Sunday, August 2, 2009

Winners and losers over the last 10, 2, and 1 years

We’ve finished another month in the markets, so perhaps it’s time to reflect on some long-term performance metrics for stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. This data is compliments of The Chart Store.

Over the past ten years, the best performer as measured by its annualized percent change was the Gold Bugs Index (HUI) at 18.32%. By asset class commodities were the clear winners. Energy commodities, with the notable exception of natural gas, gained 12-13% on the spot market. Industrial metals (copper, lead, nickel, and tin) were up between 11 and 14%. Gold was up 14%, platinum 13%, and silver 10%. Grains were all positive with gains between 7 and 10%. Among the softs sugar did best at 12%, cocoa next at 10%, coffee eked out an almost 2% gain, and cotton was fractionally negative.

Bonds, as measured by the Ryan Index, returned 7% at the long end of the curve and 3.3% for the 3-month Treasury. The strongest currency was the Canadian dollar at 3.41%, the weakest the Mexican peso at -3.32%.

And then there were the stock indexes. Measured by price only, not total return, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.49%, the S&P 500 lost 2.92%, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.84%. By cap size the winner was the S&P 600 SmallCap (+4.87%) and the S&P 400 MidCap (+4.42%).

Looking back two years, where would we have done best? We could have earned handsome returns by being very selective in commodities (soybeans, gold, cocoa, sugar) but would have suffered double-digit losses if we had invested in the industrial metals, in palladium, in natural gas, or in wheat. Bonds chugged along with returns between 2.65% and 8.99%, and the Japanese yen gained over 12%. All stock indexes with the exception of the Dow Jones Utilities Average fell double digits.

There are mighty few bright spots over a one-year time frame. Sugar is a stand out, up over 25%, the Japanese yen gained over 14%, and the U.S. Dollar Index was up almost 7%. Bonds held their own (though year to date the 30-year Treasury has cratered). Otherwise most of the stock indexes lost in the neighborhood of 20%, with the Nasdaq 100 best at -13% and the Dow Jones Transportation Average worst at -29%. The energy complex got hit hard, with one-year losses between 36% and 63%. The grains fell between 22% and 38%, about half of the industrial metals fell 30+%, the precious metals with the exception of gold (up 2%) fell between 22% and 33%, and the softs were all over the map (cocoa essentially flat, coffee and cotton down double digits, and sugar up 25%). A lot of currencies also took it on the chin—double-digit losses for the Australian dollar, the Brazilian real, the British pound, the Indian rupee, the Mexican peso, the South Korean won, and the Swedish kronor.

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