Special Report

The 7 Worst Investments of 2014

Every year, new global trends emerge, old ones play out, and the financial markets adjust. This can offer new opportunities for investors to make money if their forecasts are accurate, their investments are timely, and they choose their assets well.

But not everything always goes according to plan. Investing in commodities has largely been a money-losing exercise in 2014, with the S&P GCSI — a widely-tracked commodities index — down over 24% so far this year. Speculators who sold short the dollar have also been hit. The dollar is up against virtually every currency in the world.

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Even in these asset classes, some investments have fared worse than others. The rouble has slid by more than 38% against the dollar so far in 2014, while brent crude oil prices fell 37%. The full effects of both these declines has yet to fully play out across global financial markets.

Some asset classes have enjoyed a bull market. Equity funds and stocks have performed well in recent years. Despite this, not every investment in equities has been profitable. Offshore driller Transocean is down more than 59% so far this year due in part to lower oil prices. The Nysa Fund, an aggressive capital appreciation mutual fund, is down 41% year to date due to investments in a number of stocks that are themselves down considerably as well.

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Yet, just because an individual investment has performed poorly in the past does not necessarily mean it will perform poorly into the future. The Nysa Fund and the Aegis High Yield Fund — the bond fund with the worst performance in the year to date — could both be among the top-performing mutual funds in 2015. Similarly, oil may recover and the rouble may rebound.

Nonetheless, each of these investments has been a source of pain for their owners in 2014. Investors who started the year with long positions in oil, investments in the Market Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETF, or with positions in Transocean lost significant amounts of money. However, for investors with a well-diversified portfolio, a long time horizon, and patience, even a major loss on an individual investment can become just a minor bump in the road in due time.

In order to identify the worst investments of 2014, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from a number of sources. Figures on mutual fund and ETF returns are from Morningstar. We excluded ETFs that aim to provide leveraged, or inverse-leveraged, daily returns from our consideration. To determine bond fund returns, we screened for bond funds exclusively. Figures on large-cap stocks are from Finviz and represent securities that are part of the S&P 500. Data on IPOs are from Renaissance Capital, and returns assume the investor bought shares at the IPO price. Commodities data are from the Stevens Continuous Futures database. Figures are adjusted by Stevens to weigh contracts based on outstanding volume and to roll contracts over at applicable end-of-the month dates. ETF, stock, IPO and futures returns are as of December 8, 2014. Mutual fund and currency pair returns are as of December 9, 2014.

These are the worst investments of 2014

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