Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Issues & Perspectives

2018 Markets Year In Review

2018 markets
Photo credit: Artur Marciniec – 167454627 – iStockThinkstock

After benefiting from strong returns during 2017, investors found 2018 far more challenging. A generally positive start to the year, for stocks in particular, gave way to concerns over rising interest rates, a continuing trade dispute between the U.S. and China, weakening corporate profit growth, and concerns about China’s slowing economic growth rate. As a result, asset price volatility returned to markets in 2018 after a long period of relative calm, and the year ended on a negative note.

As a reminder, Colorado PERA invests in asset classes (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank">multiple asset classes, including public equities, bonds, private equity, real estate, and opportunistic assets. PERA achieves a return in each of these areas through public and private market investments. The diversification of PERA’s $46 billion portfolio helps to maintain a more stable return stream, even during volatile times, such as 2018.

Looking at specific areas of investment, global stock markets faced significant headwinds last year, which only worsened in the final three months of 2018. The MSCI All Country World IMI Index, which is PERA’s Equities asset class benchmark, and which measures the performance of stocks of all sizes in both developed and emerging market countries, fell 10.1 percent (in U.S. dollar terms and net of taxes) during 2018. This index was actually up 3.7 percent during the first nine months of the year, only to fall 13.3 percent in the final quarter, as the aforementioned economic worries emerged.

Regionally, stocks saw divergent results for the first three quarters, while falling across the globe in the fourth quarter. In the U.S., the total return for the flagship S&P 500 Index was a positive 10.6 percent through the end of September. The final three months of the year saw a sharp reversal, as the index dropped 13.5 percent, creating a yearly total return loss of 4.4 percent. The rest of the developed world did not benefit from the same good start as the U.S., as the MSCI World ex U.S. Index fell 1.5 percent in the first nine months, before dropping 12.8 percent during the final three months and losing 14.1 percent for the full year. Emerging market shares fared even worse than those in developed nations, shedding 7.7 percent through the end of September, losing 7.5 percent in the final quarter, and costing investors 14.6 percent for the full year.

Fixed income securities also exhibited significant volatility last year. The U.S. 10-Year Treasury Note saw its yield move from 2.40 percent at the beginning of the year to a peak of 3.26 percent in early October, before ending the year at 2.68 percent. The 2-Year Note had even more extreme yield moves, starting at 1.88 percent, peaking at 2.97 percent, and ending at 2.49 percent. Treasuries appeared to benefit from a “flight to safety” in the final quarter of 2018, as investors sold falling stocks and bought bonds, causing bonds prices to rise and bond yields to fall.

While 2018 was
disappointing with regard to investment market returns, PERA continues to focus
on a multi-decade investment horizon, consistent with the long-term needs of
our members. Because approximately one-fifth of the portfolio is not publicly
traded and publicly valued (real estate and private equity investments), PERA’s
official 2018 investment results have yet to be finalized.

The final investment return results for 2018 will be known once the financial audit overseen by the Office of the State Auditor is completed and the financial statements have been reviewed by the PERA Board of Trustees in late June. These results will be used as part of the calculations that determine PERA’s progress toward the funded goals laid out in last year’s SB 18-200 legislation, which included an automatic adjustment provision designed to keep the system on track to full funding.

Asset classesA category of similar investments. Common asset classes include global equity (such as publicly traded stocks), real estate, and cash.VolatilityA state of unpredictable activity in financial markets, during which prices can experience significant and/or unexpected swings in either direction. Private equityA type of investment in which investors purchase shares of a company that is not traded on a public stock exchange.Fixed incomeA type of investment that pays investors a fixed rate of interest over a set period of time. Bonds are a common type of fixed income investment.BenchmarkA tool used to measure performance. For example, an investor can use a stock index as a benchmark to measure his/her own investment performance compared to the market as a whole.Asset classA category of similar investments. Common asset classes include global equity (such as publicly traded stocks), real estate, and cash.Asset classA category of similar investments. Common asset classes include global equity (such as publicly traded stocks), real estate, and cash.


  1. Margaret Pike says:

    So how much total did PERA lose in 2018? I am a lowly school teacher but I didn’t lose any in the stock market.

    • Colorado PERA says:

      Dear Ms. Pike,

      Thank you for your question. 2018 was a challenging year for global equities market investors like PERA. The broad global equities markets declined by approximately 10 percent in 2018, particularly impacted by losses in the 4th quarter of the year. As a large institutional investor, PERA has a diversified investment portfolio that is designed to mitigate the ups and downs of the investment marketplace. Approximately half of the portfolio is in global equities. For more details on the PERA investment program, please see this page:

      In late June, PERA will be publishing audited 2018 investment information.

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