The first quarter of 2021 came to a close on Wednesday, and while the first quarter of this year was not nearly as crazy as the first quarter of 2020, it was far from tranquil. Below we provide a snapshot of our ETF Asset Class Performance Matrix summarizing the total return of ETFs across the investment spectrum during the month of March, Q1, and for all of 2010.
Given the carnage we saw in some areas of the market recently, it may not seem that way but March was a very positive month for US equities across different styles and sectors. At the index level, the Dow led the way surging nearly 7%, but the S&P 500 was also very strong, gaining more than 4.5%. Large Cap Tech was an area of relative weakness, but even the Nasdaq 100 was up 1.71% (just about all of which came on the last trading day of the month). Continuing a trend that has been in place all year, value stocks left growth in the dust, more than doubling the gains of growth stocks during March. At the sector level, we saw both cyclicals and some defensives lead the way higher this month with Utilities rallying more than 10%, Industrials up 9%, Consumer Staples up 8.5%, and Materials up nearly 8%. While no sectors were down in March, Technology lagged the most by rallying ‘only’ 1.76%.
At the international level, it was a good month for North America as Mexico rallied 7.8% and Canada surged 5.8%. On the downside, the only country in the red for the month was China, which dropped 6.5%. What’s interesting to note about the performance of international markets is that like the US, a lot of areas that lagged in 2020 were leaders in March and vice versa for this year’s laggards.
While inflation has been a concern for investors lately, it’s interesting to note that all of the commodities in the matrix were down in March with Silver (SLV) and Natural Gas (UNG) falling the most. In the case of silver, while it was the second-best performing ETF in our matrix in 2020, it was the worst-performing ETF during the month of March.
Finally, fixed-income investors have had a rude awakening so far this year. While all of the fixed income-related ETFs saw positive returns in 2020, they’re all down so far in 2021. Long-term US Treasuries have been the biggest laggards as TLT is already down 13.9% YTD. So much for the ‘safety’ of Treasuries. Click here to view Bespoke’s premium membership options for our best research available.