Wires

S&P is the decade's runaway winner

Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks are poised to close out the decade with the longest bull market in history still intact.

The run, which began on March 9, 2009, has narrowly avoided falling into a bear market several times over the past 10 years but for now appears on track to continue into next year.

With less than two weeks left in the decade, the large cap S&P 500, with reinvested dividends, has easily outperformed other major asset classes and benchmark commodities, climbing over 250%. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index, a broad-based index that includes Treasuries, corporate bonds and other fixed-income products, rose 47 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, WTI crude oil lost more than 20% over the same period.

Buoyed in part by an accommodative monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, which drove bond yields to near historic lows, the S&P 500 has been the best performing benchmark equity index over the decade out of the 10 largest global economies.

But while this has been the longest bull run on record, the Twenty-tens fell short of the showing for several prior decades for equities. The best of the past eight - dating to the 1940s - was the '90s, which topped 300%, followed by the '50s and the '80s, both north of 200%.

The gains in the U.S. stock market were fueled by the technology and consumer discretionary sectors, with each climbing more than 300% over the decade. Energy was the weakest group, narrowly avoiding a loss and was up only 4.3% through the Dec. 19 close. While investors showed virtually no preference between growth or value stocks in the early years of the decade, growth as an investing style has handily outperformed value stocks in the last leg of the '10s.

The preference for growth names is also reflected in the performance of individual stocks over the decade, led by the gain in Netflix, which notched a staggering 4100% through the Dec. 19 close.

Bringing up the rear were several energy names, with Apache suffering the worst performance, down nearly 80% over the 10-year time frame.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Dan Burns, Megan Davies and Giles Elgood)