S Fund on Top of TSP Returns for March

TSP funds reflected a shift in investor behavior in March as the S fund had a positive return and the C fund turned negative. The I fund is the leading fund for TSP returns so far in 2015.

March brought losses to some federal employees who are investors in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The C fund lost 1.57% for the month while the I fund was down 1.43%. All of the lifecycle funds were down ranging from -0.76% for the L2050 fund to -0.07% for the L Income fund.

The S fund had the largest positive returns for March with a return of 1.24%.

So far in 2015, the I fund leads all other funds with a total return of 5.70%

Here are the returns for all of the funds for March for the month, year-to-date (YTD) and for the past 12 months:

G Fund F Fund C Fund S Fund I Fund
Month 0.16% 0.47% -1.57% 1.24% -1.43%
YTD 0.47% 1.68% 0.97% 5.39% 5.70%
12 Month 2.19% 6.34% 12.82% 10.61% -0.61%

Here are the results for the Lifecycle funds:

L Income L2020 L2030 L2040 L2050
Month -0.07% -0.44% -0.58% -0.64% -0.76%
YTD 1.03% 1.91% 2.34% 2.66% 2.96%
12 Month 3.89% 5.70% 6.65% 7.31% 7.68%

Actions by TSP Investors

In the broader stock market, investors have pulled more than $44 billion out of U.S. stocks in 2015 while about $46 billion has been invested in European stocks. In February, TSP investors mirrored this trend to some extent as investors pulled $992 million from the C fund and another $360 million from the S fund.  In the same month, $123 million was transferred into the I fund. $730 million was transferred into the G fund and $306 million into the F fund. And, as noted above, the I fund is leading all of the TSP funds in total returns so far in 2015 with a return of 5.70%.

This is a turnaround from recent years. In 2014, the I fund lost 5.27% for the year while the C fund (which is based on the S&P 500 index), gained 13.78%.

The U.S. dollar has been increasing in value in recent months. The American dollar is now trading at 12-year highs against the euro as the dollar gained 13% in value against the euro in the first quarter of the year. When the value of the dollar rises, the U.S. stock market tends to fall. Investors may be putting more of their money into European stocks which are now less expensive.

Perhaps some of the rationale for unease with U.S. stocks is the volatility in the stock market which can make investors nervous as they see the value of their investment portfolios go up or down significantly in a short time. The stock market has been relatively calm in the recent past but, during the first quarter of this year, the S&P 500 index closed up or down more than 1% on 19 occasions according to the Wall Street Journal.

TSP Facts

In February 2015, total plan assets passed the $450 billion mark for the first time and the FERS participation rate ended up to 88.1%

The average balance for those under the FERS system was $117,584 and for those under CSRS it was $116,963 in February.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47