U.S.-Stock Funds Down 7.9% for 2022

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Reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concerns about the Federal Reserve worsened the outlook for investment-grade bonds, too

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International-stock funds were down 3.5% for February and 7.7% year to date.

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“It was a very meaningful month…not just for the markets but for us as human beings first, given the tragedy taking place in Europe,” says Gargi Chaudhuri, head of iShares investment strategy for the Americas at BlackRock in New York.

The month was a tale of two halves, Ms. Chaudhuri says. “I think about how much the market was focusing on the Federal Reserve, right up until the middle of the month,” before Russia invaded, she says. The focus on the jobs report and inflation data in early February “all seems a very long time ago,” she says.

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Some strategists are saying to pull back from investment-grade bonds. That includes Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Northern Trust. “We want protection against inflation in our portfolios today, and also want to reflect the increased risk to European growth from the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he says. “Inflation protection is achieved by our overweights to natural-resource equities and US equities, and underweight to investment-grade bonds.”

Ms. Chaudhuri says investors will continue to digest the economic and human toll of Russia’s attacks. “One of the things that my team and I just did is look at previous periods of geopolitical risk to see what the S&P, for example, had done,” she says. “For the most part, we found that if you stayed invested in the markets during the geopolitical volatility, you tended to do better, unless the volatility was happening when economic growth was slowing for other reasons.”

Until Friday’s stock declines, the market had held up fairly well since the invasion, notes Ralph Bassett, head of North American equities at asset manager Abrdn in Philadelphia. “The market was almost starting to bake in not a recession, but certainly a slowdown in growth,” he says. “What’s happened is that expectations for inflation have gone higher [in the past month] and for economic growth has gone lower. The only thing holding markets in is that the Fed won’t overact.”

“What we struggle with is how enduring these commodity-price rallies will be. You will have supply come in,” says Mr. Bassett.

Bond funds declined in February. Funds tied to intermediate-maturity, investment-grade debt (the most common type of fixed-income fund) were off 1.3% in February, to push the year-to-date decline to 3.3%.

Mr. Power is a Wall Street Journal features editor in South Brunswick, NJ Email him at [email protected]

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Credit: www.Businesshala.com /

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