August 2020: Global Equity Markets Review
August was another strong month for global equity markets as stocks were propelled higher due to historically large stimulus, rebounding economic activity and progress toward a vaccine. In fact, this was the fifth consecutive month of positive returns for U.S. equity indices and the best August for the S&P 500 Index since 1986.
Interestingly, historical equity returns during the month of August have been below average, as shown in the graph below. However, equities have bucked the trend this year, with market participants witnessing robust performance in U.S. stocks during the month. Following the releases of positive economic data and signaling from the Fed around keeping the fed funds rate anchored, the S&P 500 set new all-time intra-day and closing highs in late August. The record index levels have been supported from a combination of better-than-expected earnings for U.S. companies and the “lower for longer” mantra regarding rates from the Fed. With borrowing costs presumably remaining low for the foreseeable future, cheap discount rates may justify the elevated prices seen in the equity markets recently.
The sustained outperformance of growth style equities relative to value continued during the month as the S&P 500 Growth Index returned 600 bps over the value index. This could come as no surprise to investors since Technology – a major component in growth indices – has been a top performing sector throughout 2020 among the shift in consumer and business habits. Consumer Discretionary was the top performer this month as the sector was bolstered from the positive sentiment behind retail and homebuilding as well as the sustained momentum in companies like Amazon. In addition, small-cap stocks saw strong performance over the month, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index returning 5.6%. International markets fared well over the course of August as the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and the MSCI EAFE Index returned 2.2% and 5.2%, respectively.
A common theme in markets this year has been the market concentration among a few names within the major equity indices. As demonstrated by the graph below, market leadership is extremely narrow and has not shifted to reflect a resumption of normal economic activity. When viewing the contribution to return for the S&P 500 Index during the month, we see only five stocks represented 42% of the index’s MTD return. In addition, only 10 stocks within the index contributed roughly half of the S&P 500 return for the month. This contribution to return data highlights the extreme narrowness among a few stocks driving markets higher and is an unhealthy sign of market breadth. Although the headline index is telling investors we’re on our way back to pre-pandemic life the market internals are by no means confirming this theme.
Index Returns – all shown in US dollars
All returns shown trailing 8/31/2020 for the period indicated. “YTD” refers to the total return as of prior-year end, while the other returns are annualized. 3-month and annualized returns are shown for:
- The S&P 500 index is comprised of large capitalized companies across many sectors and is generally regarded as representative of US stock market and is provided in this presentation in that regard only.
- The S&P 500® Equal Weight Index (EWI) is the equal-weight version of the widely-used S&P 500. The index includes the same constituents as the capitalization weighted S&P 500, but each company in the S&P 500 EWI is allocated a fixed weight - or 0.2% of the index total at each quarterly rebalance. The S&P 500 equal-weight index (S&P 500 EWI) series imposes equal weights on the index constituents included in the S&P 500 that are classified in the respective GICS® sector.
- The S&P 500 Growth Index is comprised of equities from the S&P 500 that exhibit strong growth characteristics and is weighted by market-capitalization.
- The S&P 500 Value Index is a market-capitalization weighted index comprising of equities from the S&P 500 that exhibit strong value characteristics such as book value to price ratio, cash flow to price ratio, sales to price ratio, and dividend yield.
- The Russell 3000 Index tracks the performance of 3000 U.S. corporations, determined by market-capitalization, and represents 98% of the investable equity market in the United States.
- The Russell Mid Cap Index measures the mid-cap segment performance of the U.S. equity market and is comprised of approximately 800 of the smallest securities based on current index membership and their market capitalization.
- The Russell 2000 Index is a market-capitalization weighted index that measures the performance of 2000 small-cap and mid-cap securities. The index was formulated to give investors an unbiased collection of the smallest tradable equities still meeting exchange listing requirements.
- The MSCI All Country World Index provides a measure of performance for the equity market throughout the world and is a free float-adjusted market capitalization weighted index.
- The MSCI EAFE Index is a market-capitalization weighted index and tracks the performance of small to large-cap equities in developed markets of Europe, Australasia, and the Far East.
- The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market-capitalization index that measures equity market performance in global emerging markets and cannot be purchased directly by investors.
- The S&P Global BMI sector indices are into sectors as defined by the widely used Global Industry Classification Standards (GICS) classifications. Each sector index comprises those companies included in the S&P Global BMI that are classified as members of respective GICS® sector. The S&P Global BMI Indices were introduced to provide a comprehensive benchmarking system for global equity investors. The S&P Global BMI is comprised of the S&P Emerging BMI and the S&P Developed BMI. It covers approximately 10,000 companies in 46 countries. To be considered for inclusion in the index, all listed stocks within the constituent country must have a float market capitalization of at least $100 million. For a country to be admitted, it must be politically stable and have legal property rights and procedures, among other criteria.
- The Barclay’s US Aggregate Index, a broad based unmanaged bond index that is generally considered to be representative of the performance of the investment grade, US dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market.
- The Bloomberg Barclay’s US Corporate High Yield Index, which covers the USD-denominated, non-investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market.
Key Indicators correspond to various macro-economic and rate-related data points that we consider impactful to equity markets.
- The US 10-Year Treasury Yield (%)/bps, is the return on investment for the U.S. government’s 10-year debt obligation and serves as a signal for investor confidence.
- SPDR Gold Trust Price ($), is an investment fund that reflects the performance on the price of a gold bullion, less the Trust’s expenses.
- West Texas Intermediate, which is an oil benchmark and the underlying asset in the New York Mercantile Exchange’s oil futures contract.
- CBOE Volatility Index (Level)/% Change, which uses price options on the S&P 500 to estimate the market's expectation of 30-day volatility.
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Besides attributed information, this material is proprietary and may not be reproduced, transferred or distributed in any form without prior written permission from WST. WST reserves the right at any time and without notice to change, amend, or cease publication of the information. This material has been prepared solely for informative purposes. The information contained herein may include information that has been obtained from third party sources and has not been independently verified. It is made available on an “as is” basis without warranty. This document is intended for clients for informational purposes only and should not be otherwise disseminated to other third parties. Past performance or results should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of future performance or results, and no representation or warranty, express or implied is made regarding future performance or results. This document does not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to purchase, any security, future or other financial instrument or product.