It was an odd summer for equity markets, as investors shrugged off upbeat corporate earnings and sold stocks, fretting instead about the U.S. slipping into another recession and the ongoing debt crisis in Europe. Things got odder in September, when the S&P 500 hit an unusual milestone: It yielded more than the 10-year Treasury note. That's only happened 20 times since 1953, according to Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist of Standard & Poor's. His research shows that the S&P 500 climbed an average of 20% in the following 12 months. He observed that that was the good news. "The bad news is that past performance is no guarantee of future results," he wrote in a report.

To temper the good news further, investors should realize that the S&P 500 did not rocket higher every one of the 20 times it out-yielded Treasuries. It rose 16 of 20 times, or 80% of the time. Stovall attributed investors' historic enthusiasm to the love of a bargain. At the end of many of the quarters when stocks out-yielded bonds, investors went on a shopping spree. The last time in recent memory was in March 2009, when investors spotted the "for sale" sign and sent the S&P 500 up 20% the following year.

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