No Refuge for Investors as 2018 Rout Sends Stocks, Bonds, Oil Lower. The failure of so many investment strategies is viewed by some as a warning of what could come following years of above-average returns. A record share of asset classes have posted negative total returns this year, according to Deutsche Bank data going back to 1901.
Stocks, bonds and commodities from copper to crude oil to burlap are staging a rare simultaneous retreat, putting global markets on track for one of their worst years on record and deepening a sense of unease on Wall Street.
By one measure, global stocks and bonds are both on track to finish the year in the red for the first time in at least a quarter-century, said Belinda Boa, head of active investments for Asia Pacific at BlackRock in Hong Kong.
Major stock benchmarks in the U.S., Europe, China and South Korea have all slid 10% or more from recent highs. Crude oil’s tumble has dragged it well into bear market territory, emerging-market currencies have broadly fallen against the U.S. dollar, and bitcoin’s price—which had a meteoric rally last year—crashed below $5,000 this past week for the first time since October 2017.
Havens such as U.S. Treasury bonds and gold rallied this fall as U.S. stocks and industrial commodities staged their fourth-quarter swoon. But both are still down on a price basis for the year, reflecting solid economic growth and tighter Federal Reserve policy that have begun to push interest rates out of their post-financial crisis doldrums.
All told, 90% of the 70 asset classes tracked by Deutsche Bank are posting negative total returns in dollar terms for the year through mid-November, the highest share since 1901. (The S&P 500 is up slightly in 2018 on a total-return basis.) Last year, just 1% of asset classes delivered negative returns.
It hasn’t felt like a bad year, but retrospectively, it’s been a pretty miserable year. —Thomas Poullaouec, T. Rowe Price. The broad pullback in markets is leaving fund managers scrambling to find places to park their money.
But with global growth showing signs of slowing and monetary policy expected to tighten further, few are eager to place large wagers and risk compounding earlier failures to generate expected gains. Indeed, the simultaneous failure of so many investment strategies is being by viewed by some as a warning of what could come following years of above-average returns.
“It’s been a difficult year,” said Ed Keon, chief investment strategist at asset-management firm QMA, which continues to favor stocks over bonds. “All investors have goals, and none of those can be fulfilled with negative returns.”
Few investors believe a recession, particularly in the U.S., is imminent. Yet the strength of the U.S. economy has allowed the Federal Reserve to continue stepping further away from the regime of rock-bottom interest rates and bond-buying put in place after the financial crisis. That has, in turn, diminished the premium investors get for taking on risky assets, pressuring a variety of markets.