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.

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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.

 

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

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.

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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.

President Trump, trade & the markets…Is it time to hit the panic button?

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Tim Holland, CFASenior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 23, 2018), Tim discusses the Trump Administration’s trade policies and its impact on Brinker Capital’s portfolio positioning.

Quick hits:

  • Investors have been fixated on the Trump Administration’s trade policy. First, the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and now talk of much broader based action directed at China.
  • After rallying strongly off its February lows, the S&P 500 has been correcting on increasing concerns protectionist trade policies will torpedo consumer and corporate sentiment and spending, and ultimately the stock market.
  • We remain bullish on the economy and risk assets, including US stocks. Why? Simply put, the hard and soft economic data – or maybe said another way, reality, not rhetoric – tells us we should.
  • 4 BIG BOXES that help drive our thinking: fiscal policy, monetary policy, economic fundamentals, and sentiment.

For the rest of Tim’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: 1 in 9.2 quintillion

Chris HartSenior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded March, 16 2018), Chris talks about the parallels between March Madness and investing.

 

Quick hits:

  • Much like the task of filling out a perfect bracket, which currently stands at 1 in 9.2 quintillion, the chances of correctly predicting drivers of future returns is nearly impossible even for skilled investors.
  • Many have heard the term momentum in the stock markets, and behavioral finance will tell you that novice investors chase performance by allocating to last year’s winners under the guise that results for this year will be the same.
  • While picking the occasional upset is possible, most of the time fans are wrong relying on intuition or gut feel to pick an upset, and it costs them.
  • Brinker Capital knows how difficult it is to achieve successful outcomes, and has investment disciplines in place to help protect and build wealth over the long term.

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: March 2018 market and economic outlook

Leigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 9, 2018), Leigh provides a brief review of February markets.

 

Quick hits:

  • Market volatility came roaring back in February with the VIX index surging to levels last seen in 2015 and washing out signs of complacency that were present earlier in the year.
  • The S&P 500 Index finished the month down -3.7% and is up 1.8% year to date.
  • Developed international equities underperformed domestic equities for the month.
  • Within fixed income all sectors posted negative returns.
  • Overall, we continue to remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term.

Listen_Icon  Listen to the audio recording.

Read_Icon  Read the full March Market and Economic Outlook.

market outlook (2)

 

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 – Trade wars are bad for business; Fortunately, we aren’t in one, yet

Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, provides perspective on the Trump Administration’s tariff announcement.

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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: Fiscal policy takes the baton from monetary policy – What it means for the economy & risk assets

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded February 23, 2018), Tim takes a closer look at US fiscal policy and how it might impact the economy and markets as we move through 2018.

Quick hits:

  • For now, we see fiscal policy as a net positive for economic growth and risk assets, particularly equities.
  • We also don’t see interest rates and inflation as a risk to the economy and markets.
  • We do think rates are biased higher, which is one reason we are conservatively positioned within fixed income.
  • Increased investor concern over higher rates and inflation is driving greater market volatility, something we all lived through earlier this month.

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.

Vlog – Market volatility: It’s back! Why? And what comes next?

Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, provides perspective around recent market volatility, what triggered it and what impact it’s having on our thinking and portfolio positioning.

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.

February 2018 market and economic outlook

Lowman_FLeigh Lowman, CFA, Investment Manager

Despite the pick-up in volatility at the end of January, risk assets continued their upward ascent throughout the month. Expectations surrounding the implementation of the newly passed tax reform bill and the weakening US dollar served as positive catalysts for the month. Macroeconomic data was mixed; fourth quarter real GDP growth came in slightly below expectations but manufacturing activity accelerated and the US jobs report was positive. Although we have seen initial signs of rising inflation, levels remain subdued as low unemployment has yet to translate into meaningful wage growth. We expect the Federal Reserve (Fed) to remain on track with interest rate normalization and the positive, albeit choppy, market momentum we have seen to date indicates that markets can likely withstand an additional Fed rate hike in March.

The S&P 500 Index was up 5.7% for the month with cyclicals outperforming defensive sectors. Consumer discretionary (+9.3%) led while tax cuts and a solid job market served as positive catalysts. Information technology (+7.6%) and financials (+6.5%) also posted strong returns for the month. Utilities (-3.1%) and REITs (-2.0%) were down as traditional bond proxy sectors experienced headwinds amidst rising interest rates. Growth outperformed value and large-cap outperformed both mid-cap and small-cap equities.

Developed international equities (+5.0%) performed in line with domestic equities. Fundamentals within the Eurozone continued to improve and sentiment is high. The focus remains on European Central Bank policy and how the reduction of its quantitative easing purchases will impact markets. Emerging markets were up 8.3%. A weaker dollar and stronger demand for commodities served as tailwinds for both emerging Asia and Latin America regions.

Feb. 2018 Market Outlook

The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was down -1.2% for the month. Interest rates surged with 10-year Treasury yields increasing 31 basis points, ending the month at 2.7%. Tightening monetary policy and improving US growth expectations will likely continue to put upward pressure on the long end of the yield curve. High yield was the only sector to post positive returns in January, as credit spreads continued to grind tighter. Like taxable bonds, municipals were negative for the month.

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 this cycle has been longer in duration compared to history, the recovery we have experienced has been muted, supported by the extended recovery period. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives, the risks must not be ignored.

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

  • Pro-growth policies of the Administration: The Trump administration has delivered a new tax plan and a more benign regulatory environment. We could see additional government spending on infrastructure in 2018.
  • Synchronized global economic growth: Growth in the US has started to accelerate, and growth in both developed international and emerging economies has meaningfully improved. The tax cuts could also help to boost GDP growth in 2018.
  • Improvement in earnings growth: Corporate earnings growth has improved globally and corporate tax reform should further benefit US-based companies.
  • Elevated business sentiment: Measures like CEO Confidence and NFIB Small Business Optimism are at elevated levels. This typically leads to additional project spending and hiring, which should boost growth. The corporate tax cut should also benefit business confidence and lead to increased capital spending.

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

  • Fed tightening: The Fed will continue to tighten monetary policy, with at least three interest rate hikes priced in for 2018. We may see tightening from other global central banks as well.
  • Higher inflation: Current levels of inflation are muted but inflation expectations have ticked higher and the reflationary policies of the Administration could further boost levels. Should inflation move higher, the Fed may shift to a more aggressive tightening stance.
  • Geopolitical risks: Geopolitical risks including trade policies and global challenges could cause short-term market volatility.

Despite the volatility experienced over the last week, the technical backdrop of the market remains favorable, credit conditions are supportive, and global economic growth is accelerating. So far President Trump’s policies are being seen as pro-growth, and business and consumer confidence are elevated. The onset of new policies under the Trump administration and actions of central banks may lead to higher volatility, 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.

Brinker Capital Barometer (as of 1/5/18)

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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. 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 US 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. Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate: A market capitalization-weighted index, maintained by Bloomberg Barclays, and is often used to represent investment grade bonds being traded in United States.