Coming to the close of 2018, we're seeing an incredibly divergent year in equities markets across the world.
This stands out when we think back to just a year ago where every market across the world seemed to be going straight up. Beyond broad equities and the scope of this post, we had crypto going nuts, pot stocks exploding higher, tech companies across the world soaring, and private equity was simply insane.
Just eleven months later, hardly anything is left standing. Equity markets, the highly liquid indicators of investor optimism on the economy, have shrunk quite shockingly across the globe. Only the U.S. market is hobbling along, but it's also looking shakier by the day.
I'm not ready to declare we're officially in a global bear market yet but, given that the MSCI ACWI Index (in USD) has declined more than 15 percent from the peak, we're sure getting close.
US Stocks vs. European Stocks
If we look at the above chart, we can see the very clear divergence of these markets which started in May 2018.
While both the U.S. and Europe had a sharp pullback in late January and February, the U.S. recovered into September while Europe kept on sinking.
At this point, when priced in U.S. dollars, European stocks are down nearly 15 percent for the year and nearly 20 percent from the January peak.
U.S. Stocks vs. Japanese Stocks
Japanese equities were outperforming U.S. stocks in the beginning of this year. In fact, Japan had a great year in 2017.
But, like the other major developing markets, Japan couldn't work past the January 2018 high point despite being positive for much of the year.
Finally, in May, Japanese stocks diverged and are now down more than 5 percent on the year. They are also down over 15 percent from the peak in January.
U.S. Stocks vs. China
We see a similar pattern in Chinese stocks. Again, the year-to-date chart shows a big divergence beginning in May 2018.
The Chinese market was actually booming earlier this year and showed strong relative momentum compared to U.S. stocks.
Like European stocks, Chinese stocks never recovered after the January peak. They are down over 20 percent this year and have a peak decline in excess of 35 percent within 2018 alone!
Market Cycle Performance
If you look across this entire market cycle, it is clear: U.S. stocks, particularly technology stocks and small cap stocks, have been the major winners.
Investors in foreign markets have gone almost nowhere since the beginning of 2008.
While it is looking like the global equity bull market is ending for the 2009 to 2018 up-cycle, most investors haven't been richly rewarded. Especially if they bought heavily near the end of the previous up-cycle cycle in 2007-2008.
Nearly every major equity market has experience a ten year gross cumulative return of less than 20 percent! Japan looks comparatively good at around 30 percent.
During this same time frame though, an investor in the U.S. equity market would have more than doubled their money.
This level of global divergence is incredible. We have yet to see how the down-cycle ends up, but given the strong declines across many foreign markets, we could have some great entry points in the future.
The last time we saw a level of divergence even close to this in a equity market up-cycle was in the 1990s. We know the next up-cycle starting in the early 2000s proved to be fantastic for the investors who chose the markets that were under-performers in the 1990s.
I think it would be very smart for investors to look for good entry points in many commodity producing markets, several of the more depressed European markets, and in China and India.
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