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:
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:
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):
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.
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.
Ranked: The World’s 50 Top Countries by GDP, by Sector Breakdown
This graphic shows GDP by country, broken down into three main sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.
Visualized: The Three Pillars of GDP, by Country
Over the last several decades, the service sector has fueled the economic activity of the world’s largest countries. Driving this trend has been changes in consumption, the easing of trade barriers, and rapid advancements in tech.
We can see this in the gross domestic product (GDP) breakdown of each country, which gets divided into three broad sectors: services, industry, and agriculture.
The above graphic from Pranav Gavali shows GDP by country, and how each sector contributes to an economy’s output, with data from the World Bank.
Drivers of GDP, by Country
As the most important and fastest growing component of GDP, services make up almost 60% of GDP in the world’s 50 largest countries. Following this is the industrial sector which includes the production of raw goods.
Below, we show how each sector contributes to GDP by country as of 2021:
|🇰🇷 South Korea||57.0||32.4||1.8||8.8||$1.8|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||46.5||44.7||2.7||6.1||$0.8|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||89.7||6.0||0.1||4.3||$0.4|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||63.0||24.5||2.5||10.0||$0.4|
Industrial sector includes construction. Agriculture sector includes forestry and fishing. *Data as of 2019.
In the U.S., services make up nearly 78% of GDP. Apart from Hong Kong, it comprises the highest share of GDP across the world’s largest economies. Roughly 80% of American jobs in the private sector are in services, spanning from healthcare and entertainment to finance and logistics.
Like America, a growing share of China’s GDP is from services, contributing to almost 54% of total economic output, up from 44% in 2010. This can be attributed to rising incomes and higher productivity in the sector as the economy has grown and matured, among other factors.
In a departure from the top 10 biggest countries globally, agriculture continues to drive a large portion of India’s GDP. India is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and rice, with agriculture accounting for 44% of the country’s employment.
While the services sector has grown in India, it makes up a greater share in other emerging economies such as Brazil (58%), Mexico (59%), and the Philippines (61%).
Services-led growth has risen faster than manufacturing across many developing nations, underpinned by productivity growth.
This structural shift is seen across economies. In many countries in Africa, for instance, jobs have increasingly moved from agriculture to services and trade, where it now accounts for 42% of jobs.
These growth patterns are supported by rising incomes in developing economies, while innovation in tech is lowering barriers to enabling service growth. As the industrial sector makes up a lower share of trade and economic activity, the service sector is projected to make up 77% of global GDP by 2035.
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