Call us toll free: 888 332 2238
Go Back

Lessons from a Tumultuous Year
Plus 2020 Market Review

John Gorlow | Jan 17, 2021
2106-john-gorlow-133

From the vantage point of mid-January, 2020 seems long ago and far away. Continuing turmoil may affect the market for some time to come. Yet with so many outcomes unknown, some things remain constant, including fundamental principles that underlie successful long-term investing. This month I am sharing a 2020 capital markets recap reprinted in full from DFA.


Looking Back on an Unprecedented Year
(Courtesy of DFA - 6 Minute Read)


The year 2020 proved to be one of the most tumultuous in modern history, marked by a number of developments that were historically unprecedented. But the year also demonstrated the resilience of people, institutions, and financial markets.


The novel coronavirus was already in the news early in the year, and concerns grew as more countries began reporting their first cases of COVID-19. Infections multiplied around the world through February, and by early March, when the outbreak was labeled a pandemic, it was clear that the crisis would affect nearly every area of our lives. The spring would see a spike in cases and a global economic contraction as people stayed closer to home, and another surge of infections would come during the summer. Governments and central banks worked to cushion the blow, providing financial support for individuals and businesses and adjusting lending rates.


On top of the health crisis, there was widespread civil unrest over the summer in the US tied to policing and racial justice. In August, Americans increasingly focused on the US presidential race in this unusual year. Politicians, supporters, and voting officials wrestled with the challenges of a campaign that at times was conducted virtually and with an election in the fall that would include a heightened level of mail-in and early voting. In the end, the results of the election would be disputed well into December. As autumn turned to winter, 2020 would end with both troubling and hopeful news: yet another spike in COVID-19 cases, along with the first deliveries of vaccines in the US and elsewhere.


For investors, the year was characterized by sharp swings for stocks. March saw the S&P 500 Index’s1 decline reach 33.79% from the previous high as the pandemic worsened. This was followed by a rally in April, and stocks reached their previous highs by August. Ultimately, despite a sequence of epic events and continued concerns over the pandemic, global stock market returns in 2020 were above their historical norm. The US market finished the year in record territory and with an 18.40% annual return for the S&P 500 Index. Non-US developed markets, as measured by the MSCI World ex USA Index,2 returned 7.59%. Emerging markets, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, returned 18.31% for the year.


Fixed income markets mirrored the extremity of equity behavior, with nearly unprecedented dispersion in returns during the first half of 2020. For example, in the first quarter, US corporate bonds underperformed US Treasuries by more than 11%, the most negative quarterly return difference in data going back a half century. But they soon swapped places: the second quarter was the second-most positive one on record for corporates over Treasuries, with a 7.74% advantage.3 Large return deviations were also observed between US and non-US fixed income as well as between inflation-protected and nominal bonds.


Global yield curves finished the year generally lower than at the start. US Treasury yields, for example, fell across the board, with drops of more than 1% on the short and intermediate portions of the curve.4 The US Treasury curve ended relatively flat in the short-term segment but upwardly sloped from the intermediate-to long-term segment. For 2020, the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index returned 5.58%.5


Uncertainty remains about the pandemic and the broad impact of the new vaccines, continued lockdowns, and social distancing. But the events of 2020 provided investors with many lessons, affirming that following a disciplined and broadly diversified investment approach is a reliable way to pursue long-term investment goals.


Market Prices Quickly Reflect New Information about the Future
The fluctuating markets in the spring and summer were also a lesson in how markets incorporate new information and changes in expectations. From its peak on February 19, 2020, the S&P 500 Index fell 33.79% in less than five weeks as the news headlines suggested more extreme outcomes from the pandemic. But the recovery would be swift as well. Market participants were watching for news that would provide insights into the pandemic and the economy, such as daily infection and mortality rates, effective therapeutic treatments, and the potential for vaccine development. As more information became available, the S&P 500 Index jumped 17.57% from its March 23 low in just three trading sessions, one of the fastest snapbacks on record. This period highlighted the vital role of data in setting market expectations and underscored how quickly prices adjust to new information.


One major theme of the year was the perceived disconnect between markets and the economy. How could the equity markets recover and reach new highs when the economic news remained so bleak? The market’s behavior suggests investors were looking past the short-term impact of the pandemic to assess the expected rebound of business activity and an eventual return to more-normal conditions. Seen through that lens, the rebound in share prices reflected a market that is always looking ahead, incorporating both current news and expectations of the future into stock prices.


Owning the Winners and Losers
The 2020 economy and market also underscored the importance of staying broadly diversified across companies and industries. The downturn in stocks impacted some segments of the market more than others in ways that were consistent with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain types of businesses or industries. For example, airline, hospitality, and retail industries tended to suffer disproportionately with people around the world staying at home, whereas companies in communications, online shopping, and technology emerged as relative winners during the crisis. However, predicting at the beginning of 2020 exactly how this might play out would likely have proved challenging.


In the end, the economic turmoil inflicted great hardship on some firms while creating economic and social conditions that provided growth opportunities for other companies. In any market, there will be winners and losers—and investors have historically been well served by owning a broad range of companies rather than trying to pick winners and losers.


Sticking with Your Plan
Many news reports rightly emphasized the unprecedented nature of the health crisis, the emergency financial actions, and other extraordinary events during 2020. The year saw many “firsts”—and subsequent years will doubtless usher in many more. Yet 2020’s outcomes remind us that a consistent investment approach is a reliable path regardless of the market events we encounter. Investors who made moves by reacting to the moment may have missed opportunities. In March, spooked investors fled the stock and bond markets, as money-market funds experienced net flows for the month totaling $684 billion. Then, over the six-month period from April 1 to September 30, global equities and fixed income returned 29.54% and 3.16%, respectively. A move to cash in March may have been a costly decision for anxious investors.


It was important for investors to avoid reacting to the dispersion in performance between asset classes, too, lest they miss out on turnarounds from early in the year to later. For example, small cap stocks on the whole fared better in the second half of the year than the first. The stark difference in performance between the first and second quarters across bond classes also drives home this point.


A Welcome Turn of the Calendar

Moving into 2021, many questions remain about the pandemic, new vaccines, business activity, changes in how people work and socialize, and the direction of global markets. Yet 2020’s economic and market tumult demonstrated that markets continue to function and that people can adapt to difficult circumstances. The year’s positive equity and fixed income returns remind that, with a solid investment approach and a commitment to staying the course, investors can focus on building long-term wealth, even in challenging times.


Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns
(Courtesy of DFA)


World Asset Classes
Equity markets around the globe posted positive returns in the fourth quarter. Looking at broad market indices, emerging markets outperformed non-US developed markets and US equities. Value outperformed growth across regions. Small caps outperformed large caps across regions as well. REIT indices underperformed equity market indices in both the US and non-US developed markets.


World Asset Classes

QTD

Russell 2000 Value Index

33.36

Russell 2000 Index

31.37

MSCI Emerging Markets Value Index (net div.)

22.98

MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap Index (net div.)

22.22

MSCI Emerging Markets Index (net div.)

19.7

MSCI World ex USA Value Index (net div.)

19.30

MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Index (net div.)

17.55

MSCI All Country World ex USA Index (net div.)

17.01

Russell 1000 Value Index

16.25

MSCI World ex USA Index (net div.)

15.85

S&P Global ex US REIT Index (net div.)

15.03

Russell 3000 Index

14.68

Russell 1000 Index

13.69

Dow Jones US Select REIT Index

12.92

S&P 500 Index

12.15

Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index

0.67

One-Month US Treasury Bills

0.02

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

US Stocks (56% of Global Market Cap)
The US equity market posted positive returns for the quarter but underperformed non-US developed markets and emerging markets. Value outperformed growth across large and small cap stocks. Small caps outperformed large caps. REIT indices underperformed equity market indices.

 

Ranked Returns for the Quarter 6

%

Small Value

33.36

Small Cap

31.37

Small Growth

29.61

Large Value

16.25

Marketwide

14.68

Large Cap

13.69

Large Growth

11.39

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Period Returns (%)

QTD

1 Yr

3 Yrs*

5 Yrs*

10 Yrs*

Small Value

33.36

4.63

3.72

9.65

8.66

Small Cap

31.37

19.96

10.25

13.26

11.20

Small Growth

29.61

34.63

16.20

16.36

13.48

Large Value

16.25

2.80

6.07

9.74

10.50

Marketwide

14.68

20.89

14.49

15.43

13.79

Large Cap

13.69

20.96

14.82

15.60

14.01

Large Growth

11.39

38.49

22.99

21.00

17.21

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized

 

International Developed Stocks (30% of Global Market Cap)
Developed markets outside the US posted positive returns for the quarter, outperforming US equities but underperforming emerging markets. Value outperformed growth. Small caps outperformed large caps.


Ranked Returns for the Quarter 7

%

Value

19.30

Small Cap

17.55

Large Cap

15.85

Growth

12.63

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Period Returns (%)

QTD

1 Yr

3 Yrs*

5 Yrs*

10 Yrs*

Value

22.98

5.48

1.77

9.18

0.90

Small Cap

22.22

19.29

2.69

8.19

2.29

Large Cap

19.70

18.31

6.17

12.81

3.63

Growth

16.83

31.33

10.33

16.23

6.21

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized


Emerging Markets Stocks (13% of Global Market Cap)
Emerging markets posted positive returns for the quarter, outperforming the US and developed ex US equity markets. Value outperformed growth. Small caps outperformed large caps.


Ranked Returns for the Quarter 8

%

Value

22.98

Small Cap

22.22

Large Cap

19.70

Growth

16.83

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Period Returns (%)

QTD

1 Yr

3 Yrs*

5 Yrs*

10 Yrs*

Value

22.98

5.48

1.77

9.18

0.90

Small Cap

22.22

19.29

2.69

8.19

2.29

Large Cap

19.70

18.31

6.17

12.81

3.63

Growth

16.83

31.33

10.33

16.23

6.21

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized


Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
US real estate investment trusts underperformed non-US REITs during the quarter.


Ranked Returns for the Quarter 9

%

Global ex US REITS

15.03

US REITS

12.92

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Period Returns (%)

QTD

1 Yr

3 Yrs*

5 Yrs*

10 Yrs*

Global ex US REITS

15.03

-10.09

0.95

4.17

4.94

US REITS

12.92

-11.20

1.54

3.00

7.56

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized


Fixed Income
Interest rate changes were mixed in the US Treasury fixed income market during the fourth quarter of 2020. The yield on the 5-Year US Treasury note increased 8 basis points (bps), ending at 0.39%. The yield on the 10-Year Treasury increased 29 bps to 0.93%. The 30-Year US Treasury bond yield increased 18 bps to finish at 1.64%. On the short end of the yield curve, the 1-Month US Treasury bill yield remained unchanged at 0.08%, while the 1-Year US T-bill yield decreased 1 bps to 0.13%. The 2-Year US Treasury note yield finished unchanged at 0.09%. In terms of total returns, short-term corporate bonds added 1.14%. Intermediate-term corporate bonds returned 1.76%. The total return for short-term municipal bonds was 0.44%, while intermediate-term munis returned 1.36%. Revenue bonds outperformed general obligation bonds.


Bond Yields Across Issuers 10

(%)

10-Year US Treasury

0.93

State and Local Municipals

2.24

AAA-AA Corporates

1.47

A-BBB Corporates

1.88

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Asset Class

QTR

1 Year

3 Years**

5 Years**

10 Years**

Bloomberg Barclays US High Yield Corporate Bond Index

6.45

7.11

6.24

8.59

6.8

FTSE World Government Bond Index 1-5 Years

2.20

6.45

2.67

2.70

0.43

Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index

1.82

5.21

4.64

3.91

4.63

Bloomberg Barclays US TIPS Index

1.62

10.99

5.92

5.08

3.81

Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index

0.67

7.51

5.34

4.44

3.84

FTSE World Government Bond Index 1-5 Years (hedged to USD)

0.17

3.21

3.06

2.36

1.97

ICE BofA 1-Year US Treasury Note Index

0.05

1.82

2.20

1.58

0.93

ICE BofA US 3-Month Treasury Bill Index

0.03

0.67

1.61

1.2

0.64

Bloomberg Barclays US Government Bond Index Long

-2.95

17.55

9.83

7.84

7.74

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized


Global Fixed Income
Changes in government bond interest rates in the global developed markets were mixed for the quarter. Longer-term bonds generally outperformed shorter-term bonds in global ex-US developed markets. Short- and intermediate-term nominal interest rates were negative in Japan, while all maturities finished in negative territory in Germany.


Changes in Yields (bps) since 9/30/2020

 

1Y

5Y

10Y

20Y

30Y

US

-0.70

8.40

24.80

20.50

18.10

UK

-10.30

-0.60

-2.80

-4.10

-3.30

Germany

-11.40

-2.80

-4.70

-7.80

-6.20

Japan

3.00

0.20

-0.20

-0.20

4.80

Canada

-4.30

6.00

12.00

9.80

9.60

Australia

-5.80

1.80

15.40

22.90

22.60

As of 12/31/2020

 

 

 


Commodities 11
The Bloomberg Commodity Index Total Return returned 10.19% for the fourth quarter of 2020. Soybean oil and soybeans were the best performers, gaining 28.42% and 27.39%, respectively. Natural gas and live cattle were the worst performers, declining 18.84% and 0.43%, respectively.


Period Returns (%)

QTR

1 Year

3 Years**

5 Years**

10 Years**

Commodities

10.19

-3.12

-2.53

1.03

-6.50

As of 12/31/2020

* Annualized


Impact of Diversification 12
These portfolios illustrate the performance of different global stock/bond mixes and highlight the benefits of diversification. Mixes with larger allocations to stocks are considered riskier but have higher expected returns over time.


Ranked Returns for the Quarter

%

100% Stocks

14.79

75/25

11.07

50/50

7.37

25/75

3.69

100% Treasury Bills

0.02

Fourth Quarter 2020 Index Returns

 

 

Period Returns (%)

QTD

1 Yr

3 Yrs*

5 Yrs*

10 Yrs*

10-Yr

STDEV¹

100% Stocks

14.79

16.82

10.64

12.86

9.71

14.07

75/25

11.07

13.19

8.62

10.04

7.55

10.55

50/50

7.37

9.21

6.40

7.12

5.3

7.02

25/75

3.69

4.95

4.01

4.13

2.96

3.51

100% Treasury Bills

0.02

0.44

1.46

1.07

0.55

0.23

As of 12/31/2020

 

* Annualized

 


Do you have questions or concerns about your portfolio? Call me. I am here to help. Happy New Year, and please stay safe and well in 2021.


Regards,


John Gorlow
President
Cardiff Park Advisors
888.332.2238 Toll Free
760.635.7526 Direct
760.271.6311 Cell
760.284.5550 Fax
jgorlow@cardiffpark.com


  1. S&P data © 2021 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment.
  2. MSCI data © MSCI 2021, all rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment.
  3. US corporate bonds represented by the Bloomberg Barclays US Credit Bond Index. US Treasuries represented by the Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury Bond Index. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. Indices are not available for direct investment.
  4. ICE BofA government yield. ICE BofA index data © 2021 ICE Data Indices, LLC.
  5. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment
  6. Market segment (index representation) as follows: Marketwide (Russell 3000 Index), Large Cap (Russell 1000 Index), Large Cap Value (Russell 1000 Value Index), Large Cap Growth (Russell 1000 Growth Index), Small Cap (Russell 2000 Index), Small Cap Value (Russell 2000 Value Index), and Small Cap Growth (Russell 2000 Growth Index).
  7. Market segment (index representation) as follows: Large Cap (MSCI World ex USA Index), Small Cap (MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Index), Value (MSCI World ex USA Value Index), and Growth (MSCI World ex USA Growth Index). All index returns are net of withholding tax on dividends.
  8. Market segment (index representation) as follows: Large Cap (MSCI Emerging Markets Index), Small Cap (MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap Index), Value (MSCI Emerging Markets Value Index), and Growth (MSCI Emerging Markets Growth Index). All index returns are net of withholding tax on dividends.
  9. REIT Index. Dow Jones US Select REIT Index used as proxy for the US market, and S&P Global ex US REIT Index used as proxy for the World ex US market. Dow Jones and S&P data © 2021 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.
  10. Yield curve data from Federal Reserve. State and local bonds are from the S&P National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Index. AAA-AA Corporates represent the Bank of America Merrill Lynch US Corporates, AA-AAA rated. A-BBB Corporates represent the ICE BofA Corporates, BBB-A rated.
  11. Commodities returns represent the return of the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index. Individual commodities are sub-index values of the Bloomberg Commodity Total Return Index. Data provided by Bloomberg.
  12. Asset allocations and the hypothetical index portfolio returns are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent actual performance. Global Stocks represented by MSCI All Country World Index (gross div.) and Treasury Bills represented by US One-Month Treasury Bills. Globally diversified allocations rebalanced monthly, no withdrawals.
  13. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Index performance does not reflect expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.

Contact

Cardiff Park Advisors, LLC
338 Via Vera Cruz, Suite 240, San Marcos, CA 92078
Phone (760) 635-7526
Toll Free (888) 332-2238
Fax (760) 284-5550

Copy Right © | Cardiff Park Advisors

Connect