Investment Insights Podcast: May 2018 market and economic outlook

Leigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 11, 2018), Leigh provides a brief review of April markets.

 

Quick hits:

  • Higher market volatility persisted throughout April with risk asset performance mixed
  • The S&P 500 Index was up 0.4% for the month and down -0.4% year-to-date
  • Developed international equities as measured by the MSCI EAFE Index was up 2.4% in April and is outperforming domestic equities year-to-date
  • The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was down -0.7% as fears of inflation and rising interest rates created headwinds for traditional fixed income securities
  • Overall we remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term as macroeconomic data continues to lean positive

Listen_Icon  Listen to the abbreviated audio recording.

Read_Icon  Read the full May Market and Economic Outlook.

market outlook (7)

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.

 

Why outcomes beat fear

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

It seems to be human nature to be fascinated by pathology. Sigmund Freud began his study of the human psyche by outlining how it was broken (hint: your Mom) and the discipline continued down that path for over a century. It was roughly 150 years before the study of clinical psychology was offset at all by the study of what we now call “positive psychology” – the study of what makes us happy, strong, and exceptional. Perhaps it is no surprise then that behavioral finance too began with the study of the anomalous and is only now coming around to a more solution-focused ideal. While a thorough review of the transition from efficient to behavioral approaches isn’t why we are here, it’s worth considering the rudiments of these ideas and how we can improve upon them.

For decades, the prevailing economic theories espoused a view of Economic Man as rational, utility maximizing, and self-interested. On these simple (if unrealistic) assumptions, economists built mathematical models of exceeding elegance but limited real-world applicability. It all worked beautifully, until it didn’t. Goaded only by a belief in the predictability of Economic Man, The Smartest People in the Room picked up pennies in front of steamrollers – until they got flattened.

On the strength of hedge fund implosions, multiple manias with accompanying crashes and mounting evidence of human irrationality, Economic Man begin to give way to Behavioral Man. Behavioral proponents began to document the flaws of investors with the same righteous zeal with which proponents of market efficiency had previously defended the aggregate wisdom of the crowd. At my last count, psychologists and economists had uncovered 117 documented biases capable of obscuring lucid financial decision-making. One hundred and seventeen different ways for you to get it wrong.

But the problem with all this Ivory Tower philosophizing is that none of it truly helps investors. For a clinical psychologist, a diagnosis is a necessary but far from sufficient part of a treatment plan. No shrink worth his $200 an hour would label you pathological and show you the door, yet that is largely what behavioral finance has given the investing public: a surfeit of pathology and a shortage of outcomes.

To consider firsthand the futility of being told only what not to do, let’s try the following.

“Do not think of a pink elephant.”

What happened as you read the first sentence of this section? Odds are, you did the very thing I asked you not to do – you imagined a pink elephant. How disappointing! You could have imagined any number of things – you had infinity minus one option – and yet you still disobeyed my simple request. Sigh. Oh well, I haven’t given up on you yet, so let’s try one more time.

“Do not, whatever you do, imagine a large purple elephant with a parasol daintily tiptoeing across a highwire connecting two tall buildings in a large metropolitan area.”

You did it again, didn’t you?

All feigned anger aside, what you just experienced was the very natural tendency to imagine and even ruminate on something, even when you know you oughtn’t. Consider the person on a diet who has created a lengthy list of “bad” foods. He may, for instance, repeat the mantra, “I will not eat a cookie. I will not eat a cookie. I will not eat a cookie.” any time he experiences the slightest temptation.

But what is the net effect of all his self-flagellating rumination? Effectively he has thought about cookies all day and is likely to cave at the first sign of an Oreo. The research is unequivocal that a far more effective approach is to reorient that behavior into something desirable rather than repeat messages of self-denial that ironically keep the “evil” object top of mind. Unfortunately for investors in a panic, there are far more histrionic “Don’t do this!” messages than constructive “Do this instead”, which is where The Center for Outcomes comes in. At the Brinker Capital Center for Outcomes, we have taken behavioral finance out of the textbooks and are putting it in the hands of advisors where it belongs. By utilizing our empirically-based, four-step process, advisors are given specific tools for communicating with clients in a persuasive manner. Click here to learn how to say “Yes” to outcomes.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Opinions represented are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security and are subject to change without notice.  

Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor. 

Investment Insights Podcast: The 60/40 portfolio in a world of rising rates, falling bond prices & increasing volatility

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 27, 2018),
Tim takes a closer look at the 60/40 portfolio, including how the past few years were particularly conducive to such an approach to portfolio construction and why we have likely just entered a more challenging period for this model.

Quick hits:

  • Over the past few years, both bonds and stocks moved higher in value, really an ideal – and unusual – environment for a 60/40 approach.
  • We think 2018 marks the beginning of a tougher road for the 60/40 portfolio.
  • We also think 2018 marks the beginning of a more favorable environment for Brinker Capital’s approach to portfolio construction and asset allocation.
  • We remain constructive on the outlook for both the economy and risk assets as we move through 2018.

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

 

investment podcast (26)

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: Investing a lump sum of cash

Raupp_F_150x150
Jeff Raupp, CFA
Director of Investments

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 20, 2018),
Jeff discusses the pros and cons of investing a lump sum immediately versus systematically investing an equal amount monthly.

Quick hits:

  • Almost 75% of the time an investor did better with the lump sum investment, with an average return after 12 months of about 8%, versus 4.2% for systematic investing.
  • A systematic plan may make sense for some, as it establishes a strategy for getting into the markets and takes emotion out of the equation.

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

investment podcast (25)

Performance returns source: Brinker Capital.
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: 1Q18

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.

QEnd_Video_580x327_v2

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: April 2018 market and economic outlook

Leigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 13, 2018), Leigh provides a brief review of March markets.

 

Quick hits:

  • After a tumultuous quarter, most asset classes ended slightly negative.
  • The S&P 500 Index finished the quarter slightly negative with sector performance largely negative.
  • Developed international equities were negative for the quarter, underperforming domestic equities.
  • Rising interest rates and fears of inflation led to volatile conditions for fixed income markets during the first quarter.
  • Despite the volatility experienced recently, we remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term.

Listen_Icon  Listen to the audio recording.

Read_Icon  Read the full April Market and Economic Outlook.

market outlook (6)

 

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.

 

Dinner with Janet

By: Chuck Widger, Founder & Executive Chairman

Yellen_small-2On April 4, I joined a group of 15 private sector investors for a dinner with former Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Dr. Janet Yellen. It was a delightful, insightful, interesting, and informative evening. Below is a mix of her thoughts on the economy, Fed policy, and where we are headed. I am also noting important policy nuances raised by a couple of her core economic policy principles.

Yellen has a positive outlook on the economy. She sees economic growth in 2018 and 2019 at +2.5% and +2.8%, respectively. She described the economy and the labor market to be in excellent shape and expects tax cuts and spending to lift real GDP in 2018 and 2019 by one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point above the economy’s current growth rate of 2.6%. The labor market is almost at full employment, with the potential for the unemployment rate to drop another 0.6% to a level of 3.5%. However, the labor force participation rate may not improve because of structural reasons.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Fed will continue on its current path and pursue a total of three increases in the Fed Funds rate this year. What might those extraordinary circumstances be? While Yellen believes there is not a lot of pressure on margins from wage costs and thus no present inflation problems, overheating from all the stimulus is a possibility. Faster growth and a tighter labor market could cause the Fed to make a policy mistake. Significantly faster and greater increases in interest rates could (and they have in the past) chill growth and lead to a recession.

In discussing the economy and Fed policy-making, Yellen showed appealing humility. She acknowledged that our monetary leaders bring their best judgment not an absolute certainty to making policy choices. For example, while commenting on the natural rate of interest, she observed, “What if it’s higher than I/we anticipate? While I have a view on what it is, I do not have absolute certainty.” Humility combined with significant intellectual talent is always an appealing character trait.

So, what are the nuances? Two points stood out. First, her emphasis on the Phillips curve as the only actual framework for understanding the relationship between inflation and unemployment, and second, her view that tax reduction and full capital expensing will have little supply-side effect on economic growth. Both raise important policy distinctions between Keynesian and supply-side economics.

Keynesian economists put greater emphasis on the Fed’s ability to fine tune the economy than supply-siders. In contrast, supply-siders favor letting the natural forces in a market economy do their thing. Yellen’s emphatic statement endorsing the Phillips Curve as the only framework for predicting the tradeoffs between unemployment and inflation is quite Keynesian. For example, if unemployment is high, the policy choice is to reduce interest rates and increase the money supply to create demand and thereby reduce the unemployment rate with little impact on inflation. This is fine-tuning through government intervention.

phillips-curve-2Yellen similarly sees the tax reform’s rate reduction as increasing demand and thereby spurring demand because consumers have more to spend. Tax reform and full capital expensing will provide only a small spur to economic growth through increased production by businesses.

Supply-side economists, like the new Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors Larry Kudlow, beg to differ. They believe when businesses produce and sell more because they have more after-tax cash, they create more demand through the purchases they make and the increased wages they pay. Supply-siders really aren’t interested in the demand side of the supply-demand equation because supply will create its own demand. Therefore, there is not much need for the Fed to “fine tune” the economy. Market forces will balance and grow the economy naturally.

These are important nuances. They reflect an economist’s view on the extent to which the Fed (and the federal government) should intervene in the economy.

The reality is there is something to each of these frameworks. The emphasis on application is, and should be, a matter of degree. There are very few absolutes in economics. The pragmatic application of theory works best.

Below are a few additional pieces of information from our discussion with Dr. Yellen.

  • For the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) there is plenty of blame to go around. The Fed failed to supervise the banking system and the shadow banking system. Our banking system engaged in poor practices and pursued unaligned incentives (bad behavior). And, the markets demanded high cash returns through CDAs and mortgage-backed securities.
  • The safety net placed under the financial system post-GFC has not been endangered by the deregulation pursued by the new administration.
  • Current worries are to the upside. An “overheating” economy is of more concern than undershooting the Fed’s inflation target.
  • Another worry is the Fed continues to conduct an accommodation experiment. As it increases rates, it must balance the different risks of slowing the economy and stoking inflation.
  • The Fed is now trying to engineer a “soft landing from below.”
  • Bitcoin is speculative excess according to Yellen. One dinner guest suggested interested investors should consult the 17th Century Dutch tulip bulb mania when considering bitcoin investments.

Yellen is to be thanked for her public service and her leadership as Chair of the Federal Reserve. A record of good stewardship of a vital US institution by a personable, highly intelligent public servant offers a refreshing reinforcement of public trust in a vital US institution.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Opinions represented are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security and are subject to change without notice.  

Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor. 

Chart source: The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. DK Publishing, 2012. pg.203

Retirement mind shifts: Be prepared so you can change your mind

CookPaul-150-x-150Paul Cook, AIF®, Vice President and Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

If you’ve ever experienced a mind shift, you know what is meant by the saying, “there’s nothing as powerful as a change of mind.” This “ah ha” moment or mind shift is a change in focus and perception of a problem, situation, or potential solutions. Some mind shifts happen after experiencing a lightning-strike-like insight, while others evolve over time.

Recent research suggests that many individuals experience a mind shift as they approach retirement, resulting in a retirement earlier than planned and no transition period.

Retiring early  

In MassMutual’s study, Hopes, fears, and reality: What workers expect in retirement and what steps help them achieve the retirement they want, nearly half (45%) of the respondents said they retired earlier than planned.[1] In their younger years, the respondents said they believed they would work as long as possible. However, as time evolved, they changed their minds, experiencing a ‘work can retire you’ mind shift, leading them to retire early. Other factors also contributed to the number of retirees who retired earlier than planned. Changes in technology and changes at work were among the primary reasons people chose early retirement. A fair number (39%) of respondents retired early because they could afford to do so.

Even though they didn’t retire how and when they wanted, 79% of the survey respondents had no regrets about retiring when they did.

Scrapping the transition 

Many pre-retirees expect to gradually ease into retirement, or find other work once retired. A gradual transition, however, was not in the cards for the vast majority of those surveyed.  Seventy-one percent of the survey respondents stopped working all at once. They also found several barriers to re-entry into the workforce once retired, including an inability to keep pace with technology, and age discrimination.

A transitional or gradual approach appeals more when further from retirement. The closer the retirement date becomes, the more likely respondents were to say they would stop work all at once. When retirement is 11-15 years in the future, only 29% thought they would forgo a transition and retire “cold turkey.” When retirement was five to 10 years in the future, 35% said they would stop working all together at retirement, and when retirement was only five or fewer years in the future, over half (52%) said they would not continue working on any basis in retirement.

These survey results underscore the need to start saving for retirement early so you have a strong financial foundation in place well before your targeted retirement date. With a suitable financial backdrop, comes the financial freedom to abandon plans to “stick out” work until a certain target retirement date. Instead, you could follow through on your mind shifts, reimagine your retirement to focus on outcomes, and pursue new goals and opportunities.

Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services works with advisors to offer plan sponsors the solutions to help participants reach their retirement goals. When plan sponsors appoint Brinker Capital as the ERISA 3(38) investment manager, this allows them to transfer fiduciary responsibility for the selection and management of their investments so they can focus on the best interests of their employees.  This fiduciary responsibility is something that Brinker Capital has acknowledged, in writing, since our founding in 1987. To learn more about Brinker Capital Retirement Plan Services, 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.

[1] “Hopes, fears, and reality: What workers expect in retirement and what steps help them achieve the retirement they want” MassMutual 2016.

Investment Insights Podcast: As the first quarter comes to a close…


Andrew Goins
Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 29, 2018), Andrew reviews the markets as the first quarter comes to a close.

Quick hits:

  • January was very much a continuation of the momentum driven market of 2017, with the S&P 500 up 5.73% for the month, but that all changed as we rolled into February.
  • In addition to fears over trade wars and tariffs, a privacy scandal at Facebook as well as rhetoric around increasing regulation on mega cap tech companies has wreaked havoc on the FAANG stocks.
  • Despite the more recent weakness in the tech sector, growth stocks are still ahead of value so far this year.
  • We believe that active managers are positioned well to continue to take advantage of the higher volatility that is likely here to stay and should benefit as investors put a premium on quality and valuation.

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

investment podcast (24)

This is not a recommendation for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. These securities are shown for illustrative purposes only.

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.

Getting your investments up to bat

Williams 150x150Dan Williams, CFA, CFPInvestment Analyst

With spring comes my favorite time of the year. Yes, the weather improves and the days get longer. However, for me, it is baseball season and corresponding fantasy baseball season that excites me. Baseball more than the other major sports is a game of statistics. It is engineered to be a series of one on one duels between a hitter and a pitcher such that individual contributions can be isolated. However, much like investing, a focus on the short-term and randomness leads even the most astute into a false knowledge of skill, and it is only through long-term analysis can truer knowledge be gained.

Consider a single at-bat between a hitter and a pitcher. The outcome is going to be a hit, an out, or a walk. If a hit occurs, especially if a home run, it is assumed that at least at that moment the hitter is very good and the pitcher is very bad. If an out occurs it is assumed the reverse. If a walk occurs the hitter has managed the least favorable of the positive outcomes and the pitcher has let the least unfavorable of negative outcomes happen. There is additional analysis that can be taken into the semantics of these three outcomes but the point remains that we have a data point of an individual success or failure. Similarly, in investing over the course of a quarter or year of performance of an investment fund we have an outperformance, underperformance, or an approximate market return relative to the corresponding benchmark and again additional stats can be gleaned from the performance such as standard deviation, upside capture, or attribution by sector selection vs. security selection.

In both cases after a short time period, a game for a hitter/starting pitcher or a quarter of performance for an investment fund, the temptation is very strong to extrapolate the just observed outcomes into the future. A successful hitter could have been lucky or was going against a poor pitcher (or a good pitcher who was having an off day). Similarly, an investment fund could have made a few lucky stock picks or was in a market environment that simply worked well with the strategy’s style of investing.

getting your investments up to bat

So does this mean we ignore the statistics of the short-term? That is, of course, foolish as the short-term is what happens as we build the data for the long-term. We always want to know what happened as it helps guide us to what will happen. It is simply wise to temper the conclusions we can draw from data over short periods. It is also humbling to know that even with ample data that can provide very close to proof of past greatness, it can never be fully relied on to provide future insight. At this point, I would say we have enough data to say Babe Ruth was a very good baseball player. However, he has been dead for about 70 years (so he is in a bit of a slump) and even if we through the miracle of science could resurrect a 30-year-old Babe Ruth, it is not a certainty he would achieve the same greatness in today’s baseball landscape. Similarly, an investment fund or strategy type that achieved great success over the long-term in the past may not achieve it in the future.

So where does this leave us? The recognition of great skill recognized solely in the short-term is unreliable and the great confidence we can achieve through the very long-term analysis thereof is not very useful. This leaves us striving for the middle ground. We look at performance data of at least a few market cycles and we additionally gain extra insight through qualitative data by talking to our investment managers and understanding the how of what they do. Through this process, we strive to send the right people up to bat and hopefully, we deliver more winning than losing seasons.

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.