Foreign Developed-Market Stocks Surged Last Week

Equity markets in developed countries ex-US rose sharply again last week, posting the biggest increase among the major asset classes for the five trading days through May 5, based on a set of exchange-traded products.

Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA) advanced 2.3% last week, the third straight weekly gain for the fund. VEA’s strong close on Friday follows news published by Lipper that US-based investors are shifting money into foreign funds at the expense of US-focused portfolios.

“Domestic equity is still slumping,” said Pat Keon, senior research analyst for Thomson Reuters Lipper, on Friday. “The fund community seems to be going outside the US to look for growth.”

A weaker US dollar is also a factor that’s lifting foreign equity prices from a US-based perspective sans currency hedging. The US Dollar Index ticked down to a six-month low on Friday, providing a forex tailwind for VEA after translating returns into greenbacks.

Last week’s biggest loser among the major asset classes: broadly defined commodities. iPath Bloomberg Commodity slumped (DJP) 1.7%, pushing the exchange-traded note down to its lowest price since November.

The Global Markets Index (GMI.F), however, remained buoyant last week. This investable, unmanaged benchmark that holds all the major asset classes in market-value weights gained 0.7%, marking the third consecutive weekly increase.

Emerging-market stocks continued to hold the top spot for one-year results among the major asset classes. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) is up 23.5% in year-over-year terms, modestly ahead of the 20.3% total return for US equities (Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI)), the second-best performer for the trailing one-year window.

Echoing the trend in recent history, foreign government bonds in developed markets remain in last place for one-year performances. SPDR Bloomberg Barclays Treasury Bond (BWX) is off 4.0% over the past 12 months.

GMI.F’s one-year performance edged higher at last week’s close. The benchmark’s one-year total return is a solid 11.8% through May 5.