A Tactical ETF Review

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 |  Includes: BND, BWX, DJP, EMLC, JNK, PICB, TIP, VEA, VNQ, VTI, VWO, WIP
by: James Picerno

It's been a good year so far for risky assets. Year-to-date returns don't mean much at this point, but the out-of-the-gate start keeps hope alive. Yet the crowd always finds a reason to worry and the "surprisingly tranquil" profile of runnup will do nicely. Nonetheless, U.S. stocks look quite strong on a technical basis these days as domestic equities extend the rally that began in mid-December. Foreign stocks are following suit. Or is it the other way around? But amid a rising appetite for risk, investment-grade bonds are sagging, thanks mostly to lightening up on Treasuries. It's a different story for foreign bonds, which are rising in U.S. dollar terms, in part thanks to fresh weakness in the greenback. Meantime, commodities overall look stuck in neutral, although gold is beginning to percolate again. And after a brief respite, real estate investment trusts are taking wing once more. The question is whether the revival is a sign of things to come for the year ahead? Much depends on how the economic numbers fare in the weeks ahead. We know that recession looks like a done deal in Europe, but the consensus view is more favorable for the U.S. Meantime, here's how the charts stack up for the major asset classes via our usual list of ETF proxies…

US STOCKS • Vanguard Total Market (NYSEARCA:VTI) • Benchmark: MSCI US Broad Market Index

Off to the races... again

VTI_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

FOREIGN DEVELOPED MARKET STOCKS • Vanguard Europe Pacific (NYSEARCA:VEA) • Benchmark: MSCI EAFE

Foreign developed stocks are rebounding too...

VEA_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

EMERGING MARKET STOCKS • Vanguard Emerging Markets (NYSEARCA:VWO) • Benchmark: MSCI Emerging Market

And emerging market equities have also joined the party...

vwo_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

US BONDS • Vanguard Total Bond Market (NYSEARCA:BND) • Benchmark: Barclays US Aggregate

Some profit-taking in US bonds...

BND_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

INFLATION-INDEXED US TREASURIES • iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (NYSEARCA:TIP) • Benchmark: Barclays US TIPS

And second thoughts about inflation-indexed Treasuries too...

TIP_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

HIGH YIELD BONDS • SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond (NYSEARCA:JNK) • Benchmark: Barclays High Yield Very Liquid

But the relatively high yields in junk bonds draws a crowd...

JNK_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

COMMODITIES • iPath Dow Jones-UBS Commodity (NYSEARCA:DJP) • Benchmark: DJ-UBS Commodity

Commodities seem to be stuck in neutral lately...

DJP_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS • Vanguard REIT (NYSEARCA:VNQ) • Benchmark: MSCI US REIT

REITs reach new recent highs ...

VNQ_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

FOREIGN DEVELOPED MARKET GOVERNMENT BONDS • SPDR Barclays Int’l Treasury (NYSEARCA:BWX) •

Benchmark: Barclays Global Treasury ex-US Capped

Foreign bonds are perking up in 2012...

BWX_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

EMERGING MARKET GOVERNMENT BONDS • Van Eck Market Vectors Emg Mkt Local Currency Bond (NYSEARCA:EMLC) •

Benchmark: J.P. Morgan GBI-EMG Core

Emerging market bonds are on the march again too...

EMLC_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

FOREIGN GOVERNMENT INFLATION-LINKED BONDS • SPDR DB International Inflation-Protected Bond (NYSEARCA:WIP) •

Benchmark: DB Global Government ex-US Inflation-Linked Bond Capped

Ditto for foreign inflation-indexed government bonds...

WIP_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

FOREIGN CORPORATE BONDS • PowerShares International Corporate Bond (NYSEARCA:PICB) •

Benchmark: S&P International Corporate Bond

Signs of life in foreign corporates...

PICB_Jan_2012.pngClick to enlarge

Charts courtesy of StockCharts.com