Investment Insights Podcast: Does Brexit still mean Brexit? The UK election result and what it means for the markets.

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 16, 2017), Tim addresses the political dynamic in the UK and the impact the recent election – and its rather surprising outcome – might have on Brexit and global markets.

Quick hits:

  • On June 8, U.K. voters went to the polls and confounded the experts and the pollsters by moving away from the ruling Conservative Party and embracing the Labour Party.
  • Despite all of the political drama, we still see Brexit moving forward and the U.K. exiting the European Union.
  • Near term, we also see the unexpected and unsettling U.K. election results potentially aiding pro EU, pro establishment political parties across Europe.
  • In the U.S., we don’t envision any meaningful economic or market impact from the political upheaval in the U.K.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Machine Learning’s Growing Pains

Solomon_B 150x150Brad Solomon, Junior Investment Analyst

“Machine learning,” on its surface, sounds nothing short of miraculous.  For anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed when working with a large amount of intractable data, it evokes a certain fantasy: press a button, and let the machine learn. Poof, without any further instruction, your computer spits out relationships in the data seemingly untraceable to the human eye.

Yet paradoxically, there is also a competing perception that only a certain breed of mathematics PhDs and programming prodigies are worthy of using machine learning (ML) techniques.  The field of computer science has never been short on patronization; this post recommends first making sure that you have several advanced degrees and then learning the C or C++ languages, both of which are seen as some of the least user-friendly computer languages and neither of which are the language into which most machine learning is actually incorporated.

Now that machine learning has made its way to the top of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for emerging technologies, and has also become pervasively marketed as part of the tool set of quantitative investment strategies, it’s probably a good time to debunk some misconceptions about what machine learning is, and what it isn’t.

Let’s start with a positive.  ML encompasses a wide range of statistical modeling techniques that can be applied toward facial recognition, predicting credit card fraud, and classifying tumors as malignant or benign, to name just a few implementations.  At the heart of machine learning are a number of different models that all serve as means to the same ends: predicting a value or classifying something categorically.  The list of models themselves is an intimidating mouthful: to name a few, there are neural networks, decision trees, Bayesian ridge regression, and support vector machines.

If your head is spinning, you’re not alone.  However, you might be surprised to learn that you likely covered some elements of machine learning in any introductory statistics course: for instance, ordinary least squares regression (linear regression) also falls under the hood of machine learning. Machine learning practitioners also like to throw around a number of fancy terms that go by other names elsewhere in the realm of broader statistics discipline.  For example, training and test data are analogous to the more familiar terms in-sample and out-of-sample; supervised learning simply means that you are starting with an independent and dependent variable and want to establish a relationship between the two and then apply that relationship to a “fresh” (test) variable.

Now, to debunk one of several myths: ML is not new; the term was coined in 1959 and has been used pervasively in the tech industry for decades.  However, growth in the popularity of the Python programming language, which is open-source, free, and offers a number of user-friendly machine learning packages, has fueled interest in the concept.

One result has been the proliferation of machine learning techniques and their (purported) use in quantitative investment applications.  At Brinker, we’ve come across more than a handful of managers using machine learning: the use of random forest classification to identify the likelihood that a company will cut its dividend, or forecasting of market volatility regimes through Markov chain Monte Carlo methods.  However, we would be remiss to mention that for every manager that usefully employs machine learning, there are a half-dozen others that simply like being able to include it in a slide in their strategy’s pitch-book.  Bloomberg bluntly articulated this recently: “Hedge Funds Beware: Most Machine Learning Talk Is Really ‘Hokum’.”  A healthy dose of skepticism is warranted.

That engenders a second key point: when interacting with managers who profess to use ML in their everyday process, ask as many “dumb” questions as possible.  In layman’s terms, can you describe what’s going on “under the hood”?  Why did you select this model in particular?  While the mathematics behind certain models can be quite hairy, the high-level intuition should not be.  And lastly, while machine learning hasn’t yet been fully commoditized, that doesn’t mean you should be paying a 2 & 20 fee to access its capabilities.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: Will the drama in Washington, DC upend the economic recovery and market rally?

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 2, 2017), Tim addresses a question top of mind for many investors.

Quick hits:

  • When it comes to politics, Brinker Capital is agnostic. Our focus is on understanding the economic and political environment we are operating in, while best positioning our portfolios regardless of the party in power.
  • We see the Trump Administration’s agenda as largely supportive of an optimistic outlook on the U.S. economy and market.
  • If Republicans fail in advancing their legislative agenda, risk assets should still benefit from two significant political tail winds:
    1. A more benign regulatory environment
    2. Certainty around federal tax rates
  • While the economic recovery and bull market are both long lived, we continue to see the weight of the evidence as supporting further expansion and price gains.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: One market has made some major headlines in recent days: Bitcoin

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Andrew Rosenberger, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 30, 2017), Andy discusses how Bitcoin isn’t necessarily something that we consider a long-term investable asset for our client portfolios, but it’s certainly been an attention grabber as of late.

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Quick hits:

  • After crossing the $2,200 per bitcoin mark on Monday, I had no less than 3 separate conversations after an article was released on how if you had purchased $100 dollars worth of bitcoin in 2010, it would be worth $72.9 million dollars today.
  • Bitcoin is a digital currency, not backed by any central government or entity, and it relies on a community of supporters to maintain the infrastructure.
  • The underlying technology behind bitcoin is getting the attention of many major players including banks, credit card companies, and technology giants.

For Andy’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Memorial Day: A time to remember

Noreen D. BeamanNoreen D. Beaman, Chief Executive Officer

Did you know? The original meaning behind Memorial Day, which was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, was to set aside time to remember the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving the United States of America. We encourage all of you to take a moment over the weekend to remember the true meaning of the holiday and honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

In observance of Memorial Day, Brinker Capital will be closed on Monday, May 29.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

 

Investment Insights Podcast: A quick review of April markets

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Leigh Lowman, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 5, 2017), Leigh provides a quick review of April markets.

Quick hits:

  • After drifting lower for most of the month, risk assets rallied at the end of April and finished in positive territory.
  • The French election spurred a rebound in markets when both Republican and Socialist candidates were edged out in favor of a Centralist candidate.
  • On the domestic side, markets were relatively quiet.
  • We currently find a number of factors currently supportive of the economy and markets.

For Leigh’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

 

Investment Insights Podcast: The rally in risk assets continues

Chris HartHart_Podcast_338x284, Senior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 28, 2017), Chris discusses what has been the driving force behind the rally in April.

 

Quick hits:

  • The rally in April, despite a brief pause to begin the month, has been driven by positive macroeconomic data, better S&P earnings, and the potential for corporate tax reform.
  • From an equity perspective, stocks have moved higher despite increasing geopolitical risk both domestically and abroad.
  • We remain constructive on risk assets given good enough underlying macroeconomic data but also take notice of rising geopolitical tensions and continued lofty valuations across the equity markets.
  • Looking abroad, developed markets and emerging markets equities have rebounded solidly and now lead the U.S. thus far in 2017.
  • Within fixed income, the aggregate bond index has surprisingly moved higher along with equity markets, while high yield continues to lead.
  • We are keeping a watchful eye on rising global geopolitical tensions, but also note good breadth in the domestic equity markets and stronger corporate earnings.

For the rest of Chris’s insight, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: What’s right: The hard or soft data?

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 21, 2017), Tim addresses an ongoing stock market and economic debate that has been widely reported on by the media – “What’s right: the hard or soft data?”.

Quick hits:

  • One of the more contentious market topics of late has been the divergence between hard and soft economic data – and which data set is correct about near term and future economic performance.
  • Hard data refers to quantifiable economic data points such as GDP and retail sales. Soft data refer to surveys of how consumers and businesses feel about current and future economic prospects.  The former has been a bit disappointing of late while the latter has been coming in at multi-year highs.
  • We believe that ultimately the hard data will close the gap with the soft data, reflecting a strengthening economy. We would also point out that several hard data points reflect a robust US economy, including the unemployment rate.
  • We remain constructive on risk assets and see little in the way of typical excesses that would suggest a bear market or recession are imminent.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: A few things we’re paying close attention to right now

Goins_PodcastAndrew Goins, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 13, 2017), Andrew discusses a few things we’re paying close attention to right now.

 

shutterstock_9514525Quick hits:

  • After two Fed rate hikes within 4 months, we’re seeing a bit of a reversal.  We’ve seen empirical evidence highlighting the improvement across active managers in the first quarter.
  • Over the last few months we’ve seen correlations across stocks come down significantly, and is now at the lowest level since 2001.
  • We are beginning to see signs that inflation is ticking up, and should only continue if Trump’s pro-growth policies come to fruition
  • The market is likely overdue for a near term pull-back and we are somewhere in the back half of this business cycle

For Andrew’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

April 2017 market and economic review and outlook

lowmanLeigh Lowman, Investment Manager

Risk assets finished the quarter in strong positive territory but experienced a pullback in March after notably strong performance for the first two months of the year. In a widely anticipated move, the Fed increased interest rates by 25 basis points on March 15 and rhetoric alluded to the possibility of an additional 2-3 rate hikes this year. However, headlines during the quarter were dominated by speculation surrounding the Trump administration economic plan. After initially surging in the post-election market, investor confidence began to wane as pro-growth policies have yet to come to fruition. Efforts to reform Obamacare were thwarted just prior to the Congress vote on March 24, but uncertainty still remains on the future of healthcare. Overall, economic data remains positive with low unemployment and positive earnings reports and we continue to see signs of improved global growth.

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The S&P 500 Index was flat for the month but finished the quarter up 6.1%. Sector performance was mixed with the technology sector (+12.6%) posting double-digit returns for the quarter. Likewise, healthcare (+8.4%) posted strong quarter returns, a sharp reversal from the sector’s poor performance last year. Energy was negative for both the month (-1.0%) and the quarter (-6.7%). Financials lagged in March (-2.8%) but remained positive for the quarter (+2.5%). Growth outperformed value and large cap led both mid and small cap.

Developed international equity outperformed domestic equity for both the month and quarter, up 2.9% in March and 7.4% for the first quarter. Economic data leaned positive for the European Union and Japan as both regions experienced a pick-up in global earnings and nominal growth. Recent outcomes of European regional elections may also have signaled a weakening in the populist movement, but political uncertainty is still apparent as upcoming elections begin to unfold.

Emerging markets were up 2.6% for the month and 11.5% for the quarter. The region rebounded from a difficult fourth quarter as fears of US protectionism began to dissipate.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was flat for the month and up 0.8% for the quarter. During the month, the 10 year Treasury yield rose as high as 2.6% in anticipation of the Fed raising interest rates, but finished the quarter at 2.4%, slightly lower than where it started in 2017. After steadily contracting during the first two months of the year, high yield spreads slightly widened in March but still remain at relatively low levels. Municipal bonds outperformed taxable bonds during the quarter, largely due to limited supply and solid demand.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term, although we acknowledge we are in the later innings of the bull market and the second half of the business cycle. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and recession is not our base case, especially considering the potential of reflationary policies from the new administration, the risks must not be ignored.

We find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Reflationary fiscal policies: With the new administration and an all-Republican government, we expect fiscal policy expansion in 2017, including tax cuts, repatriation of foreign sourced profits, increased infrastructure and defense spending, and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Global growth improving: U.S. economic growth is ticking higher and there are signs growth outside of the U.S., in both developed and emerging markets, is improving.
  • Business confidence has increased:  Measures like CEO Confidence and NFIB Small Business Optimism have spiked since the election. This typically leads to additional project spending and hiring, which should boost growth.
  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: The Federal Reserve is taking a careful approach to policy normalization. ECB and Bank of Japan balance sheets expanded in 2016 and central banks remain supportive of growth.

However, risks facing the economy and markets remain, including:

  • Administration unknowns: While the upcoming administration’s policies are currently being viewed favorably, uncertainties remain. The market may be too optimistic that all of the pro-growth policies anticipated will come to fruition. We are unsure how Trump’s trade policies will develop, and there is the possibility for geopolitical missteps.
  • Risk of policy mistake: The Federal Reserve has begun to slowly normalize monetary policy, but the future path of rates is still unclear. Should inflation move significantly higher, there is also the risk that the Fed falls behind the curve. The ECB and the Bank of Japan could also disappoint market participants, bringing the credibility of central banks into question.

The technical backdrop of the market is favorable, credit conditions are supportive, and we have started to see some acceleration in economic growth. So far Trump’s policies are being seen as pro-growth, and investor confidence has improved. We expect higher volatility to continue as we digest the onset of new policies under the Trump administration and the actions of central banks, but our view on risk assets remains positive over the intermediate term. Higher volatility can lead to attractive pockets of opportunity we can take advantage of as active managers.

Source: Brinker Capital. Views expressed are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change. Not all asset classes referenced in this material may be represented in your portfolio. Indices are unmanaged and an investor cannot invest directly in an index. All investments involve risk including loss of principal. Fixed income investments are subject to interest rate and credit risk. Foreign securities involve additional risks, including foreign currency changes, political risks, foreign taxes, and different methods of accounting and financial reporting.

Barclays Municipal Bond Index: A market-weighted index, maintained by Barclays Capital, used to represent the broad market for investment grade, tax-exempt bonds with a maturity of over one year. Such index will have different level of volatility than the actual investment portfolio. S&P 500: An index consisting of 500 stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry grouping, among other factors. The S&P 500 is designed to be a leading indicator of U.S. equities and is meant to reflect the risk/return characteristics of the large-cap universe. Companies included in the Index are selected by the S&P Index Committee, a team of analysts and economists at Standard & Poor’s. World Index Ex-U.S. includes both developed and emerging markets. Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate: A market capitalization-weighted index, maintained by Bloomberg Barclays, and is often used to represent investment grade bonds being traded in the United States.

Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.