The Persistence of Low Bond Yields

As the Federal Reserve prepared to raise interest rates last year, fears were rampant that rising interest rates would hurt bond investments by driving up bond yields (bond prices and bond yields move in opposite directions). Yet bond yields have actually declined since the Fed took action in December. Even after a recent uptick amid receding fears of a global recession the yield on 10-year treasury bonds is below 2%, a very low level by historical standards. Should investors still be concerned about rising bond yields?

The Many Factors Affecting the Price of Gold

The prices of most commodities have fallen so far this year, but gold has been an exception. This fact might seem odd, since gold is often considered a way to protect against inflation and expectations of future inflation have fallen substantially in the last two months. But there are many factors that affect the price of gold, and the ways they interact aren’t always simple.

The Bright Side of Volatility

Stock markets around the world have had a bumpy ride so far in 2016. The CBOE Volatility Index (often called the “VIX”), a measure of expected stock market volatility, has doubled since early November, and US stocks have fallen more than 10% since the start of the year. These kinds of changes can be gut-wrenching and can make it difficult to maintain a long-term perspective. But for some investors who are able to do so there’s a bright side to volatility.

Will Brazil’s Stock Market Ever Bounce Back?

Brazil had the world’s worst-performing stock market last year, and it didn’t start off 2016 much better. But the country’s stock market troubles go back even further. Since the start of 2011 Brazilian stocks have lost 70% of their value, compared to a 27% loss for emerging markets overall and a gain of more than 25% for stocks globally. Will Brazil bounce back any time soon?

How Much Will China Affect Your Portfolio?

When Apple reported its fourth quarter earnings earlier this week, Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, noted signs of “economic softness” in the greater China region. Apple’s stock fell by more than 6% the next day. While China wasn’t solely responsible for this decline, it highlights how economic conditions on the other side of the world can affect US investors. How much will China’s financial travails affect your portfolio?

What History Tells Us About Stock Market Declines

The start of 2016 hasn’t been pleasant for investors. Fears of a weakening global economy and turmoil in Chinese markets have led stock markets around the world to nosedive. The S&P 500 index of large US stocks has fallen almost 8.5% over the past three weeks. Such declines can be painful, and it may feel like it’s inevitable that markets will continue to head downward. But history suggests that investors who bail on the stock market at this point are likely making a mistake.

How to Prepare for Volatile Markets

The last few years have been a relatively calm period for the US stock market, with few of the large swings that characterized markets during the financial crisis and the subsequent few years. But if the start of this year is any indication, 2016 may be more turbulent. What should you do with your investments to protect yourself from that possibility?

7 Graphs that Explain Financial Markets in 2015

2015 was a year when major asset classes such as US stocks and investment grade bonds were flat. Yet as the US economy continued to chug along amid a weak global economy, some investments were major success stories while others were big disappointments. Here are seven graphs that explain the key movements in financial markets during the past year:

This Year’s Most Disappointing Asset Class

2015 has been a year when few asset classes performed well and many did poorly. Commodities fell by almost 30% and emerging market stocks and bonds both suffered double-digit declines. But while the travails of these asset classes are nothing new—all three also lost ground in 2014—one asset class experienced a complete reversal of fortune. High yield bonds have lost more than 5% of their value this year, their first down year since the financial crisis in 2008. That arguably makes high yield bonds this year’s most disappointing asset class.

The Consumer Discretionary Sector’s Recent Success

While the US stock market overall is back where it started the year, the consumer discretionary sector has gained about 10%. That makes this sector, comprised of companies that sell “non-essential” products to consumers (and therefore includes retailers, carmakers, and media companies, among others), the top-performing stock market sector so far in 2015. Will consumer discretionary stocks be able to build on their gains and continue outperforming the rest of the stock market? Answering that question requires understanding what’s driven the sector’s recent success.