Several equity factors diverged significantly from their typical performance patterns during the COVID-19 crisis. By understanding how factor returns behaved in this market correction relative to their historic norms, investors can not only prepare for future volatility but also take advantage of short-term market dislocations.

Challenges to Safety Stocks

Factors, groups of stocks that target specific drivers of return across an index or market, had startling performance results during the coronavirus market disruption. Minimum Volatility (Min Vol) stocks outperformed the MSCI World Index in the sell-off though their downside protection was not as strong as usual, and their upside capture was lower than expected in the subsequent market rally. Value stocks fell further than expected and then failed to outperform during the rebound—as they typically do.

But Growth stocks delivered the most surprising results. This was the only factor to protect much better than expected during the downturn, and then also outperform in the bounce off the bottom.