In the weeks since my first update on the crisis on February 26, 2020, the markets have been on a roller coaster ride, as equity markets around the world collectively lost $30 trillion in market cap between February 14, 2020 and March 20, 2020, and then clawed back more than half of the loss in the following month. Having lived through market crises in the past, I know that this one is not quite done, but I believe we now have lived through enough of it to be able to start separating winners from losers, and use this winnowing process to address three big questions that have dominated investing for the last decade:
– Has this crisis allowed active investors to shine, and use that performance to stop or even reverse the loss of market share to passive vehicles (ETFs and index funds) that has occurred over the last decade?
– Will this market correction lead to growth/momentum investing losing its mojo and allow value investors to reclaim what they believe is their rightful place on top of the investing food chain?
– Will the small cap premium, missing for so many decades, be rediscovered after this market shock?
I know each of these is a hot button issue, and I welcome disagreement, but I will try to set my biases aside and let the data speak for itself.
As with my prior updates, I will begin by surveying the market action, first over the two weeks (4/17-5/1), following my last update, and then looking at the returns since February 14, the date that I started my crisis clock. First up, I look at returns on stock indices around the world, breaking them up into two periods, from February 14 to March 20, roughly the low point for markets during this crisis and from March 20 to May 1, as they mounted a comeback.
The divide in the two periods is clear. Consider the S&P 500, down 28.28% between 2/14 and 3/20, but up 22.82% from March 20 and May 1, resulting in an overall return of -11.92% over the period. While the magnitudes vary across the indices, the pattern repeats, with the Shanghai 50 close to breaking even over the entire period, and the Bovespa (Brazil) and the ASX 200 (Australia) delivering the worst cumulative returns between 2/14 and 5/1. As stock markets have swooned and partially recovered, the yields on US treasuries dropped sharply early in the crisis and have stayed low since.
The 3-month treasury bill rate, which was 1.58% on February 14, has dropped close to zero on May 1, and the treasury bond rate has declined from 1.59% to 0.64% over the same period. The much talked about inverted yield curve late last year, that led to so many prognostications of gloom and doom, has become upward sloping, and staying consistent with my argument that too much was being made of the former as a predictor of recession, I will not read too much into its slope now. Moving to the corporate bond market, I focused on 10-year corporates in different ratings classes: