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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

How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 5: Funding Strength)

A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked. This infographic outlines how a company’s ability to raise capital can determine the fate of a mining stock.

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Funding Strength

A mining company’s past projects and funding strength are interlinked, and can provide clues as to its potential success.

A good track record can provide better opportunities to raise capital, but the company must still ensure it times its financing with the market, protects its shareholders, and demonstrates value creation from the funding it receives.

Part 5: The Role of Funding Strength

We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.

Part 5 of the series highlights six things to keep in mind when analyzing a company’s project history and funding ability.

Funding Strength

View all five parts of the series:

Part 5: Raising Capital and Funding Strength

So what must investors evaluate when it comes to funding strength?

Here are six important areas to cover.

1. Past Project Success: Veteran vs. Recruit

A history of success in mining helps to attract capital from knowledgeable investors. Having an experienced team provides confidence and opens up opportunities to raise additional capital on more favorable terms.

Veteran:

  • A team with past experience and success in similar projects
  • A history of past projects creating value for shareholders
  • A clear understanding of the building blocks of a successful project

A company with successful past projects instills confidence in investors and indicates the company knows how to make future projects successful, as well.

2. Well-balanced Financing: Shareholder Friendly vs. Banker Friendly

Companies need to balance between large investors and protecting retail shareholders. Management with skin in the game ensures they find a balance between serving the interests of both of these unique groups.

Shareholder Friendly:

  • Clear communication with shareholders regarding the company’s financing plans
  • High levels of insider ownership ensures management has faith in the company’s direction, and is less likely to make decisions which hurt shareholders
  • Share dilution is done in a limited capacity and only when it helps finance new projects that will create more value for shareholders

Mining companies need to find a balance between keeping their current shareholders happy while also offering attractive financing options to attract further investors.

3. A Liquid Stock: Hot Spot vs. Ghost Town

Lack of liquidity in a stock can be a major problem when it comes to attracting investment. It can limit investments from bigger players like funds and savvy investors. Investors prefer liquid stocks that are easily traded, as this allows them to capitalize on market trends.

Hot Spot:

  • A liquid stock ensures shareholders are able to buy and sell shares at their expected price
  • More liquid stocks often trade at better valuations than their illiquid counterparts
  • High liquidity can help avoid price crashes during times of market instability

Liquidity makes all the difference when it comes to attracting investors and ensuring they’re comfortable holding a company’s stock.

4. Timing the Market: On Time vs. Too Late or Too Early

Raising capital at the wrong time can result in little interest from investors. Companies in tune with market cycles can raise capital to capture rising interest in the commodity they’re mining.

Being On Time:

  • Raising capital near the start of a commodity’s bull market can attract interest from speculators looking to capitalize on price trends
  • If timed well, the attention around a commodity can attract investors
  • Well-timed financing will instill confidence in shareholders, who will be more likely to hold onto their stock
  • Raising capital at the right time during bull markets is less expensive for the company and reduces risk for investors

Companies need to time when they raise capital in order to maximize the amount raised.

5. Where is the Money Going? Money Well Spent vs. Well Wasted

How a company spends its money plays a crucial role in whether the company is generating more value or just keeping the lights on. Investors should always try to determine if management is simply in it for a quick buck, or if they truly believe in their projects and the quality of the ore the company is mining.

Money Well Spent:

  • Raised capital goes towards expanding projects and operations
  • Efficient use of capital can increase revenue and keep shareholders happy with dividend hikes and share buybacks
  • By showing tangible results from previous investments, a company can more easily raise capital in the future

Raised capital needs to be allocated wisely in order to support projects and generate value for shareholders.

6. Additional Capital: Back for More vs. Tapped Out

Mining is a capital intensive process, and unless the company has access to a treasure trove, funding is crucial to advancing any project. Companies that demonstrate consistency in their ability to create value at every stage will find it easier to raise capital when it’s necessary.

Back For More:

  • Raise more capital when necessary to fund further development on a project
  • Able to show the value they generated from previous funding when looking to raise capital a second time
  • Attract future shareholders easily by treating current shareholders well

Every mining project requires numerous financings. However, if management proves they spend capital in a way that creates value, investors will likely offer more funding during difficult or unexpected times.

Wealth Creation and Funding Strength

Mining companies that develop significant assets can create massive amounts of wealth, but often the company will not see cash flow for years. This is why it is so important to have funding strength: an ability to raise capital and build value to harvest later.

It is a challenging process to build a mining company, but management that has the ability to treat their shareholders and raise money can see their dreams built.

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Gold

Comparing Recent U.S. Presidents: New Debt Added vs. Precious Metals Production

While gold and silver coin production during U.S. presidencies has declined, public debt continues to climb to historically high levels.

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Gold and Silver Coin Production During U.S. Presidencies

Recent U.S. Presidents: Debt vs. Coins Added

While precious metals can’t be produced out of thin air, U.S. debt can be financed through central bank money creation. In fact, U.S. debt has skyrocketed in recent years under both Democrat and Republican administrations.

This infographic from Texas Precious Metals compares the increase in public debt to the value of gold and silver coin production during U.S. presidencies.

Total Production by Presidential Term

We used U.S. public debt in our calculations, a measure of debt owed to third parties such as foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, while excluding intragovernmental holdings. To derive the value of U.S. minted gold and silver coins, we multiplied new ounces produced by the average closing price of gold or silver in each respective year.

Here’s how debt growth stacks up against gold and silver coin production during recent U.S. presidencies:

 Obama's 1st term (2009-2012)Obama's Second Term (2013-2016)Trump's term (2017-Oct 26 2020)
U.S. Silver Coins Minted$3.7B$3.3B$1.4B
U.S. Gold Coins Minted$6.7B$5.1B$2.9B
U.S. Public Debt Added$5.2T$2.9T$6.6T

Over each consecutive term, gold and silver coin production decreased. In Trump’s term so far, the value of public debt added to the system is almost 1,600 times higher than minted gold and silver coins combined.

During Obama’s first term and Trump’s term, debt saw a marked increase as the administrations provided fiscal stimulus in response to the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. As we begin to recover from COVID-19, what might debt growth look like going forward?

U.S. Public Debt Projections

As of September 30, 2020, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, debt had reached $21 trillion. According to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, it’s projected to rise steadily in the future.

 2021P2022P2023P2024P2025P2026P2027P2028P2029P2030P
U.S. Public Debt21.9T23.3T24.5T25.7T26.8T27.9T29.0T30.4T31.8T33.5T
Debt-to-GDP ratio104.4%105.6%106.7%107.1%107.2%106.7%106.3%106.8%107.4%108.9%

By 2030, debt will have risen by over $12 trillion from 2020 levels and the debt-to-GDP ratio will be almost 109%.

It’s worth noting that debt will likely grow substantially regardless of who is elected in the 2020 U.S. election. Central estimates by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget show debt rising by $5 trillion under Trump and $5.6 trillion under Biden through 2030. These estimates exclude any COVID-19 relief policies.

What Could This Mean for Investors?

As the U.S. Federal Reserve creates more money to finance rising government debt, inflation could eventually be pushed higher. This could affect the value of the U.S. dollar.

On the flip side, gold and silver have a limited supply and coin production has decreased over the last three presidential terms. Both can act as an inflation hedge, while playing a role in wealth preservation.

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