Markets in Perspective – March and 1Q review

Capital Markets Returns Sources: U.S. Equity: Russell 3000® Index, Non-U.S. Equity: Russell Developed ex-U.S. Large Cap Index, Emerging Markets: Russell Emerging Markets Index, U.S. Bonds: Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, Global REITs: FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Real Estate Index, Commodities: Bloomberg Commodities Index, Balanced: 30% U.S. Equity, 20% Non-U.S. Equity, 5% EM, 35% Bonds, 5% REITs, 5% Commodities Equity markets across the globe posted negative returns in March, with international equity (represented by the Russell Developed ex-U.S. Large Cap Index) leading declines at -1.45%. Emerging market stocks (represented by the Russell Emerging Markets Index) and U.S. stocks (represented by the Russell 3000® Index) were down slightly more than 1% each. Unfortunately, this meant that March losses in the stock market trimmed gains made earlier in the calendar year. However, investors with non-U.S. exposure were rewarded during the first three months of 2015, as non-U.S. and U.S. stocks experienced a leadership reversal: non-U.S. stocks led with a 2.46% return, while U.S. stocks were up “only” 1.8%. Bonds (represented by the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) beat stocks in March and the 10-Year U.S. Treasury yield actually drifted lower as the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that it would not begin tightening the money supply as early as some had anticipated. Bonds were up 0.46% in March and have returned slightly less than stocks for the year to date with 1.61%. During the first quarter, the U.S. dollar rose 13% against the Euro, as the European Central Bank implemented quantitative easing. The strong dollar was a severe performance headwind for U.S.-based investors with non-U.S. holdings. The commodity market (represented by the Bloomberg Commodity Index) got roughed up in March, with oil and agriculture leading declines. Oil prices seem to have stabilized somewhat recently, finishing at $47 after hitting a six-year-low of $43 in mid-March. Global real estate securities (represented by the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Real Estate Index) had muted performance in March, but remain the top asset class for investors in the year-to-date. A hypothetical balanced index portfolio was down -0.8% for the month of March, but was up 1.7% for 2015 year-to-date.

Asset Class Dashboard – March 2015

The March reading of the Asset Class Dashboard portrays the last 12-month market environment as very much “in the typical range” that would be expected in the context of historical returns. Most equity markets were within the typical range, but slightly lower than their respective long-term averages. This is in-line with expectations after several months last year at the high end of the typical range. Non-U.S. equity markets posted yet another 12-month period of negative returns. Returns for U.S.-based investors with international equity exposure were also hampered by a strong U.S. dollar. Commodities remain the outlier, coming in below the historically typical range for that asset class. Going forward, we would expect the 12-month return of commodities to be more typical as oil finds its new equilibrium price – which we have seen some evidence of in March. Large cap U.S. equity: Russell 1000 Index, Large cap Defensive U.S. equity: Russell 1000 Defensive Index, Large cap dynamic U.S. equity: Russell 1000 Dynamic Index, Small cap U.S. equity: Russell 2000 Index, Non-U.S. Equity: Russell Developed ex-U.S. Large Cap Index, Global equity: Russell Developed Large Cap Index, Emerging markets: Russell Emerging Markets Index, Commodities: Dow Jones – UBS Commodity Total Return Index, Global infrastructure: S&P Global Infrastructure Index, Global real estate: FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Index, Cash: Citigroup 3-Month U.S. Treasury Bill Index, Global high yield bonds: Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) Global High Yield Index, Emerging markets debt: JP Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus, U.S. bonds: Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index. How do I read this chart? This dashboard is intended as a tool to set context and perspective when evaluating the current state of a sample of asset classes. The ranges of 12 month returns for each asset class are calculated from its underlying monthly index returns. The stated inception date is the first full month of an index's history available for the dashboard calculation. Here is how to read the graphic on this page: FOR EACH INDICATOR, THE HORIZONTAL BAR SHOWS FOUR THINGS A GRAY BAR shows the full range of historical rolling 12-month returns for a sample of asset classes. A BLUE COLOR BAND represents the typical range (one standard deviation away from the mean, i.e. 68% of historical observations) of rolling 12-month returns for these asset classes. AN ORANGE MARKER represents the most recent 12-month return of the asset classes. A WHITE LINE within the blue bar represents the mean of the historical observations.

The bottom line

The first quarter of 2015 was a good time to be a multi-asset investor amidst periods of high volatility and market leadership changes.