REFILE-GRAPHIC-U.S., Japan stocks top performers of 2013; gold loses

Tue Dec 31, 2013 4:52am EST

LONDON Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks are top of the investment returns scoreboard for 2013, with the S&P 500 index on course to mark its best year since 1997.

The S&P index has risen 31.5 percent on a total return basis since January as investors bet the U.S. economic recovery would accelerate, enabling the Federal Reserve to withdraw its monetary stimulus without disrupting growth.

Japanese stocks are a close second with the Nikkei index rising 31.2 percent in dollar terms on a total return basis, the following graphic on global asset performance shows:

Gold was the biggest loser with a year-to-date loss of 28.6 percent. Generally seen as a safe haven, gold has been hit by an improvement in risk appetite and expectations for a strong dollar, which would make gold more expensive. The metal is set for its biggest annual price decline since 1981.

Emerging markets fared poorly on concerns that the Fed's move to scale back its stimulus programme will choke off capital flows into their economies, which benefited the most from cheap money.

Local currency emerging debt is the second-worst performer of 2013, with losses of almost 9 percent while hard currency bonds have lost 6.6 percent.

MSCI's main emerging equity index is also set to the end the year in the red, having lost 2.3 percent on a total return basis in 2013.

Commodities, which are non-yielding assets, have suffered from softer demand from emerging markets and a slowing Chinese economy. The Reuters/Jefferies CRB commodity index is down 4.2 percent year-to-date.

The following graphics show the performance of a variety of asset classes:

Emerging markets:

Frontier markets:

Equity performance by region:

Equity performance by sectors: