All Fall Down

Mike Zaccardi

THE S&P 500 JUST HAD its worst week since March 2020’s COVID-19 crash. Ironically, the decline happened as coronavirus cases were finally dropping after the December surge. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (symbol: VOO) fell 5.7%, while Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) lost 7.3%.

Returns were not as bad overseas. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S. ETF (VEU) dropped 3.1%. Coming as a surprise to some index fund investors, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is actually positive so far in 2022. Investors who hold a globally diversified portfolio have benefited this month as international stocks have missed the brunt of the selling pressure.

The bond market was down slightly last week after a surge in interest rates to kick off the year. The 10-year Treasury note neared 1.9% on Tuesday before settling just shy of 1.75% on Friday. Traders flocked to the safety of Treasurys as the stock selloff worsened over the second half of the week.

I noticed that the yield to maturity—a measure of a bond’s current interest rate—jumped to 2.1% on iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG). Suddenly, bonds don’t seem like such a raw deal. In mid-2020, when the 10-year Treasury rate was just 0.6%, the yield to maturity on the U.S. aggregate bond index was less than 1%.

Still, inflation expectations over the next decade are near 2.3%, while the market sees consumer prices climbing 2.7% a year over the next five years. You can grab Series I savings bonds at 7.12% through April, but that rate will retreat later this year and beyond, assuming inflation eases.

Buckle up for continued wild market moves. The Volatility Index (VIX) rose to nearly 30 last Friday, the highest since early December. There’s a Federal Reserve rate decision on Wednesday. The market currently expects five quarter-point interest rate hikes by year-end. This is the common reason cited for the sharp pullback in growth stocks recently.

It’s always helpful to remember that corrections happen frequently in the stock market. The S&P 500 drops 14% during an average year. Last year was an odd one: The S&P 500’s biggest drawdown—a price decline from peak to trough—was just 5.2%. The current selloff from 2022’s lone S&P 500 all-time high on Jan. 3 is already 8.3%.

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