Best and worst performing investments
From commodities to bitcoin, with gold, equities and UK property in between, we take a look at how different sectors performed this year and whether they will be a good bet in 2023.
Commodities have been the top performing assets this year, with the strong US dollar and the surge in the prices of grains and livestock driving returns, according to analysis by Interactive Investor.
Commodities returned 22% over the year to the end of November (in US dollar terms) — the only asset on the list to generate a double-digit return, according to Interactive Investor data using Morningstar Direct as of 30 November 2022.
Commodities includes hard commodities, natural resources that must be mined or extracted like gold (GC=F) and oil (BZ=F), and soft commodities — agricultural products or livestock such as corn (ZC=F), wheat (ZW=F), coffee (KC=F) and pork (PRKQ23.CME).
“Commodities being at the top of the pile in performance terms may surprise some. The oil price is ahead by just 5% in the year to date (earlier in the year it was up around 50%), while the prices of both gold and copper (HG=F) are down,” Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said.
“One of the reasons for this has been the strength of the US dollar, in which commodities are priced, and which has an inverse relationship to commodity prices (a higher dollar can buy more of the commodity, so the price falls).
“At the same time, Chinese demand for commodities (perceived and actual) has drastically reduced on the back of local COVID-19 outbreaks and subsequent restrictions, placing something of a stranglehold on the economy.
At the bottom of the performance table is bitcoin (BTC-GBP), which fell by 64% year to date in US dollar terms, weighed down by the same inflation and interest rate hike fears that have hindered stock markets, and, more recently, the collapse of FTX, the second largest crypto exchange.
“Bitcoin has gone from hero to zero when it comes to performance after soaring to record highs during the pandemic. Unlike past crypto boom and bust cycles, the current malaise in performance is underpinned by factors that have rattled the bedrock of the cryptocurrency industry,” Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor, said.
The collapse of FTX, which was the second largest crypto exchange and other lesser-known exchanges had a ripple effect on the broader crypto market, sending bitcoin and other crypto coins into a downward spiral.
“The case for bitcoin as digital gold has all but been diminished as the price of the first and best-known cryptocurrency has followed and exceeded falls in global stock markets,” Jobson added, warning that “whatever your approach to risk, cryptocurrency should be treated with caution. “
When considering the currency in which some overseas and global asset classes are assessed, only three out of the 13 major asset classes picked by Interactive Investor using Morningstar data generated a positive return over the period. If everything was priced in sterling, that number still only rises to five.
With the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) index losing around 1.5% in 2022 so far, some of stocks favoured by investors have underperformed.
This is not part of Interactive Investor’s research but, for instance, Lloyds (LLOY.L) fell nearly 9% this year. While some consider it is undervalued — hence at a good price to buy — others think the lender has been chronically underperfoming and will not deliver in 2023.
Another FTSE favourite, BT Group (BT-A.L) has also seen its share price plunge this year.
It started January at 172p and is on track to finish the year at around 112p, after getting on a downwards trend since July.
Oil stocks, on the other hand, have only gone up since the war in Ukraine started and an energy crisis began.
BP (BP.L) shrugged off windfall tax fears as its share price went from 333p to 468p this year and might even peak a bit higher before entering 2023 as winter brings colder temperatures and greater demand for gas.
Barclays (BARC.L) has remained consistent throughout the year, trading at around the 150p mark although for the first quarter of 2022 it was consistently above 180p.
The whole banking sector in the UK has been hit by higher interest rates as the Bank of England tries to stem inflation.
“It’s never been wrong for investors with a longer-term horizon to hold on to their shares, keep investing and wait for the trouble to pass. Indeed, history shows that markets can and do recover from dramatic falls. Some of the best years can follow some of the worst, so it is worth hanging on in there,” Lee Wild, head of equity strategy at Interactive Investor, said.
Gold (GC=F) as a separate asset, which is often viewed as a hedge against inflation, was down 3% in US dollar terms, with Global Infrastructure, also often seen as a diversifier, down 4% in US dollar terms.
UK equities managed to just make positive territory, up 2%, slightly ahead of cash (1%).
UK property, meanwhile, was the second worst performer on the list, returning -32% over the year, with an economic backdrop that continues to throw plenty of headwinds at the sector.
It was also a tough year for fixed income. Rarely at the bottom of the performance charts, 2022 was the year that saw a dramatic reset.
Global Bonds were down 17% and Global Bonds linked to an index down 22%. UK Gilts and UK Index Linked Bonds also suffered, down by 21% and 31%, respectively.
Sam Benstead, collective specialist at Interactive Investor, said: “Rising interest rates this year have turned the argument that bonds are a “safe” investment on its head. Government and corporate bonds — which are prized for their reliable income payments — are rarely at the bottom of the performance charts, but 2022 was the year that bond prices reset following more than a decade of steady returns as interest rates fell.
“When rates go up, it means that investors can get a better deal from newly issued bonds, so they sell bonds. When rates go down, this has the opposite effect. The sharp change in policy from central banks this year as inflation proved not to be “transitory” is what caused the bond market crash.
“However, with interest rates expected to peak in early 2023, bond prices could benefit from interest rate cuts next year if inflation is contained.
“Yields on government and corporate bonds are much higher than a year ago, so the “income” in fixed income has returned. This is tempting in new buyers in search of yield and helped boost bond prices over the past couple of months.
“Poor returns for bonds this year could therefore set the asset class up for strong returns next year.”