Market Overview December 2009: Fisher Capital Management - Stocks closed lower in October for the first time in seven months, as investors questioned whether the huge rally off the March lows had exceeded the economy's ability to generate growth in output and profits.
Indeed, equities capped off a volatile month (the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) experienced triple-digit moves in ten trading sessions!) with a volatile week, as the S&P 500 Index experienced its worst five-day span since early July.
For the month, the DJIA eked out a fractional gain, while all the other major equity market indices suffered losses. Small cap stocks, which had been among the performance leaders of the seven-month rally, experienced the worst hit, with the Russell 2000® Index falling by almost 7%. In another sign that the market may be growing skeptical of the "higher risk, higher reward" strategy, the NASDAQ Composite Index, dominated by technology holdings, declined 3.6% for the month.
Market Overview December 2009: Fisher Capital Management - Yet perhaps emblematic of the struggles experienced in the markets recently, growth stocks outperformed value in October, contradicting the idea that the pursuit of "risk" had become out of favor over the past several weeks. Moreover, the weakness in U.S. markets failed to extend beyond our borders last month, as developed markets (MSCI EAFE) experienced just a fractional loss, while the emerging markets (MSCI EM) managed to rise by up to 1%, adding to their impressive year-to-date (YTD) returns.
From a sector perspective, two of the three leading performers off the March lows (financials and materials) declined by the largest amounts in October, as investors appeared to lock in gains of approximately 150% for the financials sector and 75% for the materials sector.
Market Overview December 2009: Fisher Capital Management - In other asset classes, fixed-income was mixed last month. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note backed up by seven basis points, as traders likely moved funds elsewhere as the Federal Reserve concluded its $300 billion Treasury purchase program. The dollar continued to weaken, hovering near 14-month lows, which helped drive up the prices for oil, gold, and most commodities.
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