US Property Shares Led Returns For Major Asset Classes Last Week

US real estate investment trusts (REITs) remain range-bound but property shares managed to lead the major asset classes last week by a wide margin, based on a set of exchange traded funds at Friday’s close (Jan. 15).

Vanguard US Real Estate (VNQ) popped 1.9% last week, the fund’s strongest weekly gain since mid-November. A solid performance but the gain doesn’t break the ETF out of its trading range that’s prevailed for the past two-and-a-half months, as shown below in the chart of weekly returns.

Overall, the week just passed delivered mixed results for global markets, with a downside bias. The biggest setback was in foreign stocks in developed markets. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets (VEA) slumped 1.9%, a relatively steep decline for last week’s trading results. Note, however, that the setback looks like noise in the context of VEA’s recent upside trend of late.

The Global Markets Index (GMI.F) retreated last week for the first time this year. This unmanaged benchmark, which holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights via ETF proxies, slumped nearly 1%.

For the one-year window, US equities are still leading the major asset classes—by a small margin. Vanguard Total US Stock Market (VTI) closed last week with an 18.8% total return for the past 12 months. A close runner-up performer: shares in emerging markets via Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO), which is up 16.9% for the trailing 12-month period.

The weakest one-year performers: US and foreign property shares, which are posting the only losses for this time window. Vanguard US Real Estate (VNQ) and its offshore counterpart (VNQI) are down 7.0% and 9.2%, respectively, vs. their year-ago levels after factoring in distributions.

GMI.F, by contrast, is up a strong 13.8% over the past year, a solid gain for this multi-asset-class benchmark.

Most of the major asset classes continue to post near-zero drawdowns. The downside outliers: foreign property shares (VNQI), government bonds in emerging markets (EMLC), US REITs (VNQ) and the biggest drawdown at the moment: broadly defined commodities (GCC), which closed on Friday with a 38.8% peak-to-trough decline.

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