Last quarter we discussed how markets seem to have decoupled. That has continued in Q4 as risk rose in the US (now among the riskiest markets but just around its long-term median) but was flat or fell in others.
In a surprising turn of events, most equity markets finished 2020 with sizable gains—and the fourth quarter unquestionably did its part. Benchmark risk continued to slide in Q4—except for a blip in November—but still ended the year higher than where it started. Factor returns went wild in Q4 and many regions saw outsized returns for the year.
The global equity market recovery continued in the third quarter, as benchmark risk slid. But not all components of risk participated in the decline, and volatility remained much higher than it was when the year started.
The first quarter of 2020 came in roaring like a lion and went out like a (slaughtered) lamb. After stock indices were pushing new records in the first half of the quarter, the bloodbath in equities that followed not only ended the longest-running bull market in the US history, but also threw indices worldwide into a bear market.
2019 was a remarkable year, with benchmarks around the world climbing to new records, while volatility plunged. Both emerging and developed markets shared in the overperformance, with all components of risk falling for both markets. However, style factors saw mixed results, with few reporting outsized returns for the quarter or year.
Markets around the globe wavered over the past three months, but the decade-long global bull market endured in the third quarter. Despite the market’s gyrations, risk was little changed, with most major indices seeing only a relatively small rise in risk from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter. Nonetheless, a lot has happened beneath the surface.
Stocks rallied around the globe in the first quarter of 2019, with most indices nearly recouping the steep losses of the previous quarter. Stocks rose as major central banks kept interest rates unchanged, allaying investor concerns of a global economic slowdown. With most US economic indicators on the positive side, some US indices recorded the biggest quarterly gains since the global financial crisis, while others approached record highs.