Big Commodity, Bond Gains Crush Currencies, Stocks in First Half

  • Silver beats gold, nations best corporates, Brazil tops U.K.
  • Bad news is good news and vice versa in topsy turvy six months

U.S. Stocks Surge: Is the Brexit Fear Over?

If you entered this year betting on government bonds, commodities and emerging-market stocks, congratulations. If you put your cash into managed currency funds and European equities, condolences.

It’s been a crazy six months:

China’s stock market started the year off by melting down because its economy is slowing -- even though it’s still growing three times faster or more than most developed nations. Britain voted to quit the European Union -- leaving the political career of the campaign’s victorious leader in tatters. A businessman with no political experience became the presumptive U.S. Republican candidate for president by saying things that would sink other contenders and promising to reverse decades of sacred party doctrine on trade and other issues. And Brazil’s currency, stocks and bonds were among the world’s strongest -- all because lawmakers moved to impeach the president.

Here’s a look at how the markets reacted to all that:

Overview

The biggest winner of the first half of 2016 was commodities, with every major resource except wheat and cotton gaining, led by silver, soybeans and fuels. The Bloomberg Commodity Index gained 13 percent, propelled by oil’s rebound from last year’s nosedive.

A gauge that tracks bonds of all types, the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Index, had its strongest first half since its inception in 1997, up 8.8 percent.

The Citi Parker Global Currency Manager Index, which tracks how well foreign-exchange traders do, ended down 0.5 percent. Among the world’s major currencies, Brazil’s real gained the most and Britain’s had the biggest loss. The MSCI All World Index of both developed- and emerging-market stocks fell less than 0.1 percent, with the latter regions outperforming the former ones.

Bonds

Sovereign debt was the best performer in fixed income as almost all bond classes rose, even though more than a quarter of the fixed-income market’s $33 trillion worth of securities have negative yields, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Among the best: the U.K.’s debt, which attracted lots of haven-seekers in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Stocks

New Zealand and Canada, both commodity countries, were the developed world’s biggest gainers by a comfortable margin, with both doing roughly twice as well as third-place Britain, where the FTSE 100 Index gained 4.2 percent. For the most part, the non-emerging stock markets performed poorly, with almost all ending lower as Italy and Japan led the way down.

Stocks in Argentina, a frontier market, did the best in the developing world and ended the half at a record high after crashing in late 2015, even as the MSCI index for the least-developed countries fell. China, the biggest emerging market, did the worst, even as the benchmark gauge for those countries rose.

Commodities

Four of the top seven commodities were fuels as last year’s rout gave way to this year’s rally. The gold rush to safe havens following the Brexit vote helped propel silver, the past six month’s the top commodity performer.

As for the agricultural sphere, to paraphrase “The Graduate,” Just one word: Soybeans. It was a great six months for the oil seed, as demand overcame record U.S. supplies amid speculation that hot, dry weather will hurt American crops this summer after floods already reduced inventory in South America.

Currencies

Foreign-exchange traders didn’t do great, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t winners and losers, with Brazil’s real leading the way thanks to the pending impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff.

Down at the bottom of the list was the pound, thanks to the Brexit vote, which caused it to plummet an unprecedented 8.1 percent in a single day, doubling the previous one-day record, from 1992. On the bright side, currency specialists surveyed by Bloomberg see it being the second half’s best major currency.

The prognosticators predictions for the worst: Brazil’s real.

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