For investments this summer, it was all America First.
Funds that focus on U.S. stocks charged to record heights as companies reported bigger than expected tax-cut-fueled profit gains.
Worries about a trade war, falling currency values and slower economic growth meant many foreign stock funds languished. Bond funds, meanwhile, struggled in the face of rising interest rates.
Here’s a look at some of the trends that shaped the third quarter for funds:
U.S. stocks on top. Wall Street penciled in profit growth of about 18 percent for companies in the S&P 500 index, but growth ended up being 25 percent, according to FactSet.
The gains were widespread. That helped vault all types of U.S. stock funds to records.
It’s just the latest step in a long run since the bull market was born out of the rubble of the 2008 financial crisis. But the extended climb has some fund managers urging caution.
“Things feel good now,” said Matthew McLennan, head of global value at First Eagle Investment Management. “Now is the time to be preparing yourself for a more difficult environment.”
Foreign stocks lagged. Emerging-market stock funds, which were some of the market’s biggest winners last year, struggled during the quarter. Several factors combined to hold them down, including higher U.S. interest rates, falling currency values, slower growth and worries about trade-war repercussions.
Stocks from other areas of the world also lagged behind their U.S. peers. The big divergence in returns between U.S. stock funds and international stock funds may not last for that much longer.
“I think it’s creating a lot of opportunities outside the U.S.,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen.
Breaking even a victory for bond funds. The Federal Reserve continued its campaign to gradually raise interest rates, and yields have climbed as a result, pushing the 10-year Treasury’s yield above 3 percent during the quarter, approaching its highest level since 2011.
When interest rates rise, bond funds feel pain because prices drop for the bonds they hold in their portfolios. The biggest bond mutual fund by assets, Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Index fund, was down 0.2 percent for the quarter, as of Wednesday.
But bond funds will also get a benefit from those higher rates. As long as the rise in rates is gradual, bond funds can eventually offset their price drops with higher income.
Stan Choe writes for the Associated Press.