Benchmarks are securities or groups of securities against which investment performance is analyzed. Examples of popular equity benchmarks are the S&P 500 index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Russell 2000 index, Nasdaq Composite, MSCI World Index, FTSE100 and Nikkei 225. Bond indexes are usually created by large fixed-income broker-dealers such as Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan. A number of bond benchmarks vary by issuer type, maturity, yield, geography and tax status.
Year-to-date (YTD) performance refers to the change in security price since January 1 of the current year. Using the YTD period sets a common time frame for assessing performance of different securities. YTD is also useful for measuring price movements relative to other data, such as financial performance or economic indicators. YTD measurement is limited in that the considered changes in length and the trends implied by YTD performance early in the year can be misleading.
Yahoo Finance and Google Finance
Yahoo Finance has a charts section with various period lengths, including YTD. Yahoo Finance also provides historical pricing data for equities, exchange-traded funds and popular benchmark indexes at daily, weekly or monthly intervals.
Similar to Yahoo's service, Google Finance also has a price chart function that allows users to select YTD as the observed period for equities and indexes.
Morningstar has its own set of stock indexes for a variety of equity categories based on size, industry and company maturity. In a table in the Markets section of Morningstar.com, there is a YTD performance data for each benchmark index.
The Vanguard Group has a benchmark returns page in its website's Investing section. The tables on this page include YTD performance for a variety of equity and bond indexes.
The Wall Street Journal publishes YTD benchmark data for equities and bonds in its Market Data Center.