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Stocks vs. Bonds and Bills through History

Stocks vs. Bonds and Bills through History 

Ibbotson® SBBI® 1926–2010

An 85-year examination of past capital market returns provides historical insight into the performance characteristics of various asset classes. This graph illustrates the hypothetical growth of inflation and a $1 investment in four traditional asset classes over the time period January 1, 1926, through December 31, 2010.

Large and small stocks have provided the highest returns and largest increase in wealth over the past 85 years. As illustrated in the image, fixed-income investments provided only a fraction of the growth provided by stocks. However, the higher returns achieved by stocks are associated with much greater risk, which can be identified by the volatility or fluctuation of the graph lines.

Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, while stocks are not guaranteed and have been more volatile than the other asset classes. Furthermore, small stocks are more volatile than large stocks, are subject to significant price fluctuations and business risks, and are thinly traded.

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About the data
Small stocks in this example are represented by the fifth capitalization quintile of stocks on the NYSE for 1926–1981 and the performance of the Dimensional Fund Advisors, Inc. (DFA) U.S. Micro Cap Portfolio thereafter. Large stocks are represented by the Standard & Poor’s 500®, which is an unmanaged group of securities and considered to be representative of the stock market in general. Government bonds are represented by the 20-year U.S. government bond, Treasury bills by the 30-day U.S. Treasury bill, and inflation by the Consumer Price Index. Underlying data is from the Stocks, Bonds, Bills, and Inflation® (SBBI®) Yearbook, by Roger G. Ibbotson and Rex Sinquefield, updated annually. An investment cannot be made directly in an index.

Source: © 2011 Morningstar. All rights reserved. Used with permission.