LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) - As 2012 draws to a close, global asset market tallies for the year show it would have been hard to lose money on the major indices during a bumpy year dominated by massive monetary support from the world’s biggest central banks.
Thanks to a late surge in Chinese and Japanese stock markets, up 16 and 9 percent respectively in December, Asian equity at large was one of the best bets of 2012.
MSCI’s index of Asian equities excluding Japan, for example, gained more than 20 percent this year and outperformed many strategists’ favoured trades of investment grade and high-yield corporate bonds as well as the broader emerging markets benchmarks.
Those December gains in Shanghai and Tokyo may well be a frontloading of many investors’ top picks for 2013, where Chinese and Japanese stocks feature highly.
However, apart from the retreat in major commodity indices and yen-sapped Japanese government bonds, most other major asset classes also ended the year in the black.
Despite a continued tendency for the market to lurch from “risk on” to “risk off” modes during the year, both the most-favoured ‘safety’ trades and some of the bumpier, white-knuckle rides gained in tandem.
German 10-year bunds returned almost 10 percent and gold was up 6 percent and yet Spanish 10-year debt gained more than 8 percent and emerging market equities jumped almost 20 percent.
Of the MSCI country equity indices, Germany’s more than 30 percent rise in U.S. dollar terms was the standout performance among major bourses, followed closely by gains of more than 25 percent in Hong Kong and India.
In the MSCI stable of emerging markets, Turkey surged 65 percent in dollar terms - almost double Germany’s gains - while Egypt ended the year up 50 percent despite persistent local political tension. It is though still well below levels seen at the end of 2010, before the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Poland rose 41 percent, helped by zloty gains on the dollar of 11 percent.
Morocco’s 10 percent loss for 2012 was one of the few markets left in the red for the year.
You have to get into the more exotic world of frontier markets to see some big losses emerge, with the likes of Ukraine and Argentina losing between 40 and 50 percent. That’s balanced out by gains of more than 50 percent in Nigeria and Kenya.
And yet you would have had to return to the battered euro zone to put all that in the shade. Portuguese 10-year government bonds returned 80 percent over the course of 2012.
Top equity sectors worldwide were financials and healthcare. Top commodities were wheat and soybeans whereas coffee, cotton and sugar were best avoided.