US Stocks Continue To Lead World’s Major Equity Regions In 2019

Global diversification across equity markets is a dud this year compared with a strategy of favoring American shares. Although all the world’s major equity regions are reporting year-to-date gains, US shares continue to lead, in most cases by a wide margin, based on a set of exchange traded products.

The dominance of US shares is all the more striking in the wake of surging political risk of late, courtesy of a drive by Democrats in the House of Representatives to impeach President Donald Trump. The president, in fact, tweeted yesterday that “If they actually did this [impeach him] the markets would crash.”

Perhaps, but for now the US
market is relatively calm, holding near a record high, based on the S&P
500. In relative terms, US equities are no less impressive.

SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), a proxy for US shares, closed yesterday (Sep. 26) with a 20.5% year-to-date return. In close pursuit for 2019 performance is Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), a closed-end fund that offers the only US-exchange-listed product that targets this region. CEE is currently posting a strong 19.0 increase this year.

The returns drop sharply from there, ranging from the third-place 14.1% return for iShares MSCI Japan (EWJ) down to the weakest year-to-date performer: VanEck Vectors Africa (AFK), which is up a mild 2.4% so far in 2019.

Note, too, that a global benchmark of equities is also reflecting a strong run this year. The capitalization-weighted Vanguard Total World Stock (VT), with a dominant US weight of roughly 56%, is up 16.6% on a total return basis year to date.

Although all the major equity regions are sitting on gains this year, profiling the field through a momentum lens paints a mixed picture, based on a set of moving averages. The first compares the 10-day average with its 100-day counterpart — a proxy for short-term trending behavior (red line in chart below). A second set of moving averages (50 and 200 days) represent an intermediate measure of the trend (blue line). Using these two metrics as a guide suggests that the crowd is betwixt and between on the outlook for equities on a global basis.