Markets back in positive territory after summer swoon
New York — Maybe you shouldn’t have put your money under a mattress after all.
The stock market is back in the black for the year after a bruising late-August tumble that had investors worrying about their money in a way they hadn’t in four years.
A three-week surge in stocks has now lifted the Standard & Poor’s 500 index above where it was at the beginning of 2015 for the first time since the summer.
The S&P 500 fell 12 percent from its mid-July high to its depths in late August, as investors worried that slowing growth in China, along with continued economic weakness in Europe and Japan, would crush any hopes of stronger global growth.
It was the first correction in four years, and it looked like investors in the U.S. stock market could be on track for their first annual losses, including dividends, since 2008.
Then central bankers and stronger corporate profits helped turn things around. The world’s three biggest economies, the U.S., China and Europe, moved to push interest rates down or postpone expected rate increases. That gave investors more money to buy stocks and other assets, which in turn pushed up prices.
And what was thought to be a bleak U.S. corporate earnings season started to look a lot brighter in recent days, especially when tech giants Amazon and Google parent company Alphabet posted surprisingly strong profits this week.
“The tone of the market has changed from where we were a week ago or certainly a month ago,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.
While investors could have hoped for fatter returns by this point in 2015, they are now better off than if they had done nothing with their money.
Here’s a look at how $10,000 invested back in January in the stock market and in other common investments would have fared:
Investments in the S&P 500 through an index mutual fund or exchange-traded fund are up 2.5 percent for the year, including dividends that companies pay throughout the year. If you had put $10,000 into the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, your investment would be worth $10,250 today.
Like the stock market, bonds have seesawed throughout the year and are almost unchanged from the end of 2014. An investor who put money into a broad portfolio of bonds measured either by the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index or a bond market fund like the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund would have earned roughly 1.5 percent this year, including interest. Their $10,000 would have turned into $10,150.
THE BIG APPLE
Investors have made Apple the world’s most valuable company, and they’ve done pretty nicely in Apple stock in 2015. The company reported blockbuster sales and profits over the last year, thanks to the popularity of its new, larger-screen iPhones.
But investors have fretted over Apple’s ability to maintain its prodigious growth, especially amid economic uncertainty in China. Apple shares slumped in August and again in late September, but they spent less time down in the dumps than the S&P 500. If you invested $10,000 in Apple at the start of this year, you would have $10,917 now.
Gold is often touted as one of the safest of all investments, because it rises along with inflation and allows investors to retain buying power. So far this year, gold has been nothing but dull. A $10,000 investment in the largest exchange-traded gold fund would be worth $9,815 now.
Banks are paying almost nothing on savings accounts, CDs or money market funds because the Federal Reserve has kept its own rates so low. Fidelity Cash Reserves, an enormous money market fund, has risen 0.1 percent so far this year. That’s $10 on your $10,000 investment.
And if you just put $10,000 under your mattress, you’d have $10,000 and a lumpy mattress.