2019 was a remarkable year for equity markets in the U.S. and around the world. Boosted by an accommodative Fed policy, low unemployment, low inflation, and continued global growth, risk assets across the board did well—all of the benchmarks tracked in the SPIVA U.S. Scorecard had positive returns, with the S&P 500® Value leading the pack at 31.9%.
The Information Technology-heavy and more internationally diversified companies of the S&P 500 pushed the index to its second-highest annual return (31.5%) since 2001 and fourth-highest return in 30 years, rising in 10 of the 12 months. The S&P MidCap 400® (26.2%) and the S&P SmallCap 600® (22.8%) also had strong years.
While these tailwinds helped U.S. equity managers post excellent absolute returns, none of them translated into active managers’ superior performance compared with their benchmarks. For example, 70% of domestic equity funds lagged the S&P Composite 1500® during the one-year period ending Dec. 31, 2019, making for the fourth-worst performance since 2001.