Commodities And US Bonds Rose Last Week As Stock Markets Fell

Risk-off sentiment driven by coronavirus worries took a bite out of stocks around the world last week. The selling has spilled over today’s trading in Asia and Europe and looks set to weigh on American shares once markets open in a few hours. While we’re waiting for the opening bell to ring in New York, here’s a quick look at how the major asset classes fared for the trading week through Friday, February 21, based on a set of exchange-traded funds.

Last week’s performance leader: broadly defined commodities via iShares S&P GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust (GSG), which rose 0.8%. The gain marks the fund’s second weekly advance, although GSG remains close to the low end of its trading range for the past year.

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US investment-grade bonds were in second place last week. Vanguard Total Bond Market Index  (BND) increased 0.6%, closing near a record high.

Stocks around the world were slammed last week. The deepest setback for our set of proxy funds: shares in foreign developed markets. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets (VEA) fell 1.5%–the first weekly setback for the ETF in three weeks.

The Global Market Index (GMI.F) also took a hit. This unmanaged benchmark that holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights dropped 0.7%—the first weekly loss this month and the deepest since the end-of-January selling.

For the one-year trend, US real estate investment trusts (REITs) are in the lead by a hair over second-place US equities. Vanguard Real Estate (VNQ) is up 21.9% over the trailing 12 months—just slightly ahead of US equities via Vanguard Total US Stock Market (VTI), which is posting a 21.2% total return.

Commodities continue to be the only loser for the one-year window. GSG is off 6.3% as of Friday vs. the year-ago price.

GMI.F’s one-year total return: a strong 14.4%, beating all but two of the major asset classes that comprise the benchmark.

In the wake of last week’s selling, a momentum profile of all the ETFs listed above is starting to show some cracks for the overall trend. Short-term momentum weakened a bit more last week, although most ETFs are still posting a bullish posture, based on two sets of moving averages. The first compares the 10-day moving average with its 100-day counterpart — a proxy for short-term trending behavior (red line in chart below). A second set of moving averages (50 and 200 days) represent an intermediate measure of the trend (blue line). Ongoing concern about the economic fallout from the coronavirus is weighing on sentiment, although the momentum profile so far has pulled back only modestly. The key question for the week ahead: Will risk-off sentiment take a deeper bite out of the upside momentum signal?

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By James Picerno

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