Investors might be tearful to hear "Auld Lang Syne" this year - it means an historically strong 2017 has come to a close.
This year has been a banner one for global equities, according to a note from S&P Dow Jones Indices Dec. 14. As the last few weeks of trading come to a close and Wall Street packs their bags for Aspen and St. Barts, here's what caught eyes in a wild 2017, according to S&P.
Volatility saw historic lows
"Risk was the dog that didn't bite this year," S&P wrote, "as victories for the favorite candidates in Dutch, French, German and Japanese elections did not provide the unexpected results typical of 2016."
Very few surprises and low stock-to-stock correlations put the average monthly volatility in Europe at its lowest level in the last decade. In the U.S., one-month volatility in the S&P 500 was at its lowest since 1970. Of the lowest 56 closing Cboe VIX Volatility Index marks since January 1990, 47 happened in 2017. This year also saw two new all-time lows for the index, commonly referred to as the "fear gauge."
Pound sterling was the UK's barometer
U.K. equities were impacted by the relative value of the Pound sterling, which served as a "barometer" for confidence in U.K. government stability. "The weak and wobbly value of the pound that followed Prime Minister Theresa May's surprise decision to call a General Election, and the subsequent loss of her party's majority, helped the S&P United Kingdom BMI (denominated in pounds) to outperform its euro denominated counterpart," S&P wrote.
But toward the end of the year, when the Bank of England decided to raise interest rates for the first time in a decade, there was a turnaround in the trend.
Momentum was on-trend
The S&P 500 Momentum index has gained 28.2% since the start of the year, making it the best returning S&P 500 Smart Beta strategy for 2017. Momentum in India gained 46% and in Japan rose 24.7% in large cap names.
For the U.S. it was a year of growth
The S&P 500 Growth index rallied 27.2% from the start of 2017. That puts it just behind the Momentum index as the second-best performing Smart Beta strategy on the S&P 500. Third place among the strategies went to the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, up 19.9% this year.
Austria led developed markets and a strong Europe
Austria was the best performer among countries constituting the S&P Developed BMI, tallying returns of 38% this year. South Korea ranked just behind it, up nearly 11%.
"European investors would have been well served to look closer to home this year. The 30.4% year-to-date total return to the S&P Poland BMI (in euros) topped the charts among countries in the S&P Emerging BMI, narrowly beating second placed China - the S&P China BMI gained 29.35%. The Czech Republic's 25.8% rise completed the top 3. With India (25.7%) coming fourth, Brazil (8.91%) in the middle of the pack, and Russia (-2.02%) lagging, 2017 was more IC than BRIC," S&P noted.
Tech topped the charts
The information technology sector has returned 40.6% year-to-date, beating all other S&P Global BMI sectors.
While tech was the clear winner, strong 2017 returns took hold in materials, up 23.9%, and industrials, up 23.7%. Energy lagged, gaining only 2.2% this year.
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