Asset Class Performance During QT

As mentioned in our piece from earlier today, gold did not necessarily deliver superior performance during the last QT cycle. This leaves investors to ponder: which asset classes did deliver substantial returns? Is there anywhere to hide? Although the macroenvironment is vastly different this time around, it is still helpful to look at past occurrences to attempt to put a frame of reference around today’s markets. Major differences include rampant inflation (particularly in commodities), supply chain constraints, lapping stimulus benefits, and weakening economic data. Below, we summarize the performance of the S&P 500, bonds, agricultural commodities, and oil during previous QT cycles.

The S&P 500 outperformed Gold during the last QT cycle, gaining 19.2%, which constitutes an annualized return of 10.1%. The graph below outlines the performance of the S&P 500 ETF (SPY) during different cycles of QE and QT. As you can see, equities were not particularly steady during the last QT cycle, but SPY gained significantly after the Fed announced its intent to slow the balance sheet winddown.

S&P 500 during quantitative tightening cycles

In the last QT cycle, the bond market initially sold off but managed to finish higher for the entire period. The iShares Core US Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) bottomed at a drawdown of 4.7% about a year after the cycle began but proceeded to gain 6.7% through the final 203 trading days of the cycle. When all was said and done, AGG finished the cycle with gains of 1.7%. Similar to what we saw in gold, much of the gains were seen after the Fed announced its plan to slow the wind-down of the balance sheet. This suggests that rates rose at first but then reversed course when the Fed announced the impending end of QT. So far in the current cycle, AGG has already dropped by 2.7%, but bonds sold off hard in anticipation of QT in late 2021 and early 2022. On a YTD basis, the ETF is down a whopping 12.7%.

Bond Market During Quantitative Tightening

Agricultural commodities performed poorly during the last QT cycle, dropping 15.7%. This constitutes an annualized return of -8.9%, but the broader agricultural space was in a downtrend before QT began. Currently, agricultural commodities are in an uptrend, so it will be interesting to watch the price action as QT ramps up. On a YTD basis, the Invesco DB Agriculture Fund (DBA) is up 10.2% and is essentially flat since QT began in early May.

During the last QT cycle, crude oil gained 15.8%, but it would be difficult to attribute these gains to quantitative tightening. Since the Fed began tightening this year, crude oil has jumped 16.0% higher. In the last cycle, oil rallied higher before subsequently crashing, which would certainly be welcomed by many in this cycle. 

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Disclaimer: Bespoke Investment Group, LLC ...

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