Foreign Property Shares Led Markets By Wide Margin Last Week

Amid flat-to-negative performances for most of the major asset classes, last week’s strong rally in real estate stocks ex-US stands out. This corner of global markets led by a wide margin, based on a set of ETFs through the close of the trading week on Friday, Mar. 19.

Vanguard Global ex-U.S. Real Estate (VNQI) rallied 1.2%. That’s the second straight weekly advance for the fund, which closed near its highest level in more than a year, as shown in the weekly performance chart below.

Losses dominated in the major asset classes last week. The only exceptions (other than VNQI): small gains for foreign stocks in developed-market countries (VEA) and foreign junk bonds (IHY), along with a flat performance for emerging markets bonds (EMLC). Otherwise, losses swept across most asset buckets.

The biggest setback: broadly defined commodities. For the first time in eight weeks, WisdomTree Continuous Commodity (GCC) — a broad, equally weighted mix of commodities — posted a weekly loss, falling 1.8%.

The Global Markets Index (GMI.F) took a modest hit last week, falling 0.5%. The setback marks the first weekly decline in three weeks for this unmanaged benchmark that holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights via ETF proxies.

Turning to trailing one-year returns, stocks in emerging markets are currently posting the highest performance. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) is up a sharp 74.3% vs. the year-ago price (252 trading days) on a total return basis. The dramatic gain is slightly ahead of one-year performances for US stocks (VTI) and foreign shares in developed markets (VEA).

Note that one-year returns for global markets generally are unusually high at the moment because year-ago prices were dramatically depressed due to the coronavirus crash. Accordingly, trailing one-year results will remain temporarily elevated due to extreme year-over-year comparisons until last year’s markets collapse washes out of the annual comparisons.

All the major asset classes are posting one-year gains at the moment. The softest increase: investment-grade bonds in the US via Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND), which closed with a 6.9% total return on Friday vs. its year-ago price.

GMI.F is up 51.4% for the past year.

Looking at global markets through a drawdown lens, foreign stocks in developed markets are currently posting the smallest drawdown for the major asset classes. VEA closed on Friday with a slight 0.6% peak-to-trough decline.

The deepest drawdown is still found in broadly defined commodities via GCC. The ETF is down 35.6% from its previous high.

GMI.F’s current drawdown is a modest 1.4% slide from the previous peak.

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By James Picerno