Foreign High Yield Bonds Led Last Week’s Mixed Market Results

The major asset classes delivered a mix of gains and losses last week, led by foreign high-yield bonds and foreign stocks in developed markets. Meantime, broadly defined commodities and real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the US posted the biggest losses, based on monitoring markets with a set of exchange-traded funds.

Among the winners, VanEck Vectors International High Yield Bond (IHY) posted the strongest gain. The ETF rose 0.7% for the trading week through March 1, the third consecutive weekly advance for the fund. At the close on Friday, IHY was at its highest price since last April.

The biggest setback last week was in US REITs. Vanguard Real Estate (VNQ) slumped 1.6% — the ETF’s first weekly decline this year.

Despite the latest drop, REITs are benefitting from the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to leave interest rates unchanged. As The Wall Street Journal observes today, the central bank’s “dovish tilt this year has been a boon for real-estate shares that were pressured by a threat of higher interest rates.” Indeed, VNQ is up a strong 12.3% so far in 2019 – the second-best performance year to date for the major asset classes after the 13.2% rise in US stocks via Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI).

Meanwhile, an ETF-based version of the Global Markets Index (GMI.F) edged higher last week. This investable, unmanaged benchmark that holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights rose 0.2% — the benchmark’s third straight weekly rise.

Turning to the one-year-return window, US REITs remain far ahead of the rest of the field. VNQ is up a strong 19.3% over the past 12 months on a total-return basis – far above the results for the other major asset classes. Consider that the second-best one-year gain is a relatively moderate 7.2% for US stocks via Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI).

At the opposite end of the performance spectrum: emerging market stocks are still posting the biggest one-year loser for the major asset classes. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) has shed 9.3% for the trailing one-year period through Friday’s close.

GMI.F’s one-year performance, by comparison, is a modest 1.2% rise.

Reviewing markets through a drawdown lens shows that US junk bonds continue trade at a zero peak-to-trough decline. In other words, SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond (JNK) ended last week at a new high.

Meantime, broadly defined commodities remain deep in the red in terms of drawdown. The iPath Bloomberg Commodity (DJP) is currently posting a roughly 50% decline from its previous peak — the steepest slide on this front among the major asset classes.

GMI.F’s current drawdown is a modest 3.4% at the moment.