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Today’s Markets

HERE ARE the latest numbers from the world of investing:

  • The S&P 500 soared 13.1% in 2019’s first quarter, after sliding 6.2% in 2018. These figures don’t include dividends. Since the market bottomed on March 9, 2009, the shares in the S&P 500 have climbed 319%, though they remain just 86% above their March 24, 2000, peak.
  • U.S. growth stocks outpaced value shares in the first quarter, continuing their recent dominance. Meanwhile, developed foreign markets and emerging markets bounced back after 2018’s drubbing, though they lagged behind U.S. stocks.
  • Bond prices rose and yields fell in 2019’s first three months, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury note yielding 2.41% at the end of March, down from 2.68% at year-end 2018. In early July 2016, the 10-year yield hit a record low of 1.37%.
  • Short-term interest rates climbed in 2018, pushing up yields on cash investments like savings accounts, money market funds and short-term certificates of deposit. Matters may not improve in 2019: The Federal Reserve has indicated further rate increases are on hold.
  • Real assets had a good first quarter. Oil rose to $60, up $14 from three months earlier. Real estate investment trusts posted healthy gains. Gold, which ended 2018 at $1,285, was at $1,297 three months later.
  • In March, the Federal Reserve projected that the U.S. economy will expand 2.1% in 2019, with unemployment dipping to 3.7% and core inflation running at 2%.
  • As of 2016, 51.9% of U.S. families were invested in the stock market, up from 48.8% three years earlier, but below the 53.2% peak recorded in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. The survey is conducted every three years.
  • Index funds focused on U.S. stocks—both the mutual-fund and the exchange-traded varieties—attracted $1.6 trillion in new money over the past decade, while actively managed funds saw $1.3 trillion in redemptions, reports the Investment Company Institute’s 2018 Fact Book.
  • There’s been much handwringing over whether index funds are coming to dominate the U.S. stock market. But according to the Investment Company Institute, index mutual funds and exchange-traded index funds hold just 13% of U.S. stocks, versus 16% for actively managed funds and 71% for others, including individuals, hedge funds, pension funds and insurers.

Want to get a handle on stock and bond market valuations? Check out the chapter on financial markets.

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