Investment opportunities exist all around the globe, but the randomness of global stock returns makes it exceedingly difficult to figure out which markets are likely to be outperformers. How should investors deal with this kind of uncertainty?
First, they should remember that it’s challenging, at best, to predict a country’s returns by looking at the past, as shown by the performance of global markets since 2001 (see Exhibit 1). In the past 20 years, annual returns in 22 developed markets varied widely from year to year. (Each color represents a different country, and each column is sorted top down, from the highest-performing country to the lowest.)
Most Favored Nations
Past performance is no guarantee of results. In USD. MSCI country indices (net dividends) for each country listed. Does not include Israel, which MSCI classified as an emerging market prior to May 2010. MSCI data © MSCI 2021, all rights reserved.
Two examples help make the point well:
Investors can benefit from understanding that they don’t need to predict which countries will deliver the best returns during the next quarter, next year, or next five years. Why? Holding equities from markets around the world—as opposed to those of a few countries or just one—positions investors to potentially capture higher returns where they appear, and outperformance in one market can help offset lower returns elsewhere. Put another way, a globally diversified portfolio can help provide more reliable outcomes over time.
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Investments involve risks. The investment return and principal value of an investment may fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee strategies will be successful. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss.
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By Tim Baker, CFP®
Advice and investment design should rely on long term, proven evidence. This column is dedicated to helping investors across the country, from all walks of life to understand the benefits of disciplined investing and the importance of planning.