Investment Insights Podcast: Demography is destiny

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 29, 2018),
Tim discusses how population trends play a key role in determining a nation’s fate.

Quick hits:

  • If a nation wants to see its GDP grow year on year, it needs either more people entering the workforce or the workforce increasing its productivity.
  • Fortunately for the US, our nation’s population continues to grow at a rate greater than most developed nations and not that far shy of overall global population growth.
  • The US seems poised to benefit from a meaningful demographic tailwind courtesy of our nation’s Millennials.

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.

Memorial Day: In honor of our heroes

beaman 150 x 150Noreen D. BeamanChief Executive Officer

For more than 150 years, our nation has observed the Memorial Day holiday — a day designated to remember the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives defending our freedoms and the safety of our nation. Across the country this weekend, we will honor all our veterans and their commitment to safeguarding our security.

On this Memorial Day, let us be mindful of our heroes — taking a moment to recognize with appreciation and respect our nation’s champions. I ask that you take time to gratefully remember, appreciate, and honor both the service and the ones who provided it.

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Vlog – The yield curve: What is it and why does it matter?

Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, discusses what the yield curve is, why investors focus on it and what it might be telling us today about the state of the economy.

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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: 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.

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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.

 

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.

 

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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: Investing a lump sum of cash

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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.

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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.

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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: 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