One of the easiest charts to view historical returns for the Standard and Poor's 500 index comes from Dr. Aswath Damodaran of New York University's Stern School of Business. Damodaran's chart shows returns from 1928 to 2014 compared to Treasury bills and Treasury bonds, as of March 2015.Continue Reading
The S&P 500 returns are listed on the far left side of the chart as a percentage. Returns take into account a calendar year; for instance, the 43.81 percent for 1928 means the S&P 500 rose 43.81 percent from Jan. 1, 1928, to Dec. 31, 1928. A negative number means the index lost value during a particular year. The year with the greatest percentage gain was 1954 when the S&P 500 rose 52.56 percent. The year with the greatest percentage lost was 1931 when the index fell 43.84 percent, as of March 2015.
A smaller chart on About.com goes back to 1980. The chart compares percentage gains of the S&P 500 versus the Barclays Aggregate from 1980 to 2013. At the bottom of the chart, statistics compare the number of positive years, highest returns, lowest returns and average annual gain between both indexes.
Business Insider posted an infographic from Standard and Poor's as to how the index responded to national and worldwide events from 1928 to 2011. The infographic shows the percentage of returns by decade.Learn more about Investing