I’ve gotten into the habit of annually updating the chart below that shows the calendar year returns for a number of different asset classes commonly used by investors to construct diversified portfolios. I call this chart the periodic table of annual returns.
Over the past few months, market participants have focused on the yield curve and its history of predicting an economic recession. As the chart below shows, the yield curve has inverted prior to every recession dating back to 1962. With predictive power like this, it’s no wonder investors have been vigilantly monitoring its movement in an attempt to gauge when a recession may occur.
What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were highlighting a picture-perfect year for global stocks. In 2017, both the S&P 500 and the MSCI All Country World Index ex USA were positive for all twelve calendar months. This was the first time either index accomplished this feat and it happened with near-record low volatility while enduring geopolitical tensions, political dysfunction, massive natural disasters, and tighter monetary policy. 2017 was defined by synchronized global expansion whereby most global economies were getting stronger, with the United States leading the charge.
From its close on September 20th to its close on December 24th, the S&P 500 Index declined 19.8%, including a greater than 7% one-week (December 14-21) fall that had not been seen since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. The generally accepted technical definition of a bear market is a decline of 20% or more. While the S&P 500 barely avoided the official bear market designation, it sure felt like one.
In the 1950s psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. Asch’s experiments were simple vision tests. A group of eight male college students were placed in a room, shown a card with a line segment on it, and then shown another card with three line segments labelled A, B, and C. One of the line segments on the second card was the same length as the line segment on the first card, while the other two line segments were clearly of a different length. Participants were asked to write down their answers and then give their answers aloud. Seems like a pretty straight forward experiment, but there was a twist.
Over the past 80 days, the US stock market has declined about 11%, and over the last 365 days, it is down about 1%. Foreign stock markets have declined about 9% over the last 80 days and are down about 10% for the last 365 days as well. The US bond market, typically a good hedge to the risk of stocks, hasn’t delivered much protection during the same time periods, being up about 1% in the last 80 days and down about 1% for the last 365 days.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend the 29th annual SRI Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The SRI Conference is the premier annual gathering of sustainable, responsible, and impact investment professionals working to direct the flow of investment capital toward a truly sustainable future.
Over the past few weeks the focus of our weekly posts has been on the volatility in the global equity market. We have sought to provide some insight into what’s driving global stocks lower and provide perspective on how frequently drawdowns like the one we are currently mired in occur. We hope these insights and perspectives have been valuable for you and helped to give you peace of mind.
It goes without saying, this has been a challenging year for investors. Every asset class has experienced significant loss at one point or another – International Equities, US Bonds, and recently, US Equities. As much as we say uncertainty and risk of loss is the cost of realizing long-term capital returns, times like this can make even the most rational long-term investor fear the future.
After a long stretch of relatively calm and steady stock market gains, volatility has reared its ugly head over the past four weeks. Last week we detailed how interest rates have contributed to the recent stock market slump. While interest rates may be the driving force behind the quick and dramatic drop in stock prices, there are other factors at play. Trade tensions between the U.S. and its global trade partners are running high. There is uncertainty around the upcoming midterm elections. There is nervousness as companies are beginning to announce third quarter earnings. Housing sales are starting to slow. Geopolitical pressures are mounting in light of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia. All of these issues have played a role in the recent market volatility that has seen the S&P 500 decline in 15 of the 19 trading days in October.
Last year, there were eight trading days where the S&P 500 moved up or down by at least one percent. So far this year, there have been forty-one such trading days. Further, five of the last eight trading sessions have seen the S&P 500 move up or down by at least one percent. With the recent volatility in the stock market has some asking what’s next for the stock market and the U.S. economy.
Last Wednesday, October 10th, U.S. stocks suffered their worst losses in eight months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 3.2% and the S&P 500 declined 3.3%, both notching their worst losses since February 8th. The S&P 500 also posted its first six-day losing streak since November 2016, although a bounce back on Friday stopped that slide.
Last November I was rear-ended on my drive home from work. I was stopped at a red light when the driver behind failed to stop. Luckily, I was not injured in the accident, but it was scary nonetheless. Less than one month later, I was driving down the highway to return the rental car I needed while my car was at the body shop getting repaired and I was once again rear-ended. Not being at fault, I was lucky to escape the accident with no physical injuries.
Exchange-traded products (ETPs) have been lauded by investors and investment professionals for helping to democratize investing. The most popular type of ETP is the exchange-traded fund, better known by its acronym ETF. Exchange-traded notes (ETNs) are a lesser known type of ETP. ETNs differ from ETFs in that ETNs don’t hold underlying securities, like stocks or bonds. Rather, they are unsecured debt instruments issued by a bank that promises to pay the performance of an underlying investment, typically an index or basket of securities.
On September 21, 2018, the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) sector structure will experience the biggest change in its history. Specifically, the Telecommunication Services sector will be broadened to include companies from the Consumer Discretionary and Information Technology sectors and renamed Communication Services.
When the closing bell rang on Wednesday, August 22, 2018, many media outlets were quick to celebrate the longest bull market in United States history. However, there are many investment professionals and historians who beg to disagree with this notion. You’re probably asking yourself how can there be a disagreement on whether this bull market is the longest ever? It either is or isn’t. It’s black or white. Day or night. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.