By Paulina Cachero
The era of easy returns came to a screeching halt in 2022.
Stocks were hammered with the S&P 500 on track for its worst annual performance since 2008, bonds failed to protect anyone’s portfolios, property markets tumbled and crypto crashed, wiping out an estimated $1.5 trillion in market value alone, according to CoinGecko.
The turmoil triggered by inflation and rising interest rates sent retail investors scrambling for places to put their money. Cash, it turns out, wasn’t trash, while an obscure government bond became one of the unlikeliest and hottest investments, even if you had to navigate awful technology to get there.
Here are the best and worst investments of 2022, and some ideas on where to put your money in 2023.
Wall Street investors put trillions into money market funds and ultra-short bonds. Meanwhile, consumers hoping to get the most bang for their buck have turned to certificates of deposit and high-yield savings accounts like Goldman Sachs’ Marcus that are offering some of the highest annual percentage yields in years.
“For a lot of investors, there hasn’t been an opportunity to make money on cash,” said Jeremy Gonsalves, national portfolio director at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. “But now there are attractive returns on everything from Treasury yields to certificates of deposits that we haven’t seen in some time.”
US Series I savings bonds were an unlikely star in 2022, offering low-risk, inflation-adjusted yields. Sales of the humble securities hit nearly $7 billion in the month of October alone — about seven times more than were sold in all of 2021 — as investors raced to take advantage of a record 9.62% yield.
While the interest rate on I bonds has dropped from its high, financial advisors say they may still be an attractive option for those looking to invest money they don’t need immediately.
There was a clear winner in the stock market this year: energy companies.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hit supplies of oil, gas and other commodities that were already in high demand due to the easing of pandemic restrictions. That made energy the top-performing sector in the market this year, with an index of S&P 500 energy companies surging more than 57%.
Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, cautioned that it will be tough for oil companies to match this year’s earnings growth in 2023, but other strategists argue demand for oil and other energy commodities will remain strong, even with a global recession looming.
If the theme for 2021 was buy everything, the mindset quickly shifted to sell everything in 2022.
The so-called FAANG stocks — a cohort that includes Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc., and Google owner Alphabet Inc. — led the declines, losing more than $3 trillion in market value between them.
Growth funds and exchange-traded funds that were heavily weighted with tech stocks were also dragged into their downward spiral, including Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF, which has tumbled by 67% this year.
Going into 2023, global equities will continue to face headwinds due to persistent inflation, recession risks and threats to corporate profits as consumer confidence sinks. Fran Kinniry, head of Vanguard’s investment advisory research center, says investors should decide what their return objectives are in order to determine how much risk they want to take.
“With inflation rising, people should think about getting real, inflation-adjusted returns — not nominal returns,” Kinniry said.
It was a very bad year for crypto industry. Even before the stunning implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX, a series of meltdowns rattled digital assets, from the collapse of TerraUSD to the downfalls of Three Arrows Capital and Celsius Network. The bankruptcies have piled up and trapped more and more customer money.
Bitcoin has dropped by 64%, while the combined market value of the largest digital assets has plummeted by more than 70%, according to Bloomberg’s Galaxy Crypto Index.
NFTs, which once boasted celebrity investors from Paris Hilton to Jimmy Fallon, have also slumped. Stars from NFL quarterback Tom Brady to pop icon Madonna have been sued for promoting crypto investments.
Meme stocks soared in 2021 thanks to retail traders pumped up on government stimulus and pandemic savings. This year, they got hammered.
With higher interest rates and inflation squeezing consumers, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. has cratered more than 80%, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. plunged by 77% and the company that started it all, GameStop Corp., has fallen by more than half. Robinhood Markets Inc., the brokerage at the center of the online trading fervor, has also slumped from its peak, dropping nearly 80% since its July 2021 initial public offering.
“The zero-interest environment that fueled investments in these speculative assets is over,” said BNY Mellon’s Gonsalves.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com.