To emphasize this point, Israel went from being the worst performer in developed markets in 2017 (10.4%) to the second-best performer in 2018, returning –3.6%. Likewise, Qatar went from being the second worst performing emerging market country (–12.5%) in 2017 to being the best performer in 2018.
When considering investing outside the US, investors should remember that non-US stocks help provide valuable diversification benefits, and that recent performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns. It is worth noting that if we look at the past 20 years going back to 1999, US equity markets have only outperformed in 10 of those years—the same expected by chance. We can examine the potential opportunity cost associated with failing to diversify globally by reflecting on the period in global markets from 2000-2009, commonly known as the “lost decade” among US investors. While the S&P 500 recorded its worst ever 10-year cumulative total return of –9.1%, the MSCI World ex USA Index returned 17.5%, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index returned 154.3%. In periods such as this, investors were rewarded for holding a globally diversified portfolio.
Currency movements detracted from US dollar returns in 2018 for non-US dollar assets. The strengthening of the US dollar vs. weakening of non-US currencies had a negative impact on returns for US dollar investors with holdings in unhedged non-US dollar assets, and detracted 3.5% from the returns as measured by the difference in returns between the MSCI All Country World ex USA IMI Index in local returns vs. USD. The US dollar strengthened against most currencies, including the euro, the British pound, and the Canadian dollar, and weakened against the Japanese yen.
As with individual country returns, there is no reliable way to predict currency movements. Investors should be cautious about trying to time currencies based on the recent strong or weak performance of the US dollar or any other currency.
Broad Market Index Performance
In 2018, the MSCI Emerging Markets Value Index (IMI) outperformed its growth counterpart (–11.5% vs.
–18.4%). In developed markets, however, this was not the case. The Russell 3000 Value Index underperformed the Russell 3000 Growth Index (–8.6% vs. –2.1%) and the MSCI World ex USA Value Index (IMI) underperformed its growth index counterpart (-15.6% vs. –13.8%). Small cap stocks generally underperformed large cap stocks globally. For example, the Russell 2000 Index returned –11.0% relative to –4.8% for the Russell 1000 Index. Similarly, the MSCI World ex USA Index outperformed its small cap counterpart (–14.1% vs. –18.1%), and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index outperformed its small cap counterpart (–14.6% vs. –18.6%).
The mix of relative performance of value vs. growth stocks within and across regions this year serves as a reminder of the importance of integrating premiums when designing and managing portfolios. Within US equity markets, when at least one of the size, value, and profitability premiums has been negative in a given year, at least one of the other factors was positive 81% of the time. Positive premiums can contribute to relative returns during time periods when other premiums are negative.
In the US, small cap stocks underperformed large cap stocks, and value stocks underperformed growth stocks using Russell indices. The Russell 2000 Index declined –11.0% for the year vs. –4.8% for the Russell 1000. The Russell 3000 Value Index returned -8.6% in 2018 vs. –2.1% for the Russell 3000 Growth Index. The variation in returns between these indices is within historical norms. Since 1979, there has been an annual return difference of 6% or greater 60% of the time.
Developed ex US Markets
In developed ex US markets, small cap stocks underperformed large cap stocks and value stocks underperformed growth stocks. Despite underperformance in 2018, over both five- and 10-year periods, small cap stocks, as measured by the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Index, have outperformed large caps, as measured by the MSCI World ex USA Index. Growth stocks, as measured by MSCI World ex USA Growth Index (IMI), returned –13.8%, outperforming value stocks, which returned –15.6% in 2018, as measured using the MSCI World ex USA Value Index (IMI).
In emerging markets, small cap stocks, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap Index, underperformed large cap stocks, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. However, over the past 10 years, small caps returned an annualized 9.9%, outperforming large caps, which returned 8.0%.
Value stocks returned –11.5% as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Value Index (IMI), outperforming growth stocks, which returned –18.4% using the MSCI Emerging Markets Growth Index (IMI). This was the sixth largest outperformance of value over growth in emerging markets since 1999.
The complementary behavior of size (small vs. large) and relative price (value vs. growth) in emerging markets in 2018 is a good example of the benefits of diversification. While small cap stocks underperformed, diversified portfolios were buoyed by outperformance among value stocks. This integration can increase the reliability of outperformance and mitigate the impact of an individual asset group’s underperformance.
Despite recent years’ headwinds, the size, value, and profitability premiums remain persistent over the long term and around the globe. It is well documented that stocks with higher expected return potential, such as small cap and value stocks, do not realize outperformance every year. Maintaining discipline to these parts of the market is the key to effectively pursuing the long-term returns associated with size, value, and profitability.
Over the full year, the return on the US fixed income market was relatively flat; the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index returned 0.0%. Non-US fixed income markets posted positive returns in 2018, contributing to the return of the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index (hedged to USD) at 1.8%.
Yield curves were upwardly sloped in many developed markets for the year, indicating positive expected term premiums. Realized term premiums were negative in the US as long-term maturities underperformed their shorter-term counterparts and positive in developed markets outside the US. For example, the FTSE Non-USD World Government Bond Index 10+ (hedged to USD) returned 4.4% for the year vs. 3.0% for the 1-10 Index.
Credit spreads, which are the difference between yields on lower quality and higher quality fixed income securities, widened during the year, as measured by the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Corporate Option Adjusted Spread. Realized credit premiums were negative both globally and in the US, as lower-quality investment-grade corporates underperformed their higher-quality investment-grade counterparts. Treasuries were the best performing sector globally, returning 2.8%, while corporate bonds returned –1.0%, as reflected in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index (hedged to USD).
In the US, the yield curve flattened as interest rates increased more on the short end of the yield curve relative to the long end. The yield on the 3-month US Treasury bill increased 1.06% to end the year at 2.45%. The yield on the 2-year US Treasury note increased 0.59% to 2.48%. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note increased 0.29% during the year to end at 2.69%. The yield on the 30-year US Treasury bond increased 0.28% to end the year at 3.02%.
In other major markets, interest rates decreased in Germany and Japan, while they increased in the United Kingdom. Yields on Japanese and German government bonds with maturities as long as 10 years finished the year in negative territory.
2018 included numerous examples of the difficulty of predicting the performance of markets, the importance of diversification, and the need to maintain discipline if investors want to effectively pursue the long-term returns the capital markets offer. The following quote by John “Mac” McQuown, a Dimensional Director, provides useful perspective as investors head into 2019:
“Modern finance is based primarily on scientific reasoning guided by theory, not subjectivity and speculation.”
Finally, if you would like the pdf version of the report click here.
 Declines are defined as points in time, measured monthly, when the market’s return since the prior market maximum has declined by at least 10%. Declines after December 2017 are not included, but subsequent 12-month returns can include 2018 returns. Compound returns are computed for the 12 months after each decline observed and averaged across all declines for the cutoff. US markets (1926–2018) are represented by the S&P 500 and Developed ex US markets (1970–2018) are represented by the MSCI World ex USA Index.
 OECD Real GDP Forecast, 2019. Accessed Jan. 4, 2019.
 Source: MSCI country investable market indices (net dividends) for each country listed. Does not include Greece, which MSCI classified as a developed market prior to November 2013. Additional countries excluded due to data availability or due to downgrades by MSCI from emerging to frontier market. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.
 Measured from 1964 through 2017. In US dollars. Size premium: Dimensional International Small Cap Index minus the MSCI World ex USA Index (gross dividends). Relative price premium: Fama/French International Value Index minus the Fama/French International Growth Index. Profitability premium computed by Dimensional using Bloomberg data: Dimensional International High Profitability Index minus the Dimensional International Low Profitability Index. Profitability is measured as operating income before depreciation and amortization minus interest expense, scaled by book. Dimensional indices use Bloomberg data. Fama/French indices provided by Ken French. MSCI data copyright MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. The information shown here is derived from such indices. Index descriptions available upon request. Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors of the general partner of, and provide consulting services to, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
 Source: The US Department of the Treasury
 Dimensional Director refers to the Board of Directors of the general partner of Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. S&P and Dow Jones data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. ICE BofAML index data © 2019 ICE Data Indices, LLC. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. Indices are not available for direct investment; their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell securities. There is no guarantee an investing strategy will be successful. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss.
Investing risks include loss of principal and fluctuating value. Small cap securities are subject to greater volatility than those in other asset categories. International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Sector-specific investments can also increase these risks.
Fixed income securities are subject to increased loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates. Fixed income investments are subject to various other risks, including changes in credit quality, liquidity, prepayments, and other factors. REIT risks include changes in real estate values and property taxes, interest rates, cash flow of underlying real estate assets, supply and demand, and the management skill and creditworthiness of the issuer.
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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