April was bounce-back month, with a glaring exception: broadly defined commodities (excluding gold, which rallied sharply). Otherwise, risk assets posted solid gains across the board last month.
After March’s deep sea of red ink, April dispensed a relief rally in no small degree. The biggest winner last month: US equities, which surged 13.2% (Russell 3000 Index). That still leaves American shares under water by more than 10% year to date, but as rebounds go the April bounce was the strongest monthly gain for stocks in decades.
Ignoring cash and commodities, the softest snap-back last month: foreign developed-market government bonds. The FTSE Russell World Government Bond Index ex-US edged up 1.5%.
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For the year so far, losses still dominate. The exceptions: cash, inflation-indexed Treasuries and a broad measure of US investment-grade debt, primarily due to Treasuries. Gold is also in the winner’s circle so far in 2020: the precious metal is posting a solid 11.1% year-to-date gain.
After a monster recovery in US shares last month, now what? “Even if March 23 turns out to be the ultimate low (and it does look like it) that does not mean the next six months or more are going to be pure rally to new highs,” says Jeff Hirsch, editor of the Stock Trader’s Almanac and chief market strategist at Probabilities Fund Management. “In fact new highs are not likely for quite some time and we will likely retest the lows.”
As for the Global Markets Index (GMI), this unmanaged benchmark (maintained by CapitalSpectator.com) that holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights posted its biggest monthly gain on record (which begins in 1998). The 7.9% increase in April repaired some of the damage, but GMI remains modestly in the red with a modest 1.1% loss for the trailing one year window through April’s close–roughly in line with the one-year decline for US stocks.
Investment-grade bonds, by comparison, look strong by comparison. The Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index has enjoyed a relatively smooth ride over the last 12 months and is currently ahead by 10.8% for trailing one-year period on a total-return basis.
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