2019 was a stellar year for returns across most asset classes.  This comes off an odd 2018 year in which all asset classes produced negative real returns. All asset class returns were positive nominal returns, and all but cash produced real returns.

Asset class returns 2019 (source data from portfoliovisualizer.com)
Asset class2019 return
US stock market31%
Intl developed ex-US market22%
Emerging markets20%
Corporate bonds17%
Long term treasuries14%
Global bonds (USD hedged)7%
Intermediate term treasuries6%
Short term treasuries4%

US equities led asset class returns with an annual return of 31%.  International equities also performed well with equities in developed countries returning 22% and emerging markets at 20%.  This is all despite various market concerns including the US-China tariffs/ trade war, Brexit, and slowdowns in eurozone economies.  However, it should also be noted that equities declined in December of 2018 (turning negative for 2018), and started 2019 at a lower point.

Real assets, aside from cash, performed very well.  REITs returned 29% and commodities 16%.

Bonds also had a solid year.  Long-term US treasuries returned 14%, intermediates 6%, and global bonds almost 7%.  Corporate bonds returned 17% and global bonds returned 7%.

Inflation increased but remained low at 2.29%.  Most asset classes returned in excess of inflation for real returns, except for cash which returned 2.13%.  Note that cash returned a negative real return–if you don’t already have one, at least get a high yield savings account.

Asset class returns for all classes 2019 (source data from portfoliovisualizer.com)

2019 stock market returns were exceptional

The US stock market returns in 2019 were some of the highest returns since 1972. Only 8 other years had higher returns than the US stock market in 2019 (returning 31%).

Histogram of US stock market annual returns since 1972
Asset class returns (2019)

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