Investors who put $10,000 in stocks on Dec. 31, 1999, have $9,090 now, while the same amount in 10-year Treasury notes would have grown to about $18,000 following a 6.1 percent annualized return, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A $10,000 investment in the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of 19 raw materials increased 3.3 percent a year to $13,803. Gold futures rose 14 percent a year, turning $10,000 into $37,852.
The average annualized return for U.S. equity mutual funds was 1.7 percent during the decade. Only one fund out of 3,833 gained in 2008: Forester Value Fund rose 0.4 percent that year, according to Chicago-based Morningstar Inc.
Hedge funds' annualized return was about 6.3 percent since Dec. 31, 1999, according to Hedge Fund Research's HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index. The measure rose 19 percent in 2009 through Dec. 15.
"Those who benefited in the decade were short-term investors who were able to take advantage of the volatility in the stock market," said Komal Sri-Kumar, who helps manage $118 billion as chief global strategist at TCW Group Inc. in Los Angeles. "That isn't the signal authorities should give players in the market. You want them to think of it as a place where you can save for your retirement."