has a smile at the New York Stock Exchange on a day indexes made small gains. A Federal Reserve report said sales by baby boomers could be a long-term depressant for stock prices.

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LOS ANGELES -- As if investors don't have enough to worry about these days, a new study says that selling by baby boomers in coming years could be a persistent wet blanket on the stock market.

The report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco predicts that stock prices could fall 13 percent in the next decade solely because of baby boomers' dumping stocks to branch into more conservative investments as they retire.

It could take an additional six years, until 2027, for share prices to return to the level they reached last year, according to the analysis by researchers Zheng Liu and Mark M. Spiegel.

In the typically understated language of a government report, the researchers describe this scenario as "quite bearish."

The report's basic premise is that stock prices "have been closely related to demographic trends in the past half century" -- in other words, that baby boomers pushed up stock prices in earlier years as they hit their prime earning and saving years.

This is not a new hypothesis and some analysts have disputed it in the past.

But the report's timing is unsettling in itself, given that the market has slumped again.

Aside from being a longer-term depressant, selling by baby boomers -- born from 1946 to 1964 -- could forestall any current market recovery from the global financial crisis.

"It is disconcerting that the retirement of the baby boom generation, which has long been expected to place downward pressure on U.S. equity values, is beginning in earnest just as the stock market is recovering from the recent financial crisis, potentially slowing down the pace of that recovery," the report says.

The only encouraging tidbit -- if it could be called that -- is that stock values could rise solidly in later years as the boomer generation ages. Stock prices should begin rising strongly starting in 2025, and by 2030 should be about 20 percent higher than in 2010, according to the report.

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