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Stocks Lose Ground in May: Bond Fund Ahead for 12-Month Period

A bond fund has the best return over the past 12 months among all TSP funds as stocks retreated in May.

Major U.S. stock indexes lost more than 1% just on Friday, May 31, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow) closed down more than 6.5% in May. This is the lowest monthly performance for stocks since December.

Last week was the sixth consecutive week of losses—the longest weekly losing streak since June 2011. The S&P 500 (the index on which the TSP’s C fund is based) dropped 1.3% for the week.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasurys dropped to 2.139%. This is the largest one-month decline since 2015. As there are apparently concerns among investors about continued economic growth, these yields have dropped to their lowest level since September 2017.

According to the TSP, the G Fund interest rate calculation is based on the weighted average yield of all outstanding Treasury notes and bonds with 4 or more years to maturity. This means TSP investors in the G Fund receive a long-term rate on a short-term security.

Long-term interest rates are usually higher than short-term rates. The 12-month return on the G fund has been 2.87%—a very good for a return rate on a safe investment like the G Fund. Long-term investors will want to compare the overall returns for the TSP stock funds though with the typical rate of return from the G Fund as stocks provide a better rate of return over time.

Best Performing Funds in May and in 2019

The best performing TSP fund in May was the F Fund with a return of 1.77%. This fund is also up 4.79% for the year-to-date and 6.51% for the past 12 months. This puts the F Fund ahead of all other funds in 12-month performance. The second-place fund for 12-month performance is the C fund with a return of 3.77%.

The fund with the best return so far in 2019 is the S fund with a return of 11.87% over the first five months of the year. The C Fund is a close second with a return of 10.73% so far this year.

Fund With Lowest Performance

The fund with the worst performance in May was the I Fund which lost 4.69% (the L 2050 Fund is close behind with a loss of 4.67%). The I Fund is still up 8% so far this year though.

Monthly and 12-Month TSP Returns

Here is how all of the TSP funds performed last month.

 G FundF FundC FundS FundI Fund
Month0.21%1.77%-6.36%-6.99%-4.69%
YTD1.09%4.79%10.73%11.87%8.00%
12 Month2.87%6.51%3.77%-3.56%-5.32%
L IncomeL 2020L 2030L 2040L 2050
Month-0.98%-1.42%-3.36%-4.06%-4.67%
YTD3.09%3.96%6.65%7.71%8.61%
12 Month2.67%2.40%1.50%1.07%0.64%

There is likely to be continuing volatility in stocks. The dispute on tariffs and trade policy, combined with using the tariffs as a way to try and get a handle on illegal immigration, may provide long-term benefits for the United States, but these issues are often not resolved quickly or easily.

In short, the continuing wide swings in stock prices may continue during the year.

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