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The Historical Returns by Asset Class Over the Last Decade

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The Historical Returns by Asset Class Over the Last Decade

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

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Currency

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.

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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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Gold

Animation: How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market

No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare. See how the world’s most elite investors – like Ray Dalio – are protecting themselves.

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How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market

No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare.

It’s why the prospect of a bear market – a prolonged downturn which sees stock prices fall by at least 20% over two months or more – is something that keeps even the world’s most elite investors awake at night.

To hedge against this concern, the world’s billionaires use a variety of strategies and tactics to protect their wealth, including setting up their portfolios with specific asset allocations that can help soften any blow caused by an extended market downturn.

Protecting Wealth

Today’s animation comes to us from Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts and it highlights a strategy being used by billionaires ranging from Ray Dalio to John Tudor Jones II.

Because market sentiment can change so quickly in the market, these elite investors protect themselves by having diverse portfolios that include uncorrelated assets.

Correlated vs. Uncorrelated

While this sounds complicated, uncorrelated assets are simply investments that don’t move up or down in the same direction as the other asset classes in the portfolio. A small allocation to these uncorrelated items can help protect the value of a portfolio when market sentiment changes.

The King of Uncorrelated Assets

What kind of asset classes can be used for this kind of purpose?

While options like real estate, commodities, and cash can contribute to a more diversified portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds, many experts say that gold is the undisputed king of uncorrelated assets.

The price of gold doesn’t usually doesn’t move with the wider stock market – and often, because of its history, the yellow metal can even increase in price during the course of a bear market.

Here are some of the reasons billionaires turn towards an allocation in gold:

  • Gold has acted as a store of value for thousands of years
  • Gold can lower the volatility of a portfolio
  • Gold can act as a hedge against inflation in some scenarios
  • Gold is a traditional safe haven asset that investors flock to when the market goes astray

Billionaire Actions

To kick off 2019, a new billionaire jumped onto the gold bandwagon – along with previous advocates such as Ray Dalio, David Einhorn, John Paulson, and John Tudor Jones II.

The newest entry to the club is Sam Zell, the pioneer behind real estate investment trusts (REITs). He bought gold for the first time in January, citing that it is “a good hedge” and that “supply is shrinking” as new mine discoveries dries up.

With market volatility back in the fray, it’ll be interesting to see how many more of the world’s elite investors also jump on the bandwagon.

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