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How Every Asset Class, Currency, and Sector Performed in 2019

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Another year is in the books, and for investors 2019 was quite the turnaround story.

Despite an early backdrop of heightened volatility, escalating trade tensions, Brexit uncertainty, and calls for a recession, the year progressed in an unexpectedly pleasant fashion. The Fed used its limited arsenal to provide additional stimulus, and global markets soaked it up to extend the decade-long bull run.

By the end of 2019, every major asset class was in the black — and the S&P 500 surged to finish with its best annual return since 2013.

Markets Roundup for 2019

Let’s take a look at major asset classes in 2019, to see how they fared:

Major asset class performance in 2019

Note: all indices here (i.e. S&P 500, Russell 2000, etc.) are using total returns, with dividends re-invested.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the above data is that every major asset class had a positive return for the year. The only real difference lies in the magnitude of that positive return.

Even though stocks experienced some of the best gains on the year, the winning asset may be a surprising one: crude oil.

The oil price (WTI) started the year at about $46/bbl and it closed the year at over $61/bbl, good for a 34% gain. And with escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, energy prices could be shooting even higher in 2020.

Performance by S&P 500 Sector

Strangely enough, rising oil prices did not do enough to buoy energy stocks — the poorest performing S&P 500 sector.

Although oil was up on the year, natural gas actually fell in price by about 26% in 2019. This effectively cancels out the gains made by oil, putting energy producers at the bottom of the list:

Performance of S&P 500 sectors in 2019

Not surprisingly, technology stocks excelled in 2019.

Tech was led by a big bounceback from Apple, a big winner that gained more than 80% over the course of the year. Other strong sectors in the benchmark U.S. index included communication services and financials.

The Currency Game

Now let’s look how currencies moved in 2019.

Below movements are all against the U.S. dollar, with the exception of the U.S. dollar itself, which is measured against a basket of currencies (U.S. Dollar Index):

Currency performance against USD in 2019

The biggest currency mover on the year was the Canadian dollar, which jumped over 5% partially thanks to rising oil prices. Meanwhile, the biggest decrease went to the euro, which fell over 2% against the U.S. dollar.

It’s also worthwhile to note that Bitcoin had a particularly strong rebound in 2019, rising over 90% against the U.S. dollar.

Winners and Losers

Finally, we’ve put together a more arbitrary list of winners and losers for the year, incorporating all of the above and more.

Winners and Losers in 2019

Both the Greek and Russian stock markets had banner years, each returning close to 50% in dollar terms. Faux meat brands also captured investors’ imaginations, with Beyond Meat leading the charge. Palladium was a standout commodity, gaining 59% on the year.

We’ve chosen energy stocks as a loser, since they were the poorest performing sector on the S&P 500. Meanwhile, Macy’s and Abiomed were two of the worst large cap stocks to own in 2019.

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Markets

The Top Retailers in the World, by Store Count

Here are the top retailers in the world by physical store presence, illustrating the dominance of convenience and drug store chains.

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This circle graphic shows the retailers with the highest number of locations worldwide.

The Top Retailers in the World, by Store Count

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Which retail chains have the highest global store counts?

Owing to their rapid speed of service in providing the basics to customers, convenience chains stand as the clear leaders. Going further, their smaller footprint allows them to expand their store counts at a greater scale.

This graphic shows the top retailers in the world by store count, based on data from the National Retailers Federation.

Japanese Retailers Dominate the Pack

Below, we show the global retailers with the most physical storefronts in 2023:

RankingRetailerTotal Stores WorldwideIndustryHeadquarters
1Seven & I40,454Convenience Store🇯🇵 Japan
2FamilyMart24,251Convenience Store🇯🇵 Japan
3Lawson21,902Convenience Store🇯🇵 Japan
4CP All16,042Convenience Store🇹🇭 Thailand
5AS Watson16,014Drug Store🇭🇰 Hong Kong
6Schwarz Group14,112Discount Grocery🇩🇪 Germany
7Carrefour14,014Supermarkets🇫🇷 France
8Couche-Tard13,505Convenience Store🇨🇦 Canada
9Aldi13,475Discount Grocery🇩🇪 Germany
10Walgreens Boots Alliance12,961Drug Store🇺🇸 U.S.

Leading by a wide margin is Japan’s Seven & I Holdings, with 40,454 store locations worldwide.

The retail giant includes the 7-Eleven franchise along with Ito-Yokado, its supermarket chain. While the world’s largest convenience chain traces its origins to Dallas, Texas, the remainder of the U.S-based company (27%) was acquired in 2005 in a $1.2 billion deal that took the company fully private. Today, the company operates in 10 markets globally.

Next in line are Japan’s FamilyMart and Lawson, each boasting over 20,000 locations. For perspective, Walmart, America’s largest retail company by revenues, operates 10,569 locations globally.

In Europe, Germany’s discount grocery chain Schwarz takes the lead, due to its extensive network of stores. Operating across 30 countries and with over 500,000 employees, the no-frills chain stands as a powerhouse. France’s supermarket giant, Carrefour, follows closely behind.

Ranking in eighth is Canadian retailer, Couche-Tard, with stores largely concentrated in North America and Europe. Since 2004, the company has made over 60 acquisitions, including 2,200 gas stations from French oil company TotalEnergies in 2023. The company is known for its Circle K brand, which operates in 24 countries globally.

Closing off the list is Walgreens Boots Alliance, the only American retailer in the rankings. The company owns the ubiquitous UK-based Boots brand, which was founded in 1849 in Nottingham. Yet as profits margins face increasing strains, it is looking to sell the subsidiary and instead focus more heavily on its U.S. pharmacy and healthcare businesses. With a presence in 13 countries, the pharmacy chain operates 12,961 stores worldwide.

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