Stocks vs. Treasury Bills: Which is the Highest Performing Investment

Last update on: Mar 14 2020
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Are stocks really the highest-returning investment? Research argues that treasury bills outperform all but a handful of stocks over the long-term. Here’s the research, and here’s a review of it.

Most common stocks do not outperform Treasury Bills. Fifty eight percent of common stocks have holding period returns less than those on one-month Treasuries over their full lifetimes on CRSP. When stated in terms of lifetime dollar wealth creation, the entire gain in the U.S. stock market since 1926 is attributable to the best-performing four percent of listed stocks. These results highlight the important role of positive skewness in the cross-sectional distribution of stock returns. The skewness in long-horizon returns reflects both that monthly returns are positively skewed and the fact that compounding returns over multiple periods itself induces positive skewness. The results also help to explain why active strategies, which tend to be poorly diversified, most often underperform.

 

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