How Every Asset Class, Currency, and Sector Performed in 2019

Another year is in the books, and for investors 2019 was quite the turnaround story.

Despite an early backdrop of heightened volatility, escalating trade tensions, Brexit uncertainty, and calls for a recession, the year progressed in an unexpectedly pleasant fashion. The Fed used its limited arsenal to provide additional stimulus, and global markets soaked it up to extend the decade-long bull run.

By the end of 2019, every major asset class was in the black — and the S&P 500 surged to finish with its best annual return since 2013.

Markets Roundup for 2019

Let’s take a look at major asset classes in 2019, to see how they fared:

Note: all indices here (i.e. S&P 500, Russell 2000, etc.) are using total returns, with dividends re-invested.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the above data is that every major asset class had a positive return for the year. The only real difference lies in the magnitude of that positive return.

Even though stocks experienced some of the best gains on the year, the winning asset may be a surprising one: crude oil.

The oil price (WTI) started the year at about $46/bbl and it closed the year at over $61/bbl, good for a 34% gain. And with escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, energy prices could be shooting even higher in 2020.

Performance by S&P 500 Sector

Strangely enough, rising oil prices did not do enough to buoy energy stocks — the poorest performing S&P 500 sector.

Although oil was up on the year, natural gas actually fell in price by about 26% in 2019. This effectively cancels out the gains made by oil, putting energy producers at the bottom of the list:

Not surprisingly, technology stocks excelled in 2019.

Tech was led by a big bounceback from Apple, a big winner that gained more than 80% over the course of the year. Other strong sectors in the benchmark U.S. index included communication services and financials.

The Currency Game

Now let’s look how currencies moved in 2019.

Below movements are all against the U.S. dollar, with the exception of the U.S. dollar itself, which is measured against a basket of currencies (U.S. Dollar Index):

The biggest currency mover on the year was the Canadian dollar, which jumped over 5% partially thanks to rising oil prices. Meanwhile, the biggest decrease went to the euro, which fell over 2% against the U.S. dollar.

It’s also worthwhile to note that Bitcoin had a particularly strong rebound in 2019, rising over 90% against the U.S. dollar.

Winners and Losers

Finally, we’ve put together a more arbitrary list of winners and losers for the year, incorporating all of the above and more.

Both the Greek and Russian stock markets had banner years, each returning close to 50% in dollar terms. Faux meat brands also captured investors’ imaginations, with Beyond Meat leading the charge. Palladium was a standout commodity, gaining 59% on the year.

We’ve chosen energy stocks as a loser, since they were the poorest performing sector on the S&P 500. Meanwhile, Macy’s and Abiomed were two of the worst large cap stocks to own in 2019.

Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/how-every-asset-class-currency-and-sector-performed-in-2019/

Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market “Thousands Of Times” Over 6 Years

Remember when it was pure tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory to accuse one or more banks of aggressively, compulsively and systematically manipulating the precious metals – i.e., gold and silver – market? We do, after all we made the claim over and over, while demonstrating clearly just how said manipulation was taking place, often in real time.

Well, it’s always good to be proven correct, even if it is years after the fact.

On June 25th, after the close, the CFTC announced that Merrill Lynch Commodities (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange Inc.). The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. In other words, if the Merrill Lynch Commodities group was an individual, he would have gotten ye olde perp walk.

As MLCI itself admitted, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market.

They did so in the now traditional market manipulation way – by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution.  In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so. Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders.

Of course, since we are talking about a bank, and since banks are in charge of not only the DOJ, and virtually every other branch of government, not to mention the Fed, nobody will go to jail and MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a combined – and measly – $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits.

Under the terms of the NPA, MLCI and its parent company, Bank of America, have agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of individuals and to report to the Department evidence or allegations of violations of the wire fraud statute, securities and commodities fraud statute, and anti-spoofing provision of the Commodity Exchange Act in BAC’s Global Markets’ Commodities Business, whose function is to conduct wholesale, principal trading and sales of commodities.  Laughably, MLCI and BAC also agreed to enhance their existing compliance program and internal controls, where necessary and appropriate, to ensure they are designed to detect and deter, among other things, manipulative conduct in BAC’s Global Markets Commodities Business.

Translation: it will be much more difficult to catch them manipulating the market next time.

Read more at ZeroHedge

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