Following is a summary of the markets and our funds’ performance for the month of November 2018, provided by our Chief Investment Strategist David A. Klassen.
- Global markets were mixed, as geopolitical events heavily influenced market moves over the course of November, while the outcome of the U.S. midterm elections was as expected. The S&P 500, which tracks large cap U.S. stocks, increased 2.04% in November and is up 5.11% Y-T-D. The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks domestic small cap stocks, increased 1.59% in November and is up 0.98% Y-T-D. The International developed equity index (MSCI EAFE) declined 0.13% in November and is down 9.39% Y-T-D. The emerging markets index (MSCI EM) increased 4.12% in November and is down 12.24% Y-T-D.
- In November, bond yields decreased, and prices increased; the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond yield declined 10 bps to 3.29%, while the 10-year yield decreased 15 bps to 2.99%, and the 5-year yield decreased 17bps to 2.81%.
- The Barclays Aggregate Index, which is a well-known measure of U.S. Bond prices, increased 60% for November and is down 1.79% Y-T-D.
ECONOMIC AND GEOPOLITICAL HEADLINES
- S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter of 2018 increased 3.5%, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Second quarter 2018 GDP increased 4.2%.
- The November Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) increased to 59.3 from 57.7 the previous month, indicating that the economy grew at a faster pace. According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), a reading above 50 is considered economic expansion.
- In November, non-farm employment rose by 155,000 jobs, falling short of economists’ estimates of 197,000. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7% for the third consecutive month. Over the year, the unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points. Average Hourly Earnings (wages) increased by 3.1% year-over-year.
- The monetary policy normalization and Fed plan to raise rates are expected to stay on track.
FUND PERFORMANCE UPDATES
- In November, the Total Equity Fund increased 1.83% and is down -3.97% Y-T-D. The International Equity Fund was up 1.55% and is down -12.07% Y-T-D. The Small Cap Equity Fund increased 2.23% and is down -0.01% Y-T-D. The Fixed Income Fund was up 0.23% and is down -2.02% Y-T-D.
- All United Church Funds (UCF) equity managers had positive absolute returns in November. Relative performance was mixed. For international markets, developed manager Baillie Gifford outperformed while LSV lagged its benchmark. The recently retained emerging markets manager RBC was ahead of its benchmark. Domestic Core equity manager, Quantitative Management Associates, underperformed its benchmark, while State Street and Fiduciary Management Inc. (FMI) beat their respective benchmarks. Small cap managers Dimensional Fund Advisors underperformed its benchmark, while FMI and Westfield Capital Management surpassed their respective benchmarks.
- All Balanced Funds had positive absolute returns for November. The Moderate Balanced Fund, UCF’s most popular fund, increased 1.13% and is down 3.85% Y-T-D. The Aggressive Balanced Fund was up 1.37% and is down 4.30% Y-T-D. The Conservative Balanced Fund returned 0.78% and is down 3.31% Y-T-D. The Alternatives Balanced Fund was up 0.46% and is down 2.97% Y-T-D. Finally, the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund increased 0.24% and is down 4.72% Y-T-D.