How Every Asset Class, Currency, and S&P 500 Sector Performed in 2020
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How Every Asset Class, Currency, and S&P 500 Sector Performed in 2020

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Major Asset Class Returns in 2020

Corresponding assets in the graphic top to bottom were measured using: XAGUSD, XAUUSD, Russell 2000, S&P 500, MSCI EM, Bloomberg Barclays Corporate Bonds Index, MSCI EAFE, iShares Trust US Treasury Bond ETF, S&P/TSX Composite, S&P GSCI, DXY, Dow Jones Real Estate Index, WTI U.S. Oil.

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How Every Market Performed in 2020

It has been a volatile year for financial markets and their participants, with some of the largest price fluctuations imaginable across just about every single asset.

Despite the volatility, the combination of the Federal Reserve’s early stimulus interventions and positive vaccine news has rewarded dip-buyers and strong hands.

Along with visualizing the returns across asset classes, currencies, and S&P 500 sectors, we’ve included their maximum drawdown for the year—the drop from the 2020 open to the 2020 lows—along with the recovery from 2020 lows to the closing price.

This helps visualize 2020’s most resilient assets, along with the strength of their recovery.

Markets Roundup for 2020

Of all the major asset classes, precious metals provided the best returns last year.

  • Gold finished the year up 24.6%, but down from its all-time highs of $2,075/oz achieved on August 7th.
  • Gold was also a resilient asset. Thanks to its strong start in January (4.8%), when March came around gold held up and only fell 4.4% below the yearly open.
  • Silver’s performance over the year was also sterling, offering investors 47.4% returns despite a -34.7% pullback in March.

Here’s a look at how all major asset classes performed over the course of the year:

Asset Class2020 ReturnAsset Type
Silver47.4%Precious Metal
Gold24.6%Precious Metal
U.S. Small Caps18.5%Equities
U.S. Stocks15.5%Equities
Emerging Markets14.6%Equities
U.S. Corporate Bonds9.7%Bonds
Europe, Australia, Far East5.1%Equities
U.S. Treasuries3.6%Bonds
Canadian Stocks2.8%Equities
Commodities-6.6%Commodity
U.S. Dollar-6.8%Currency
U.S. Real Estate-8.4%Real Estate
Crude Oil-21.5%Commodity

U.S. equities and emerging market equities had double-digit returns despite the tumultuous year. Small cap stocks in the Russell 2000 outpaced the S&P 500 by 3%, but also saw a steeper drawdown during times of volatility.

Although there were some wild drawdowns in 2020, nothing compared to the drop into negative prices for WTI crude oil that occurred in April. Futures traded all the way down to -$37.63 a barrel when travel cancellations brought oil demand to a standstill and supply cut agreements weren’t reached by OPEC members.

U.S. government and corporate bonds had a positive year, however their returns were primarily driven by support from the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and market operations. The Federal Reserve increased its portfolio of Treasury notes and bonds by 79% since March, with its total assets reaching $7.3 trillion at the end of 2020.

Performance by S&P 500 Sector

Unsurprisingly, the energy sector was hit the hardest last year, with value sectors generally struggling to perform compared to growth sectors.

Returns of S&P 500 Sectors in 2020

Information technology continued to outperform like in 2019, with Amazon (76%), Apple (81%), and Netflix (66%) the three best performing FAANG members. Other tech stocks like Nvidia (121%), Paypal (115%), and AMD (100%) comfortably sailed to new all-time highs with triple-digit returns for 2020.

As the communication services (21.3%) and consumer discretionary (32%) sectors also performed well, the latter saw the biggest bounce from the lows of any S&P 500 sector (96%).

Foreign Exchange Performance in 2020

Early on in the year, major currencies generally followed similar patterns as they all fell against the U.S. dollar in March’s flight to safety.

The Swiss franc was one of the most resilient currencies, drawing down only -2.1% from the 2020 open. It was also one of the best performers at the end of the year alongside the euro and Australian dollar with gains of 9% or more.

Currencies Performance in 2020

Timing the dip on the Australian or New Zealand dollar was the most rewarding opportunity for forex traders last year. Meanwhile, the Indian rupee, Mexican peso, and Russian ruble weren’t able to claw back the points they lost in March, with the ruble seeing double-digit losses.

All eyes have been on the U.S. dollar’s free-fall downwards since it spiked up in March, and as the Biden administration prepares to take office, speculative traders have returned to selling dollars.

Winners and Losers of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic largely defined many of the winners and losers of 2020, as did the Federal Reserve’s expansion of the U.S. money supply.

Zoom became an essential communications service in lockdown and Moderna and Novavax shares skyrocketed in valuation as they announced their COVID-19 vaccines.

Performance of Winners and Losers in 2020

Bitcoin broke well beyond its previous all-time high, returning just over 300% from the 2020 open and more than 650% from the lows. Tesla had an even more spectacular run, returning 745% and making Elon Musk the second-richest man in the world.

Meanwhile, as global travel quickly came to a halt last year, Carnival Corporation (the world’s biggest cruise operator) and Air Canada suffered double-digit losses along with WTI crude oil and much of the energy sector and travel industry.

Vaccine rollouts and the U.S. stimulus bill are the current known-unknowns that the market is pricing in for this upcoming year, and investors will be watching to see if the dollar’s downturn will be reversed, or if the world’s major reserve currency will continue to decline in 2021.

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Mining

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

This infographic highlights the need for new gold mining projects and shows the next generation of America’s gold deposits.

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gold mining
The following content is sponsored by NOVAGOLD
gold mining

Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of major gold discoveries fell by 70% relative to 2001-2010. 

The lack of discoveries, alongside stagnating gold production, has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of gold supply. 

This infographic sponsored by Novagold highlights the need for new gold mining projects with a focus on the company’s Donlin Gold project in Alaska.

The Current State of Gold Production

Between 2010 and 2021, gold production increased steadily until 2018, before leveling and falling.

YearGold Production, tonnesYoY % Change
20102,560-
20112,6603.9%
20122,6901.1%
20132,8004.1%
20142,9906.8%
20153,1003.7%
20163,1100.3%
20173,2303.9%
20183,3002.2%
20193,3000.0%
20203,030-8.2%
20213,000-1.0%

Along with a small decrease in gold production from 2020 levels, there were no new major gold discoveries in 2021. Meanwhile, annual demand for the yellow metal increased by 10%, up from 3,651 tonnes to 4,020 tonnes

The fall in production and long-term lack of gold discoveries point towards a possible imbalance in gold supply and demand. This calls for the introduction of new gold development projects that can fill the supply-demand gap in the future. 

Sustaining Supply: Gold For the Future

Jurisdictions play an important role when looking for projects that could sustain gold production well into the future.

From political stability to trustworthy legal systems, the characteristics of a jurisdiction can make or break mining projects. Amid ongoing market uncertainty, political turmoil, and resource nationalism, projects in safe jurisdictions offer a better investment opportunity for investors and mining companies. 

As of 2021, seven of the top 10 mining jurisdictions for investment were located in North America, according to the Fraser Institute. Here’s a look at the top five gold-focused development projects in the region, based on measured and indicated (M&I) gold resources: 

ProjectM&I Gold Resource, million ounces*Grade (grams/tonne)Location
KSM88.4Moz0.51g/tBritish Columbia 🇨🇦
Donlin Gold**39.0Moz2.24g/tAlaska 🇺🇸
Livengood13.6Moz0.60g/tAlaska 🇺🇸
Côté Gold13.6Moz0.96g/tOntario 🇨🇦
Blackwater11.7Moz0.61g/tBritish Columbia 🇨🇦

*Inclusive of mineral reserves. **See cautionary statement regarding Donlin Gold’s mineral reserves and resources.

Located in Alaska, one of the world’s safest mining jurisdictions, Novagold’s Donlin Gold project has the highest average grade of gold among these major projects. For every tonne of ore, Donlin Gold offers 2.24 grams of gold, which is more than twice the global average grade of 1.03g/t. 

Additionally, Donlin Gold is the second-largest gold-focused development project in the Americas, with over 39 million ounces of gold in M&I resources inclusive of reserves. 

Novagold is focused on the Donlin Gold project in equal partnership with Barrick Gold. Click here to learn more now

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