2014 was highlighted by the continued dominance of America’s large cap stock bull market and a bond surprise with US treasuries providing returns to investors. We like to think of markets in cycles and you may be feeling more and more used to stock returns as it’s been more than five years since we had negative returns in US large company stocks (generally). Moreover, you may wonder why you would own anything but US stocks and bonds given a divergence of returns between US large companies and almost everything else.
The Curse of Diversification?
If you have a diversified portfolio of different types of stocks and bonds as we recommend through asset allocation, it may to be frustrating to see the largest US benchmarks with double-digit returns while other different types of stocks have been more mediocre. Using 2014 as an example, small cap stocks as measured by the Russell 2000 were up 4.89% vs. 13.69% for the S&P 500. Meanwhile, foreign stocks as measured by the MSCI All-Cap World Ex-US were down for the year return -3.87%.
As you can see from the chart below, the drop-off was precipitous. While we have made some adjustments to our recommended mix of stocks, we continue to recommend a commitment to diversification.
It is difficult to overstate the power that diversification has in terms of long-term investment returns. By long-term, we don’t mean one year or three years but over decades which is ultimately the time horizon for most of our clients at least for some of your money. Indeed, the SEC refers to “The Magic of Diversification” on their website educating investors. They go on to note, “The practice of spreading money among different investments to reduce risk is known as diversification. By picking the right group of investments, you may be able to limit your losses and reduce the fluctuations of investment returns without sacrificing too much potential gain.” Source.
While we have been amongst the majority of investors who have been concerned about rising interest rates over the next five to ten years, bonds reiterated their unwillingness to be predictable in 2014 by returning close to their lows in terms of yields. The ten-year treasury yields 1.93% today (January 12). That number seems impossibly low, likely manipulated by a very accommodating federal reserve. It’s not difficult, though, to see why it may stay that low for some time when you notice that the German ten-year bond yields 0.47% and a Spanish bond – much less creditworthy than Uncle Sam – pays just 1.64%.
Predicting short-term bond returns is a fool’s errand. That said, the very low bond yield – about the same as inflation – coupled by forewarning from the federal reserve that rates may go higher this year means our outlook is unchanged. From year-to-year we can’t predict the returns of bonds, but over the next several years, yields will likely go higher. This march higher would be likely to accelerate if there were signs of inflation which seems to be the farthest thing from reality with CPI less than 2% right now. As with all things, it’s healthy to not assume anything.
We have more to share in our investment commentary website http://centerinvesting.com.
Tim Wyman shares his personal frustration with diversification last year with “Why I Dislike a Diversified Portfolio…in 2014”
Our investment strategy quarterly is updated and available
I share an update on oil prices and other geopolitical events and how they might affect markets
Angie Palacios has a research roundup from the second half of 2014
On a housekeeping note, we have established an informational page for tax information
You will not find us making predictions for investment returns in 2015. We can predict that your commitment to financial planning coupled with a long-term outlook when working with us to make investment decisions will have a positive impact on your ability to meet your financial and life goals. We appreciate your partnership and trust in allowing us to work together to meet your needs.
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us for any questions or conversations.
On behalf of everyone here at The Center,
Melissa Joy, CFP®
Director of Wealth Management
Melissa Joy, CFP®is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.
Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.
This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Melissa Joy & Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The Russell 2000 index is an unmanaged index of small cap securities which generally involve greater risks. MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the United States & Canada. The EAFE consists of the country indices of 22 developed nations. C15-001750