- Global financial markets ended the year strong in December. The S&P 500, which tracks large cap U.S. stocks, was up 3.02% in December and was up 31.49% in 2019. The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks domestic small cap stocks increased 2.88% in December and was up 25.52% in 2019. The developed and emerging market equity index (MSCI ACWI IMI), increased 3.52% and was up 26.60% in 2019. The International developed equity index (MSCI EAFE), increased 3.25% in December and was up 22.01% in 2019. The emerging markets index (MSCI EM) increased 7.46% in December and was up 18.42% in 2019.
- In December, longer-term bond yields increased, and prices decreased; the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond yield increased by 18 bps to 2.39%, the 10-year yield increased by 14 bps to 1.92%, and the 5-year yield increased by 7 bps to 1.69%.
- The Barclays Aggregate Index, which is a measure of U.S. Bond prices, decreased 0.07% for November and was up 72% in 2019.
ECONOMIC AND GEOPOLITICAL HEADLINES
- U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2019 increased 2.1%, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Second quarter 2019 GDP increased 2.0%.
- The December Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) increased to 55.0% from 53.9% in November as growth remained steady. This was above expectations of 54.5%. The December Manufacturing PMI decreased to 47.2% from November’s 48.1%. Per the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), a reading above 50 is considered economic expansion.
- December non-farm employment increased by 145,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.5%, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on January 10, 2020. Employment trended positively in retail trade and health care, while mining lost jobs. Average Hourly Earnings (wages) increased 2.9% year-over-year.
FUND PERFORMANCE UPDATES
- In December, the Equity Fund increased by 3.74% and is up 27.61% in 2019. The International Equity Fund increased 4.82% and is up 25.29% in 2019. The Small Cap Equity Fund increased by 2.83% and is up 33.31% in 2019. The Fixed Income Fund increased 0.31% and is up 8.89% in 2019.
- All UCF equity managers had positive absolute returns, and many had positive relative returns in December. Managers that outperformed included Westfield, DFA, Baillie Gifford and LSV, while RBC, QMA, Fiduciary and BlackRock underperformed.
- All Balanced Funds except the Alternatives Balanced Fund were above or in-line with their respective benchmarks. The Moderate Balanced Fund, UCF’s most popular fund, increased 2.42% and is up 19.18% in 2019. The Aggressive Balanced Fund was up 2.97% and is up 22.41% in 2019. The Conservative Balanced Fund returned 1.60% and is up 14.89% in 2019. The Alternatives Balanced Fund was up 1.99% and is up 17.46% in 2019. Finally, the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund increased by 2.19% and is up 17.33% in 2019.