Investment Insights Podcast: The US economy accelerates in Q2. Will the momentum continue?

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded July 30, 2018),
Tim discusses why the underlying components of the GDP growth report were most encouraging and speaks to why the US economy should continue to perform well into 2019.

Quick hits:

  • During Q2 the US savings rate was a very healthy 6.8%, this should keep the US consumer on firm financial footing, a key development when one considers the US economy is 70% consumer driven.
  • Both housing and inventories detracted from economic growth during Q2.
  • Nonresidential fixed investment – which is another way of saying spending by corporate America – increased a very healthy 7.3% during Q2, after rising an even stronger 11.5% in Q1.

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

investment podcast (31)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.

Vlog – Quarter End Q&A: 2Q18

Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, asks and answers those questions we think will be top of mind for clients as they open their quarterly statements and think back on the quarter that was:

  1. Why did US equities rebound in Q2?
  2. Why did Emerging Market equities struggle during Q2?
  3. When will fixed income find its footing?

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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: July 2018 market and economic outlook

Leigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded July 13, 2018), Leigh provides a brief review of the second quarter.

 

Quick hits:

  • Volatility continued into the second quarter with risk asset performance mixed.
  • The Fed implemented a 25-basis point rate hike in June and revised its forecast from three to four rate hikes for 2018.
  • Concern over a more hawkish Fed coupled with increasing trade tensions will likely cause volatility to persist, but we expect fiscal stimulus and strong fundamentals will lead to positive economic growth over the intermediate-term.

Listen_Icon  Listen to the abbreviated audio recording.

Read_Icon  Read the full July Market and Economic Outlook.

 

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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.

 

Considering the use of benchmarks

Williams 150x150Dan Williams, CFA, CFPInvestment Analyst

A common, yet hard to answer, question for clients is “how are my investments doing?” By definition, the answer lies with benchmarks as a frame of reference but the semantics of their proper use often proves to be a stumbling block. Do you use a single broad index such as the S&P 500? Do you look at a risk equivalent blend of multiple broad indexes? Do you just look at the absolute return number? Additionally, do you look over the quarter, the year, or the decade of performance? Often the best way to properly use benchmarks is drilling down the context and the intent of this seemingly simple question.

This is to say, if the question is to assess how an investment portfolio is performing in the context of the current market environment, a blended benchmark of the neutral weights of a portfolio over a short time period is best. This is to say if you are looking at a large cap growth stock fund, you could look at the Russell 1000 Growth Index over the past quarter or year. If you wanted to judge a moderate risk portfolio with a neutral weight of 60% equity and 40% fixed income, you would turn to a blended benchmark of the same risk level over a similar period of time. However, while this shows how the portfolio is relatively performing currently, this comparison will serve as a poor judge of the true skill of the portfolio managers. Market conditions in the short-term favor different styles of investing over others. These preferences wax and wane over time with skilled managers proving their worth through the long-term of multiple market environments rather through every market environment.

Considering the use of benchmarks

As such, if the question is instead to evaluate the skill of a portfolio manager, the answer requires a much more rigorous analysis. You would like to see skill over various market environments and not just the current market environment. Accordingly, one of the many statistics that we look at is the percent of rolling 36-month periods that a strategy has outperformed its market benchmark. It is unreasonable to expect a strategy to outperform all such 3-year periods but a skilled manager should hope to do so more often than not. Additionally, looking at 7-year or longer time horizons provide a clearer view of how a manager faired after the dust has settled over one or more market cycles. As always looking at past performance only provides evidence of past skill and not necessarily future skill. The complete manager due diligence process extends beyond the numbers and requires additional work with regards to the qualitative characteristics of the managers and their organization.

A final way for this question to be asked is what should be most meaningful to the client. Specifically, how are the investments doing with regards to accomplishing the clients’ financial goals? Here we leave the market-based indexes behind and instead look to the absolute return numbers to determine if purchasing power is growing at a pace consistent with the investments savings goals. The time horizon of the evaluation should be consistent with the time horizon of the goal. In practice, a conservative portfolio that strives to deliver 3-5% a year for a goal that is 3-4 years away, should be evaluated by whether after 3-4 years if this return mandate is met. Similarly, an aggressive portfolio that strives to deliver 7-9% for a goal that is more than 10 years in the future should be evaluated over a period of at least 10 years against this return mandate. These return mandates could be further tweaked to be a spread in excess of inflation or a risk-free rate as clients’ goals are best defined as a growth in purchasing power rather than just a raw performance number.

It is clear that there is no one right way to tell clients how their investments are doing. Hopefully though helping clients define their “how are my investments doing” question can improve the relevance of the benchmarks and time horizons used to give an answer.

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: What’s submerging Emerging Markets?

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded July 6, 2018),
Tim discusses why 2018 is proving to be a very different story for EM equities relative to US and developed international equities.

Quick hits:

  • The MSCI EM Index is off approximately 6.5% year-to-date compared to a gain of 2.7% for the S&P 500 and a more modest loss of 2.4% for the MSCI EAFE, through the end of the second quarter.
  • While the volatility that accompanies EM equities can be unnerving, the long-term wealth building power of the asset class has been extraordinary.

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: Despite the noise and market volatility, it’s so far so good economically

Amy Magnotta, CFASenior Vice President, Brinker Capital

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 28, 2018), Amy discusses the recent noise and market volatility.

Quick hits:

  • We’ve seen a pickup in volatility again in global equity markets over the last week due to the unclear strategy toward global trade.
  • There are continued signs of strength in the US economy.
  • While we are in the latter half of the cycle, we continue to believe that the growth tailwinds are supportive of the markets, and risk assets, over the near term.

For Amy’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.

Is there any wisdom in the crowd?

Crosby_2015-150x150Dr. Daniel Crosby Executive Director, The Center for Outcomes & Founder, Nocturne Capital

“Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable – as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead.” – Friedrich Von Schiller

I travel roughly once a week to conferences where, in addition to eating overcooked chicken, I am typically asked to speak to financial advisors about the foundations of behavioral finance. As anyone who travels for business well knows, it can be tricky in a new city to try and determine where best to eat, sleep, or watch a show. And while many nice hotels provide a concierge to guide you, the concierge’s advice is ultimately limited by the fact that it is just one person’s opinion. Having been steered amiss more than once by a concierge with a palate less sophisticated than my own (for surely it could not have been MY taste that was in question), I quickly learned to harness the power of the crowdsourced review. Apps like Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Rotten Tomatoes provide aggregated reviews that guide diners and moviegoers to restaurants and films that have received consensus acclaim.

While I may not always agree with the taste of any individual concierge or my local newspaper’s movie reviewer, I have never been disappointed with a movie or dish that has received widespread approval. In things that matter most (i.e., food and movies), there is wisdom in the crowd.

But the power of crowd thinking is not limited to picking out a tasty schnitzel or deciding whether to watch Dude, Where’s My Car? (18% on Rotten Tomatoes) – it is the bedrock upon which the most successful political systems are built. Sir Winston Churchill famously opined that, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” a sentiment heard in many forms at election time. So why then has democracy proven to be so successful (or at least not entirely unsuccessful) over long periods of time? Why is it, paraphrasing Churchill again, “the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”? The answer is once again in the tendency of the crowd to be more wise, ethical, tolerant, and gracious than the sum of its parts. The alternatives, political systems like oligarchy and monarchy, live and die with the strengths or weaknesses of the few, which is a much higher risk/reward proposition than democracy. The average voter may be unimpressive, but the average of the averages tends to be the best game in town.

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If crowd wisdom can help us solve complex decisional problems and provides us with good-enough government, it seems intuitive that it has something to offer most investors, right? Wrong. Once again, the rules of Wall Street Bizarro World turn conventional logic on its head and require us to operate from a different set of assumptions.

Why is it then that a qualitative gap exists between investment and culinary decisions? Richard Thaler, behavioral economist par excellence, has identified four qualities that make appropriate decision-making difficult. They are:

  • We see the benefits now but the costs later
  • The decision is made infrequently
  • The feedback is not immediate
  • The language is not clear

Choosing a nice meal consists of clear language (“Our special tonight is deep-fried and smothered in cheese”), immediate feedback (“OMG! This is so good”), is made frequently (3 times daily, more if you’re like me), and has a mix of immediate and delayed costs (“That will be $27” or “I should have quit after three rolls”).

An investment decision, on the other hand, violates every single one of Thaler’s conditions. It consists of intentionally confusing language (What does “market neutral” even mean?), has a massively delayed feedback loop (decades if you’re smart), is made very infrequently (thanks for the inheritance, Aunt Mable), and has benefits that are delayed to the point that we can scarcely conceive of them (36-year-old me can scarcely conceive of the 80-year-old me that will spend this money). The crowd can provide us excellent advice on selecting a meal because it is a decision that is frequently made with results that are instantly known. Conversely, the wisdom or foolishness of a given investment decision may not be made manifest for years, meaning that the impatient crowd may have little wisdom to offer.

As we might expect from Professor Thaler’s research, the crowd gets it all wrong when deciding when to enter and exit the stock market. They enter at the time of immediate pleasure and long-term pain (bull markets) and leave at the time of immediate pain and long-term pleasure (bear markets). In A Wealth of Common Sense, Ben Carlson relates a study performed by the Federal Reserve that examined fund flows from 1984 to 2012. Unsurprisingly, “they found that most investors poured money into the markets after large gains and pulled money out after sustaining losses – a buy high, sell low debacle of a strategy.” Yet again we see that preferring the rules of every day to those of Wall Street Bizarro World means trading cheap emotional comfort for enduring poverty.

Jared Diamond’s book Collapse recounts the story of a people who tried to do what so many investors attempt in WSBW – inflexibly imposing their preferred way of life on an incompatible system. Diamond tells the story of the Norse, a once powerful group of people who left their homes in Norway and Iceland to settle in Greenland. The Vikings, who aren’t exactly known for their humility, doggedly pushed forward – razing forests, plowing land and building homes – activities that robbed cattle of grazable farmland and depleted the few extant natural resources. Worse still, the Norse ignored the wisdom of the indigenous Inuit people, scorning their ways as primitive compared to what they viewed as a more refined European approach to farming and construction. By ignoring the means by which the native people fed and clothed themselves, the Norse perished in a land of unrecognized plenty, victims of their own arrogance.

Like a Norseman in Greenland, you find yourself of necessity in a land with bizarre customs, some of which make little sense. This land is one in which less is more, the future is more predictable than the present and the wisdom of your peers must be roundly ignored. It is a lonely place that requires consistency, patience, and self-denial, none of which come easily to the human family. But it is a land you must tame if you are to live comfortably and compound your efforts. The laws of investing are few in number and easy enough to learn, but will initially feel uncomfortable in application. It won’t be easy but it is surely worth it – and it is all within your power.

The Center for Outcomes, powered by Brinker Capital, has prepared a system to help advisors employ the value of behavioral alpha across all aspects of their work – from business development to client service and retention. To learn more about The Center for Outcomes and Brinker Capital, call us at 800.333.4573.

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: We are likely in the 7th inning of this game

Chris HartSenior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 15, 2018), Chris discusses what we should expect in the later half of the cycle.

 

Quick hits:

  • In a widely anticipated move last week, the Fed raised its policy rate by 25 basis points up to a range of 1.75% to 2.0%.
  • It is important to remember that late in the cycle, by definition, means that there is still room for growth and expansion.
  • The Fed has to walk a tight path as it works to balance the risk of overtightening and choking off economic growth with the risk of overheating the economy.
  • Regardless of whether you tend to lean dovish or hawkish, there are indicators in the fixed income markets to watch for that help assess the potential for recession in the intermediate term.
  • Regardless of one’s opinion on policy and interest rates, we have consistently highlighted a theme of the road to interest rate normalization and the risks of policy uncertainty.

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.

Vlog – Where risks reside

Tim Holland, Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategists, discusses the near-term risks to the US economy and the market as we approach the halfway point of 2018.

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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: June 2018 market and economic outlook

Leigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 8, 2018), Leigh provides a brief review of May markets.

 

Quick hits:

  • Political risk dominated headlines with uncertainty escalating around the Trump administration trade policy, increasing tensions between the US and its trading partners.
  • The S&P 500 was up 2.4% for the month and up 2.0% year to date.
  • Developed international equities as measured by the MSCI EAFE Index was down -2.1% in May and is lagging domestic equities year-to-date.
  • The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was positive for the month but is down -1.5% year-to-date.
  • Overall, we remain constructive on risk assets over the intermediate-term but recognize more normalized volatility will likely continue throughout the year.

Listen_Icon  Listen to the abbreviated audio recording.

Read_Icon  Read the full June Market and Economic Outlook.

 

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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.