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A Choppy Quarter for Markets (October 3rd,
You could say that the markets took a breather in the third quarter of 2014, but you would come to that conclusion only if you looked at the overall returns and ignored the drama of the past 30 days. The markets experienced a difficult month in September, giving up some of the gains from the prior eight months and causing many investors to worry that there might be more of the same ahead. The end of the month was especially difficult, with a general market slide starting September 22nd that saw some indices drop more than 1% on the final day of the month.
The Wilshire 5000 - the broadest measure of U.S. stocks - did rise a meager 0.4% for the quarter, although it dropped almost 2% during September. Despite that, the index is still hanging on to a 7% gain for the year. Large cap stocks were the market leaders over the past three months, but again, gains were modest. The S&P 500 posted a 0.60% gain for the quarter, with the index now up just shy of 7% since January 1st and just 2% off its September 18th all-time high.
The news was worse for smaller company stocks. The Russell 2000 Small-Cap Index fell more than 7% in the third quarter, representing its worst quarter in three years - and is now down over 4% so far this year. Meanwhile, the technology-laden Nasdaq Composite was one of the few bright spots, managing to gain 2.5% for the quarter. It is now up almost 8% for 2014.
The rest of the world was a drag on diversified investment portfolios. The broad-based EAFE index of companies in developed economies fell more than 6% in dollar terms during the third quarter of the year, and is now down almost 4% in 2014. This was the pattern for most of the Eurozone and Asian economies. Ironically, the emerging markets stocks of less developed countries, as represented by the EAFE Emerging Market index, held up a bit better, losing "only" 4% during the quarter.
Looking over other investment categories, real estate investments, as measured by the Wilshire REIT index, fell 2.5% for the quarter, but the index is still standing at a robust 15% gain for the first three quarters of the year. The broad Commodities category, as measured by the S&P GSCI index, and which includes gold, fell 12.5% this past quarter, and now sits at a 7.5% loss for the year.
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For a comprehensive quarterly dataset on market performance
and valuations, here is JPMorgan's quarterly Littlebook -- 70-some
pages of market valuation and performance information that's
hard to beat, and which is made available to advisors for client