Where Investors Put Their Money in 2018
For most investors, 2018 was both an eventful and frustrating year.
Between the looming threat of trade wars and growing geopolitical uncertainty, the market also skipped a beat. Volatility took center stage, and the S&P 500 finished in negative territory for the first time in 10 years.
Although many asset classes finished in negative territory, a look at fund flows – essentially where investors put their money – helps paint a more intricate picture of the year for investors.
Visualizing 2018 Fund Flows
Today’s infographic comes to us from New York Life Investments, and it visualizes the flows in and out of U.S. funds for 2018.
It not only shows when investors poured money into mutual funds or ETFs, but it also breaks down these funds by various categorizations. For example, when did people buy funds that held U.S. equities, and when did they buy funds that primarily held money market securities?
Let’s dive into the data, to take a deeper look.
Mutual Funds vs. ETFs
For another year in a row, ETFs gained ground on mutual funds:
|Type of Fund||2018 Fund Flows||Total Assets (End of Year)|
|ETFs||+$238.4 billion||$3.4 trillion (17.2%)|
|Mutual Funds||-$91.3 billion||$16.3 trillion (82.8%)|
However, despite growing for another year, ETFs still make up a smaller part of the overall fund universe.
Flows by Asset Class Group
Every fund gets classified by Morningstar based on the types of assets it holds.
For example, a fund that focuses on holding fast-growing, large tech companies in the U.S. would be classified broadly as “U.S. Equity”, and more specifically as “U.S. Equity – Large Growth”.
Here’s how flows went, within these broader groups:
|Fund Category Group||Total Assets ($mm)||Growth in 2018|
|International Equity||$ 2,787,400||3.1%|
|Money Market||$ 2,879,510||6.2%|
|Municipal Bonds||$ 795,132||0.9%|
|Sector Equity||$ 816,149||-3.7%|
|Taxable Bonds||$ 3,747,268||3.5%|
|U.S. Equity||$ 7,173,902||0.0%|
Investors pulled money from Allocation, Alternative, and Sector Equity funds, while rotating into Money Market and Taxable Bonds categories. These latter assets are considered safer, and this shift is not surprising considering the market volatility towards the end of the year.
Also interesting here is that U.S. Equity – the biggest category overall by total assets – saw equal amounts of inflows and outflows, ending with a 0.0% change on the year.
U.S. Equity: A Closer Look
U.S. Equity ended the year with zero change, but it’s also the biggest and broadest category.
Let’s break it down further – first, we’ll look at what happened to flows by market capitalization (small, mid, and large cap stocks):
|Market Capitalization||Assets||Growth (2018)|
|Large Caps||$5.6 trillion||0.2%|
|Mid Caps||$884 billion||-2.5%|
|Small Caps||$672 billion||1.7%|
Investment in funds that held large cap stocks increased by 0.2%, while the money allocated to small caps rose by 1.7% over 2018. Interestingly, investors pulled money out of mid caps (-2.5%).
Now, let’s look at U.S. Equity by type of strategy:
|Fund Strategy||Assets||Growth (2018)|
According to these flows, investors pulled money from funds focused solely on value or growth, while instead preferring funds that were a blend of the two strategies.
Finally, let’s see the types of international funds that investors bought and sold over 2018.
|Diversified Emerging Markets||4.9%|
Investors eschewed funds that had a primary focus on European, Indian, and Japanese markets, while piling into funds that held Chinese equities. Meanwhile, Latin America and emerging markets also got some love from investors.
While 2018 was an eventful year for markets, this recap shows that investors are adjusting their portfolios accordingly.
Where will investors put their money in 2019?
The $300 Billion Counterfeit Goods Problem, and How It Hurts Brands
Every year, the global economy loses over $300 billion from the sale of counterfeit goods. Here are the problems created by this, and why they matter.
When you are walking along the boardwalk on vacation, you know it’s a “buyer beware” type of situation when you buy directly from a street vendor.
Those Cuban cigars are probably not Cubans, the Louis Vuitton bag is a cheap replica, and the Versace sunglasses too cheap to be the real thing.
But what if you placed an order for something you thought was truly legitimate, and the fake brand had you fooled? What if this imitation product fell apart in a week, short-circuited, or even caused you direct harm?
Can you Spot a Fake?
Today’s infographic comes to us from Best Choice Reviews, and it highlights facts and figures around counterfeit goods that are passed off as quality brands, and how this type of activity damages consumers, businesses, and the wider economy.
In 2018, counterfeit goods caused roughly $323 billion of damage to the global economy.
These fake products, which pretend to by genuine by using similar design and packaging elements, are not only damaging to the reputations of real brands – they also lead to massive issues for consumers, including the possibility of injury or death.
A Surprisingly Widespread Issue
While it’s easy to downplay the issue of fake goods, it turns out that the data is pretty clear on the subject – and counterfeit goods are finding their way into consumer hands in all sorts of ways.
More than 25% of consumers have unwillingly purchased non-genuine goods online – and according to a test by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, it was found that two of every five brand name products they bought online (through 3rd party retailers) were counterfeits.
Some of the most common knockoff goods were as follows:
- Makeup – 32%
- Skincare – 25%
- Supplements – 22%
- Medication – 16%
- Economic Impact
On a macro scale, the sale of counterfeit goods can snowball into other issues. For example, U.S. accusations of Chinese manufacturers for stealing and reproducing intellectual property has been a major driver of tariff action.
- Unsecure Information
Counterfeit merchants present higher risks for credit card fraud or identity theft, while illegal download sites can host malware that steals personal information
- Criminal Activity
Funds from illicit goods can also be used to help bankroll other illegal activities, such as extortion or terrorism.
- Unsafe Problems
It was found that 99% of all fake iPhone chargers failed to pass critical safety tests – and 10% of medical products are counterfeits in developing countries, which can raise the risk of illness or even death.
Aside from the direct impact on consumers and brands themselves, why does this matter?
The Importance of Spotting Fakes
Outside of the obvious implications, counterfeit activity can open up the door to bigger challenges as well.
The issue of fake goods is not only surprisingly widespread in the online era, but the imitation of legitimate brands can also be a catalyst for more serious problems.
As a consumer, there are several things you can do to increase the confidence in your purchases, and it all adds up to make a difference.
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — going on a 150% bull run since its lows in December 2018.
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — rising more than 150% from its lowest point in December 2018.
In its heyday, Bitcoin had surpassed $10,000 in early December 2017, before briefly crossing the $20,000 mark for a single day on December 17th. A year later, the digital currency had fallen back to Earth, dropping below $3,200.
Now that the dust of that wild speculative frenzy has settled, Bitcoin is back on the upswing. What could be causing this most recent surge in growth?
We look at four possible explanations for the Bitcoin bull run, as originally outlined by Aaron Hankin at MarketWatch:
Bitcoin has seen several technical milestones this year, such as surpassing the psychological barrier of $5,000 in early 2019, breaking the 200-day moving average, and scoring the golden cross (when the 50-day moving average crosses above the 200-day moving average).
Bitcoin is experiencing a steady increase in adoption across several markets. The term Bitcoin has become a household name — even if people don’t understand what it does, they know what it is.
Companies such as Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon, and Nordstrom are looking for ways to integrate cryptocurrencies into daily transactions for faster payment clearance, innovative rewards programs, and efficient customer service interactions.
Bitcoin has possibly seen a shift in public perception. There have been fewer negative articles about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and the news stories that are negative no longer have as big of an impact as they once did.
When Binance announced hackers stole $40 million in bitcoin and when accusations of an $850-million cover-up were leveled against Bitfinex and Tether, the Bitcoin bull run barely flinched and continued to climb.
Wavering Gold Investment
Investor confidence in gold has been more stagnant in recent times. To capitalize on this, Grayscale Investments (of Digital Currency Group) posted a campaign in May 2019 promoting Bitcoin as an ideal alternative to gold because it is borderless, secure, and more efficient for storing value.
Despite the World Gold Council’s response denying those claims, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust saw OTC Markets Group’s highest trading volumes five days later.
Where to from here?
After a long skid, it appears Bitcoin is showing signs of life again. Bitcoin’s price can be highly volatile, so it remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of a bull run, or whether this is just another bump in the roller coaster ride.
Editor’s note: The price of Bitcoin has fallen to $7,100 at time of publishing and will likely continue to experience extreme volatility. However, even at a price of $7,100, this is still a 120% increase from lows in Dec 2018. As well, an earlier version of this graphic had incorrect dates on the timeline. That has now been corrected.
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