Across-The-Board Gains For The Major Asset Classes Last Week

After two weeks of red ink, all the major asset classes bounced back last week, based on a set of exchange-traded products through Friday’s close (Feb. 16).

The latest rally extends an extraordinary run of highly correlated moves in markets, up and down. For each of the past four weeks, the major asset classes have delivered consistently positive and negative results. Last week’s across-the-board rally follows two straight weeks of red ink in everything, which was preceded by a weekly advance in all markets.

Emerging markets stocks led last week’s surge. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) rose 5.8% — the ETF’s biggest weekly advance in almost two years. The rally lifted VWO’s closing price above its 50-day moving average, which had been briefly pierced on the downside earlier this month.

The softest gain last week for the major asset classes was posted by US investment-grade bonds. Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND) edged higher (just barely) with a fractional 0.1% increase – the fund’s first weekly advance in three weeks. Nonetheless, the ETF remains in a downtrend this year, thank s to concerns that interest rates will continue to rise (bond prices move inversely with rates). Based on unadjusted prices (excluding payouts), BND’s 50-day moving average has been below its 200-day average since late-December.

For the one-year trend, most markets continue to post solid gains and emerging-markets stocks are leading the way with a 25.9% total return. Although that’s well below the near-40% year-over-year performance the ETF was enjoying for a time in January, the current one-year trend still reflects a robust increase, in absolute and relative terms compared with the rest of the field.

Meanwhile, US REITs are posting the only loss at the moment for the one-year change. VNQ was down 6.0% at last week’s close.

“It has been a rough opening for REITs in 2018,” says Mike Kirby, chairman of Green Street Advisors, a research shop that specializes in real estate companies. But the recent weakness, triggered by concern that rising interest rates will pinch this yield-sensitive sector, offers an opportunity, he tells Barron’s, noting that REITs are now underpriced relative to stocks and bonds.