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The Lost Decade... Not For Some Asset Classes

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Jacob Wolinsky
Dec 04, 2009
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This past decade has been titled by many the "Lost Decade" partially due to the low returns of stocks. While the decade is not over yet, as of Sep 30, 2009 the Total Stock Market Index has an annualized return of -.79%. $10,000 invested on January 1,2000 would be Worth only $9,103 almost ten years later. Although by December 31,2009 the number may turn slightly positive this decade has been one of practically no gains. As the decade comes to a close I decided to compile data on the performance of various asset classes. It turned out that while as a whole "The Lost Decade" is an appropriate term, for some stock categories it was far from a lost decade. I used Index Fund Advisors (IFA) Data for all the data presented below.

(I used data from January 1- Nov 30, 2009, However some asset classes only had data leading up to Sep 30, 2009 (the end of quarter 3)

Asset ClassRankGrowth of $10,000Annualized Return
Emerging Markets value



International Small Value



Emerging Markets Small Cap



Us Small Value



Emerging Markets



International Small Cap



International Large Cap



International Value



US Micro Cap



IFA Five-Year Government Fixed Income



Five-Year Global Fixed Income



US Small Cap



One Year Fixed Income



US Large Value Index



US Large Cap



US Small Growth



US Large Growth






Bonds had decent returns. This is not surprising because bonds tend to perform well when stocks are not . The five Year Government Note index had a return of 5.19. This is a satisfactory return in light of the low inflation rates throughout this decade. Inflation averaged 2.5% per year, which resulted in a real return of 2.69% for bonds. Nothing to write home about, but much better than a negative return on stocks, while taking much lower risks to achieve this return.

I think the most important data is not the bond returns rather, it is the return of various stock classes throughout the decade. As the data shows international stocks and emerging markets in particular had very satisfactory gains. No doubt some of the superiority of international stocks was due to the large decline of the dollar throughout the decade. Small cap stocks especially international ones had very good returns.

However, I think the most important data is the data showing the exceptional performance of value stocks versus growth stocks.Value stocks in nearly every size, and country far outperformed growth stocks. This is not surprising since value stocks over long periods of times 10, 20 years nearly always trump growth stocks. This occurs in stocks in the US and internationally. The reason value stocks outperform worldwide is simply because humans are emotional creatures. Investors overreact and bid up companies with exciting and high growth prospects. When these companies do not perform as well as anticipated they are quickly dumped by investors. Value stocks on the other hand have so much negative news already priced in that any positive news which occurs ( as usually does due to mean regression) causes the share price to increase significantly. The advantage of value stocks over growth stocks are are even more pronounced in small cap stocks. Small cap value stocks had an annualized return of 9.27% versus a -3.55% annualized loss for small cap growth stocks.

Growth stocks came into this millennium roaring. $10,000 invested in the nasdaq on January 1, 1999 grew into 20,8555 by March 3, 2000 a mere 15 months later. Cisco, Yahoo, Amazon, and other large technology companies were the hot craze then, they were part of the "New economy", the old economy Phillip Morris, Johnson And Johnson, Exxon Mobil were not the place to invest so said the self proclaimed "experts". The decade has proved this completely wrong. The nasdaq was the worst performer on the list. A $10,000 investment in the nasdaq on Jan 1, 2000 was worth nearly half that amount by the end of the decade. The boring old economy (large cap value) stocks produced a respectable 3.65% annualized gain and a $10,000 investment grew to over $14,000 by decade end, all during a period when the market was flat. I think this decade has taught some valuable lessons to investors. An astute investor should take note for the future.

Disclosure: Long Xom

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