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Q4 2019

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Key Takeaways, Fourth Quarter 2019

By Ralph Goldsticker, CFA | 22 January 2020

2019 was a year of surprisingly good returns, against a backdrop of slowing growth and ongoing political uncertainty. Most asset classes exhibited strong returns for the year; much higher than both expectations and long-term averages. Investors looked beyond the uncertainty as feared events did not materialize.



Global stock markets hit a series of new highs, despite repeated pessimistic headlines. Fears of trade wars and political conflicts appear to be overdone. Economic data remained positive.

  • The broad US stock market returned 9.1% for the quarter and 31.0% for the year, its best annual performance since 2013. 

  • Developed international stock markets were up 8.2% for the fourth quarter, and 22.0% for the year, while emerging markets were up 11.8% for the fourth quarter and 18.4% for the year.

  • The difference in P/E ratios between growth and value stocks is as wide as it has been since January 2001, just after the bursting of the Tech Bubble.


Fixed Income

The markets for both investment-grade and high-yield bonds exceeded expectations. Economic and fundamental expectations improved, and were supported by monetary policy.

  • The broad US bond market returned 8.7% for the year, despite being almost flat (0.2%) in the fourth quarter. 

  • Investment-grade corporate bonds were up 14.5% for the year, 8% ahead of Treasuries.



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