10 years of the bull market in US equities – how has the US market performed?

Despite being the longest, the current bull market is often also seen as the most 'unloved' in history.

The bull market in US equities is now 10 years old. On 9 March 2009, following the dramatic declines as a result of the global financial crisis, US stocks finally started to climb up again. For the past decade, despite some nasty brief corrections, prices have continued to rise ever higher. 

The current bull market is the longest on record, with the average bull market since 1928 being roughly 60 months long. However, despite being the longest, the current bull market is often also seen as the most “unloved” in history.

Over the past decade, the S&P 500 index has seen price growth of 313%. In comparison, the dotcom boom of the 1990s saw the S&P 500 surge by 417%. Average share price growth during the average 60-month bull market since 1928 has been 172%.

Even so, the US market has undoubtedly been the best place to be for investors over the past decade. As the graph below shows, the total return from the S&P 500 between the start of March 2009 and March 2019 has been 403%. Investors in the UK’s FTSE 100 index would have received 196%, less than half of the S&P 500’s total return, over the same time period.

Comparing the MSCI World Index with and without the US also shows the importance of US stocks over the past decade. The MSCI World index saw a total return of 292%. If you strip out American stocks (the MSCI World index ex USA), that total return falls to 185%.

Which funds and trusts did best?

Over the past decade a number of active funds have provided returns much higher than the S&P 500’s total return. The top-performing fund in the Investment Association’s North America sector over the past decade has been Vanguard US Opportunities, with a 10-year total return of 700%.

Fund 10 year total return GBP
Vanguard US Opportunities 700.11
Morgan Stanley US Growth 653.95
T. Rowe Price US Large Cap Growth 567.23
Baillie Gifford American 554.05
Morgan Stanley US Advantage 549.94
Source: FE Analytics  


That is followed by Morgan Stanley US Growth with a total return of 654% and T. Rowe Price US Large Cap Growth with 567%. 

When it comes to investment trusts in the AIC’s North America and North America smaller companies sectors, results are less impressive. Of the top five, only four have provided total return higher than the S&P 500’s 403%, with JPMorgan American returning 381%. At the same time, Middlefield International Middlefield Canadian Income and Jupiter US Smaller Companies saw returns only marginally higher than S&P 500’s.

The performance is even more unremarkable for Jupiter US Smaller Companies when compared to its benchmark, the Russell 2000. An index of US smaller companies, the Russell 2000 provided a total return of 418.9% compared to the trust’s 419.9%. 

Investment trust 10 year total return GBP
Harwood Capital North Atlantic Smaller Companies 638.54
JPM JP Morgan US Smaller Companies 601.51
Middlefield International Middlefield Canadian Income 437.11
Jupiter US Smaller Companies 419.89
JPMorgan American IT 381.14
Source: FE Analytics  


It should also be noted that many trusts and funds that investors often use to gain exposure to the US are not included, including Scottish Mortgage and Allianz Technology trust. Despite their heavily overweight US portfolios, these trusts and other similar ones are part of either the global or technology sectors.

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