Stocks And Bonds Both In Rally Mode

When it comes to equity market performance in a given month, it doesn’t get much better than November. While the S&P 500’s total return of 10.95% in the month was only the second-best monthly performance of the year, it was still enough to rank as the third-best month for the S&P 500 in the last thirty years and just the ninth month since 1980 that it was up 10%+.

The chart below shows the S&P 500’s annualized total return over the last one, two, five, ten, and twenty years and compares the current returns to the historical average. For the last year, the S&P 500’s total return has been 17.5% which is nearly six full percentage points higher than the historical average. For the last two years, the annualized return has been nearly as strong at 16.8%, and it is actually even stronger relative to the historical average of 10.5%. Moving further out the time horizon, the S&P 500’s annualized returns drift lower, and while the five and ten-year annualized returns are greater than average, the S&P 500’s annualized gain of 7.3% in the last 20 years is more than 3.5 percentage points below the historical average of 10.9%.

The last couple of years hasn’t just been strong for equities. Over the last year, long-term US Treasuries, as measured by the Merrill Lynch 10+ Year US Treasury Index, have rallied 15.7%, which is a more than six full percentage points greater than the historical average of 9.5%. Over the last two years, returns have been even stronger with an annualized gain of nearly 20%, or more than double the historical average of 9.1%! While the last two years have been strong for US Treasuries, the last five, ten, and twenty years have all seen returns of between one and two percentage points below their historical average.

Lately, when you see rallies in the equity market it tends to be accompanied by a decline in treasuries as yields rise. In November, though, that wasn’t the case. Even with the S&P 500 up 10.95%, long-term US Treasuries rallied just over 1%. So, how uncommon is it for stocks to rally like they did in November while bonds also rally. Actually, it is not very uncommon at all. The table below shows the nine months since 1980 where the S&P 500’s total return in a given month was 10% or more, and of those months, long-term treasuries also rallied in every month but one (October 2011).

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