Following is a summary of the markets and our funds’ performance for the month of March 2019, provided by our Chief Investment Strategist David A. Klassen.
- Global financial markets were strong reversing the market declines of fourth quarter 2018. The S&P 500, which tracks large cap U.S. stocks, was up 1.94% in March and is up 13.65% Y-T-D. The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks domestic small cap stocks decreased -2.09% in March and is up 14.58% Y-T-D. The International developed equity index (MSCI EAFE), increased 0.63% in March and is up 9.98% Y-T-D. The emerging markets index (MSCI EM) increased 0.84% in March and is up 9.92% Y-T-D.
- In March, bond yields decreased, and prices increased; the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond yield decreased 28bps to 2.81%, while the 10-year yield decreased 32bps to 2.41%, and the 5-year yield decreased 29bps to 2.23%.
- The Barclays Aggregate Index, which is a measure of U.S. Bond prices, increased 1.92% for March and is up 2.94% Y-T-D.
ECONOMIC AND GEOPOLITICAL HEADLINES
- U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2018 increased by 2.2%, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Third quarter of 2018 GDP increased by 3.4%.
- The March Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) registered to 52.4, from a preliminary of 52.5. Per the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), a reading above 50 is considered economic expansion.
- March non-farm employment increased by 196,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.8 percent, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 5th. Notable gains came from health care and in professional and technical services. Average Hourly Earnings (wages) increased by 3.2% year-over-year. Payroll number for January and February were revised by a combined total of 14,000 more than previously reported. After revisions, job gains over the past three months averaged 180,000.
- Fed continued communicating publicly its willingness to be more patient and be flexible given economic data.
FUND PERFORMANCE UPDATES
- In March, the Total Equity Fund increased by 1.01% and is up 12.29% Y-T-D. The International Equity Fund was up 0.67% and is up 11.09% Y-T-D. The Small Cap Equity Fund decreased -0.67% and is up 17.65% Y-T-D. The Fixed Income Fund was up 1.44% and is up 3.54% Y-T-D.
- Most UCF equity managers had positive absolute returns in March. Relative performance was mixed. For international markets, developed manager Baillie Gifford and emerging markets manager The Royal Bank of Canada outperformed while LSV Asset Management underperformed their respective benchmarks. Domestic large cap equity managers Quantitative Management Associates and Fiduciary Management Inc. (FMI) underperformed, while State Street Global Advisors outperformed their respective benchmark. Small cap managers Dimensional Fund Advisors underperformed its benchmark, while BlackRock, FMI and Westfield Management surpassed their respective benchmarks.
- All Balanced Funds had positive absolute returns but negative relative returns for March. The Moderate Balanced Fund, UCF’s most popular fund, increased 1.00% and is up 8.33% Y-T-D. The Aggressive Balanced Fund was up 1.00% and is up 9.83% Y-T-D. The Conservative Balanced Fund returned 1.16% and is up 6.32% Y-T-D. The Alternatives Balanced Fund was up 0.74% and is up 7.40% Y-T-D. Finally, the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund increased by 1.22% and is up 8.48% Y-T-D.