Imagine on 1 January 2021 someone found a newspaper which foretold all the events of the following 12 months. It would tell of rioters attacking the US Capital building, the Taliban swiftly reasserting control of Afghanistan, a UN climate report warning of ‘code red for humanity’ and of course several new COVID-19 variants, continued restrictions on daily life and ongoing disruption to industries and businesses.
Now how do you think that person would have invested knowing all that was going to happen? My guess would be they probably would have steered well clear of the stock market, and perhaps invested in less risky assets like bonds. Had they done that though, they would have missed out on a very good year for the stock market.
As always, you can’t really draw many conclusions from 12 months of returns, as they’re unlikely to have much bearing on future performance. So rather than react to recent short-term gains and losses, we think it’s best to stay focused on your long-term investment plan. That of course should involve a well-diversified portfolio, giving your wealth the best chance to whether whatever market conditions are in store for 2022 and beyond.
Overall it was an excellent year for equity investors. During 2021 the global stock market rose 18.5%. It owes a large part of this to the continuing strong gains of the USA, which now makes up over 60% of the total global market.
Both the UK and European stock markets also delivered good growth and while still delivering positive numbers, it wasn’t such a great year for developed markets in the Asia Pacific region, which could only manage a 2.6% return.
It was a different story in 2021 for emerging markets, which fell 2.6% over the year. This was in no small part to the performance of China, which makes up over a third of emerging equity markets. The world’s second biggest economy and third largest stock market fell sharply by 21.7%.
Gold also disappointed investors in 2021, losing 4.3%. Many invested in the yellow metal following its strong performance in 2020, when it beat the stock market.
Broader commodities had a very strong year, beating equities by delivering a return of 27.1%. Energy, which makes up a significant part of the commodities market, played a big part in this, due to the previously mentioned price rises. Commodities’ recent returns will inevitably attract investment, however, we think investors should look at the trend in commodities – find out more by downloading the full 2021 review.
Tales from the crypto
Although we don’t invest in cryptocurrencies, we know some readers will want to know how Bitcoin fared in 2021 – it delivered a substantial 62.6% return.