Investors Down in December Are Still Up Big For the Year

  • Recent market selloff still dwarfed by year-to-date returns
  • FANG shares, copper and oil among assets down last few days
Deutsche Bank's Huynh on Market Outlook for 2018

Don’t shed too many tears for investors whose December returns have been battered by owning stocks linked to bitcoin, the high-flying FANG quartet, their Asian equivalents, emerging-market equities, or Doctor Copper. Even with a sizable leg downward in the last few days, these assets have bestowed handsome rewards this year on those who have gone along with the wild rides.

As of Tuesday’s close, the average FANG stock -- a group comprised of Facebook Inc., Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. -- was down 5.3 percent since the Nasdaq 100 Index hit all-time highs Nov. 28. But, three of the four are still up about 50 percent year-to-date. The laggard, Alphabet Inc., has rallied about 30 percent this year and continues to best the Nasdaq 100 even though it has trailed during this selloff.

Emerging-market shares have endured a rout in recent weeks as well. Tencent Holdings Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing -- which make up more than 60 percent of the MSCI Emerging Markets Information Technology Index -- have averaged a double-digit decline since their benchmark set its last closing high on Nov. 22.

Even so, the year-to-date gains for those willing to stomach the volatility that comes with these Asian tech behemoths exceeds 90 percent in the case of Alibaba and Tencent.

This collapse in EM tech shares has jeopardized the stunning outperformance of the broader MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which just dropped below its 100-day moving average. But the gauge is still up more than 25 percent in 2017, trouncing the gains made by investors long U.S. stocks.

A pair of companies with big ties to cryptocurrencies -- and Nvidia Corp. -- have been taking it on the chin even as bitcoin’s parabolic rise persists. Overstock’s now in a bear market since its Nov. 24 peak, but has still more than doubled in 2017.

Other smaller stocks linked to digital currencies have recently suffered massive retreats and bouts of volatility, too.

Meanwhile, Doctor Copper is in need of a home remedy. The base metal had come under substantial pressure amid elevated global inventories and renewed concerns of dampened Chinese demand. Even so, the 2017 advance for front-month futures remains above 15 percent.

The steam has come out of the oil rally after jubilant traders reacted to OPEC and Russia’s decision to extend output cuts through 2018. But the two most popular grades of crude -- Brent and West Texas Intermediate -- remain safely in positive territory this year, while energy stocks have taken this pullback in the underlying commodity in stride.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate high-yield total return index has actually managed to inch even higher in December as other risk assets showed signs of faltering. High-yield option adjusted spreads are up only 5 basis points since the S&P 500 Index peaked at the end of November, and a little more than 20 basis points off their tightest of the year. Senior junk bonds issued by financial firms -- a relatively small part of the market -- have underperformed, with spreads widening by roughly 30 basis parts since the start of the month.

And the junkiest of the junk space have managed to outperform, with CCC-rated debt posting better returns than its higher-quality peers early on in December -- a sign that the seeming risk aversion on display in equity markets might be a case of investors taking profit in big names before year-end.

So while it’s easy to concentrate on the risk-off mood of the past few days, investors looking at a longer time horizon might find it difficult to be too upset with the pullback so far.

— With assistance by James Crombie, Natasha Doff, and Mark Burton

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