Monthly Market Report: DECEMBER 2019

2019 Rewarded Investors

Prepared by Brandon Yee, CFA, CAIA, and Thomas Connelly, CFA, CFP®

Developed Markets losing steam

Developed Markets Finish the Year Strong

In the month of December, international developed stock markets gained 3.19%. The U.K. and Europe ex U.K. equity markets recorded returns of 5.15% and 3.47%, respectively. Pacific ex Japan and Japan lagged the broader markets. The U.S. market finished the year up 30.88% and international developed markets rose 22.49%. While these returns are sizable, much of the gains in 2019 were due to multiple expansion and not earnings growth. Returns primarily from multiple expansion are not sustainable, and investors should not extrapolate these high returns.

Volatility increasing in emerging market equities

Emerging Markets Rally in December

Broader emerging markets rose 6.96% for the month. Brazil and Korea posted gains of 12.34% and 10.08%, respectively. India and Mexico lagged other markets in December. Emerging markets recorded a 2019 return of 20.11%, but still trade at attractive valuations relative to the U.S. market.  Using the CAPE valuation ratio, emerging markets are trading at an approximately 50% discount relative to the U.S. market. Using the trailing 12-month PE ratio, the discount is approximately 38%.

Global Sector

Energy has Relatively Tough 2019

Energy and information technology recorded gains of 5.59% and 5.01%, respectively, in December. Industrials and consumer staples lagged other sectors. Much of the 2019’s return has been driven by technology companies and other cyclical sectors. Energy trailed other sectors in 2019, returning 11.66%.

Domestic Equity Factors

Momentum has Strong Month

In December, value outperformed growth in the small-cap space, but underperformed in the large-cap space. Momentum recorded a gain of 3.40%. In 2019, value underperformed growth in the U.S. market, but still returned a respectable 26.54%. Momentum and large-cap growth strategies performed well during the past one- and five-year periods.

Foreign Equity Factors

Value Outperforms in International Markets

In the international developed markets, value outperformed growth in the large-cap and small-cap space. Momentum recorded a modest gain of 3.41% while small-cap emerging market stocks returned 6.70%. The divergence of performance between growth stocks and value stocks has been more muted in the international markets relative to the U.S. market.

Liquidity Providers

Savers Being Pushed Out on the Risk Curve

In December, the three-month Treasury bill index returned 0.14% for the month. The index’s 2019 return is 2.28%, keeping pace with inflation. Today’s low rates are forcing savers to invest in riskier assets just to maintain purchasing power. The CPI increased by 2.06% year over year through November.

Deflationary Hedges

Interest Rate Risk and Credit Risk Paid Off in 2019

The returns of deflationary hedges were mostly flat or negative for the month. High yield and leveraged loans returned 2.09% and 1.60%, respectively. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Agg Bond Index returned -0.07%. Emerging market bonds had a strong 2019, returning 14.42% for the year. While spreads have tightened due to strong performance, the emerging market debt asset class still yields approximately 4%-5%.

Inflation Sensitive Investments

Gold has Solid 2019

Inflation-sensitive investment returns were mixed for the month. Crude oil and the Alerian MLP recorded gains of 11.05% and 8.53%, respectively. In 2019, U.S. and international real estate posted returns of 23.10% and 22.44%, respectively. Natural gas and inflation-indexed bonds have lagged. Gold bullion returned 18.34% in 2019. Interest in gold has increased as recessionary concerns linger. Central banks, especially in emerging markets, continue to increase their gold holdings, reaching a twenty-year peak. Late cycle risks, low and negative real interest rates, and geopolitical risks are some of the reasons gold is attracting the marginal investor.

World Currencies

U.S. Dollar Mixed Versus Other Currencies

Over the past three months, the U.S. dollar appreciated against the Japanese Yen and Indian Rupee but depreciated against most other major currencies. For international equity investors, a weakening U.S. dollar will provide a tailwind to returns.

Brandon Yee, CFA, CAIA – Research Analyst

Brandon conducts investment due diligence for Versant Capital Management, and designs and implements tools and processes to support the firm’s research. His background in biology and finance help him to look at challenges from multiple angles, resulting in unique and well-rounded approaches and solutions.


Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Versant Capital Management, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this article will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this article serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Versant Capital Management, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Versant Capital Management, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the article content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. If you are a Versant Capital Management, Inc. client, please remember to contact Versant Capital Management, Inc., in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services. A copy of the Versant Capital Management, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.