The Historical Returns by Asset Class Over the Last Decade
Recently, we’ve looked at different crisis events through history, and the returns by asset classes for each period of time.
Today’s chart is more general and breaks down performance over the last decade. It’s sorted by different baskets of assets such as bonds, commodities, gold, stocks, real estate, and emerging markets. Note that the chart uses indices that serve as a proxy for specific asset classes. For example, the Bloomberg Commodities Index acts as a broad representation of the performance of all commodities in different sectors. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a legend that gives a description for each item on the chart.
There are a few lessons worth noting here. First, despite gold having a difficult last few years, it is actually the best performing asset class over the last decade, returning 10.0% annualized. Gold was also the #1 or #2 performer for five of seven years straight between 2005 and 2011. It just goes to show the intensity of bull and bear markets in the metal, and reinforces the fact that it takes multiple years to cool down that momentum before the next upswing may start.
Next, the importance of diversification is almost self-evident. Stocks in emerging markets, for example, just crush other assets in the good years. In the bad years, they are the worst performing assets on the chart. Imagine having a portfolio of just stocks in emerging markets, and you have a financial roller coaster that would make any investor queasy.
Lastly, outside of highly-leveraged Wall Street traders, most investors consider bonds to be quite boring. In the last decade, returns of the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index have ranged between -2.0% and 7.8%. Bonds are typically considered a relatively consistent and less volatile asset class, which help create a baseline for a portfolio. However, on this chart, bonds are all over the map because it is the other investments that are swinging with volatility. In the 2008 crisis, bonds were actually the best performing class with a 5.2% return.
To be fair, there is much speculation of a bond bubble lately, so bonds may not be boring for long.
Returns by asset class chart legend:
- REITs: Real estate investment trusts, a proxy for property and real estate.
- MSCI EmMkts: Index tracking 838 companies in 23 emerging markets countries.
- MSCI EAFE: Measures performance in Europe, Australasia, and Far East. Essentially a barometer for equity performance outside of the US and Canada.
- Russell 2000: Index tracking 2000 smallcap equities in the United States.
- S&P 400: The S&P Midcap 400 is a benchmark for midcap companies in the United States.
- S&P 500: The S&P 500, one of the most commonly followed indices, covers a diverse set of 500 large companies with common stock on the NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges in the US.
- B’berg Commod: A broadly diversified commodity index tracking the futures of 22 different commodity markets in seven sectors.
- Mkt Neut HFs: Market-neutral hedge funds seek to avoid forms of market risk by hedging.
- Gold: The price of gold.
- Barclays Agg Bond: Broad base index includes treasury securities, government agency bonds, mortgage-backed bonds, corporate bonds, and a small amount of foreign bonds traded in the US.
Original graphic by: Business Insider
The Silver Series: The Start of A New Gold-Silver Cycle (Part 1 of 3)
As the decade-long bull run shows signs of slowing, is it time for precious metals to shine? Here’s why it could be the start of a new gold-silver cycle.
The world has experienced a decade of growth fueled by record-low interest rates, a burgeoning money supply, and historic debt levels – but the good times only last so long.
As the global economy slows and eventually begins to retract, can precious metals offer a useful store of value to investors?
Part 1: The Start of a New Cycle
Today’s infographic comes to us from Endeavour Silver, and it outlines some key indicators that precede a coming gold-silver cycle in which exposure to hard assets may help to protect wealth.
Bankers Blowing Bubbles
Since 2008, central bankers around the world launched a historic market intervention by printing money and bailing out major banks. With cheap and abundant money, this strategy worked so well that it created a bull market in every sector — except for precious metals.
Stock markets, consumer lending, and property values surged. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s assets ballooned, and so did corporate, government, and household debt. By 2018, total debt reached almost $250 trillion worldwide.
Currency vs. Precious Metals
The world awash in unprecedented amounts of currency, and these dollars chase a limited supply of goods. Historically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before the price of goods increases or inflates – eroding the purchasing power of every dollar.
Gold and silver are some of the only assets unaffected by inflation, retaining their value.
Gold and silver are money… everything else is credit.
– J.P. Morgan
The Perfect Story for a Gold-Silver Cycle?
Investors can use several indicators to gauge the beginning of the gold-silver cycle:
- Gold/Silver Futures
Most traders do not trade physical gold and silver, but paper contracts with the promise to buy at a future price. Every week, U.S. commodity exchanges publish the Commitment of Traders “COT” report. This report summarizes the positions (long/short) of traders for a particular commodity.
Typically, speculators are long and commercial traders are short the price of gold and silver. However, when speculators and commercial traders positions reach near zero, there is usually a big upswing in the price of silver.
- Gold-to-Silver Ratio Compression
As the difference between gold and silver prices decreases (i.e. the compression of the ratio), history suggests silver prices can make big moves upwards in price. The gold-to-silver ratio compression is now at high levels and may eventually revert to its long-term average, which implies a strong movement in prices is imminent for silver.
- Scarcity: Declining Silver Production
Silver production has been declining despite its growing importance as a safe haven hedge, as well as its use in industrial applications and renewable technologies.
- The Silver Exception
Silver is not just for coins, bars, jewelry and the family silverware. It stands out from gold with its practical industrial uses which account for 56.1% of its annual consumption. Silver will continue to be a critical material in solar technology. While photovoltaics currently account for 8% of annual silver consumption, this is set to change with the dramatic increase in the use of solar technologies.
The Price of Gold and Silver
Forecasting the exact price of gold and silver is not a science, but there are clear signs that point to the direction their prices will head. The prices of gold and silver do not accurately reflect a world awash with cheap and easy money, but now may be their time to shine.
Don’t miss another part of the Silver Series by connecting with Visual Capitalist.
Why Gold is Money: A Periodic Perspective
Gold has been used as money for millennia. People often attribute this to beauty, but there are basic physical properties for why gold is money.
Why Gold is Money
The economist John Maynard Keynes famously called gold a “barbarous relic”, suggesting that its usefulness as money is an artifact of the past. In an era filled with cashless transactions and hundreds of cryptocurrencies, this statement seems truer today than in Keynes’ time.
However, gold also possesses elemental properties that has made it an ideal metal for money throughout history.
Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer from Columbia University, broke down the periodic table to show why gold has been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years.
The Periodic Table
The periodic table organizes 118 elements in rows by increasing atomic number (periods) and columns (groups) with similar electron configurations.
Just as in today’s animation, let’s apply the process of elimination to the periodic table to see why gold is money:
- Gases and Liquids
Noble gases (such as argon and helium), as well as elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and chlorine are gaseous at room temperature and standard pressure. Meanwhile, mercury and bromine are liquids. As a form of money, these are implausible and impractical.
- Lanthanides and Actinides
Next, lanthanides and actinides are both generally elements that can decay and become radioactive. If you were to carry these around in your pocket they could irradiate or poison you.
- Alkali and Alkaline-Earth Metals
Alkali and alkaline earth metals are located on the left-hand side of the periodic table, and are highly reactive at standard pressure and room temperature. Some can even burst into flames.
- Transition, Post Transition Metals, and Metalloids
There are about 30 elements that are solid, nonflammable, and nontoxic. For an element to be used as money it needs to be rare, but not too rare. Nickel and copper, for example, are found throughout the Earth’s crust in relative abundance.
- Super Rare and Synthetic Elements
Osmium only exists in the Earth’s crust from meteorites. Meanwhile, synthetic elements such as rutherfordium and nihonium must be created in a laboratory.
Once the above elements are eliminated, there are only five precious metals left: platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and gold. People have used silver as money, but it tarnishes over time. Rhodium and palladium are more recent discoveries, with limited historical uses.
Platinum and gold are the remaining elements. Platinum’s extremely high melting point would require a furnace of the Gods to melt back in ancient times, making it impractical. This leaves us with gold. It melts at a lower temperature and is malleable, making it easy to work with.
Gold as Money
Gold does not dissipate into the atmosphere, it does not burst into flames, and it does not poison or irradiate the holder. It is rare enough to make it difficult to overproduce and malleable to mint into coins, bars, and bricks. Civilizations have consistently used gold as a material of value.
Perhaps modern societies would be well-served by looking at the properties of gold, to see why it has served as money for millennia, especially when someone’s wealth could disappear in a click.
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