Educating Clients in the Search for Yield

Stuart Quint, Investment Insights PodcastStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

We were proud to be Premier Sponsors of this year’s Financial Services Institute’s OneVoice conference. We participated on multiple panels while there and had the opportunity to network and hear from many industry experts to learn about the latest within the industry.

I participated on the panel, Educating Clients in the Search for Yield, that addressed the issue of whether or not alternatives provide a legitimate and sustainable source of income. After a great discussion, we concluded that investors need to understand what they are buying and should consider these issues when doing their due diligence:

  • There is a variety of alternatives that come with lower (but not zero) correlation to traditional asset classes (equities and bonds) absolute return, real asset, BDC, private equity strategies have different return and risk profiles; liquid and illiquid structures.
  • It is important to be aware of the risk components within strategy: interest rate, credit, operational, funding risk.
  • Don’t stretch for promise of high yield as high yield is only one part of total return.

Click here to listen to the audio recording.

Reaching Beyond Bonds for Income

John CoyneJohn Coyne, Vice Chairman

There are many places besides bonds to generate income. Through broad diversification across and within six major asset classes, we at Brinker Capital seek solutions that will generate good yield, not necessarily high yield, for clients. We believe that you can derive income from a variety of sources so that you are better positioned to meet your investment goals and objectives.

In this audio podcast, John Coyne explains three instances where generating income may be possible:

  • Generating Income in an Absolute Return Environment
  • Generating Income in a Rising Rate Environment
  • Generating After-Tax Income

Click here to launch the audio recording.

Investment Insights Podcast – July 1, 2014

Bill MillerBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 30, 2014), Bill addresses some of the things we don’t like first, then gives greater insight into what we are doing about it:

What we don’t like: Interest rates are stubbornly low; expectations were that they would rise over the first-half of the year; low interest rates hurt retirees ability to generate income

What we like: How we are handling this financial repression

What we are doing about it: Emphasizing three themes in fixed income: yield, shorter maturity bonds, and inclusion of absolute return

Click the play icon below to launch the audio recording or click here

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.

Monthly Market and Economic Outlook: May 2014

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

The severe rotation that began in the U.S. equity markets in early March continued throughout April. Investors favored dividend-paying stocks and those with lower valuations at the expense of those trading at higher valuations. Large caps significantly outpaced small caps (+0.5% vs. -3.9%) and value led growth. From a sector perspective, energy (+5.2%), utilities (+4.3%) and consumer staples (+2.9%) led while financials (-1.5%), consumer discretionary (-1.4%) and healthcare (-0.5%) all lagged. Real assets, such as commodities and REITs, also continued to post gains.

International equity markets finished ahead of U.S. equity markets in April, eliminating the performance differential for the year-to-date period. In developed international markets, Japan continues to struggle, while European equities are performing well, helped by an improving economy. After a strong March, emerging markets were relatively flat in April. There has been significant dispersion in the performance of emerging economies so far this year; this variation in performance and fundamentals argues for active management in the asset class. Valuations in emerging markets have become attractive relative to developed markets.

Fixed income notched another month of decent gains in April as Treasury yields fell shutterstock_105096245_stockmarketchartslightly. At 2.6%, 10-year Treasury note yields remain 40 basis points below where they started the year and only 60 basis points higher than when the Fed began discussing tapering a year ago. All fixed income sectors were in positive territory for the month, led again by credit. Both investment grade and high yield credit spreads continue to grind tighter. Within the U.S. credit sector fundamentals are solid and the supply/demand dynamic is favorable, but valuations are elevated, especially in the investment grade space. We favor an actively managed best ideas strategy in high yield today, rather than broad market exposure. Municipal bonds have outpaced the broad fixed income market, helped by improving fundamentals and a positive technical backdrop.

While we believe that the long term bias is for interest rates to move higher, the move will be protracted. Sluggish economic growth, low inflation and geopolitical risks are keeping a lid on rates for the short-term. Despite our view on rates, fixed income still plays an important role in portfolios, as protection against equity market volatility. Our fixed income positioning in portfolios – which includes an emphasis on yield advantaged, shorter duration and low volatility absolute return strategies – is  designed to successfully navigate a rising or stable interest rate environment.

We approach our macro view as a balance between headwinds and tailwinds. We believe the scale remains tipped in favor of tailwinds as we move through the second quarter, with a number of factors supporting the economy and markets over the intermediate term.

  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: Even with the Fed tapering asset purchases, short-term interest rates should remain near-zero until 2015 if inflation remains low. In addition, the ECB stands ready to provide support if necessary, and the Bank of Japan continues its aggressive monetary easing program.
  • Global growth stable: U.S. economic growth has been slow but steady. While the weather had a negative impact on growth in the first quarter, we expect growth to pick up in the second quarter. Outside of the U.S., growth has not been very robust, but it is still positive.
  • Labor market progress: The recovery in the labor market has been slow, but we have continued to add jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.3%.
  • Inflation tame: With the CPI increasing just +1.5% over the last 12 months and core CPI running at +1.7%, inflation is below the Fed’s 2% target. Inflation expectations have also been contained, providing the Fed flexibility to remain accommodative.
  • U.S. companies remain in solid shape: U.S. companies have solid balance sheets that are flush with cash that could be reinvested, used for acquisitions, or returned to shareholders. Deal activity has picked up this year. Corporate profits remain at high levels and margins have been resilient.
  • Less Drag from Washington: After serving as a major uncertainty over the last few years, there has been some movement in Washington. Fiscal drag will not have a major impact on growth this year. Congress agreed to both a budget and the extension of the debt ceiling. The deficit has also shown improvement in the short-term.
  • Equity fund flows turned positive: Continued inflows would provide further support to the equity markets.

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

  • Fed Tapering/Tightening: If the Fed continues at the current pace, quantitative easing should end in the fourth quarter. Risk assets have historically reacted negatively when monetary stimulus has been withdrawn; however, this withdrawal is more gradual and the economy appears to be on more solid footing this time. The new Fed chairperson also adds to the uncertainty. Should economic growth and inflation pick up, market participants will shift quickly to concern over the timing of the Fed’s first interest rate hike.
  • Emerging Markets: Slower growth and capital outflows could continue to weigh on emerging markets. While growth in China is slowing, there is not yet evidence of a hard landing.
  • Election Year: While we noted there has been some progress in Washington, market volatility could pick up in the summer should the rhetoric heat up in Washington in preparation for the mid-term elections.
  • Geopolitical Risks: The events surrounding Russia and Ukraine are further evidence that geopolitical risks cannot be ignored.

Risk assets should continue to perform if real growth continues to recover; however, we could see volatility as markets digest the continued withdrawal of stimulus by the Federal Reserve. Economic data will be watched closely for signs that could lead to tighter monetary policy earlier than expected. Equity market valuations are fair, but are not overly rich relative to history, and may even be reasonable when considering the level of interest rates and inflation. Credit conditions still provide a positive backdrop for the markets.

Our portfolios are positioned to take advantage of continued strength in risk assets, and we continue to emphasize high conviction opportunities within asset classes, as well as strategies that can exploit market inefficiencies.

Source:  Brinker Capital

Source: Brinker Capital

Data points above compiled from FactSet, Standard & Poor’s, MSCI, and Barclays. The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change.

Brinker Capital at the Envestnet Advisor Summit 2014 Conference

Jean LynchJean Lynch, Managing Director

Brinker Capital is pleased to be one of Envestnet’s Platinum Sponsors for 2014 and to be supporting the Advisor Summit 2014 for the third year in a row! Envestnet’s Advisor Summit is a great venue to network with our clients who access our investment strategies on the Envestnet platform, other investment professionals, and the Envestnet team. This year’s conference is focused on “The Next Big Idea” and the agenda is packed with innovative sessions that will help advisors elevate their business to the next level.

Brinker Capital’s latest “Big Idea” is the introduction of three new 40-Act liquid alternative mutual funds that leverage the strength of our 25+ years on investment management insight and expertise and more than a decade of embracing alternative investments.  These funds – Crystal Strategy Absolute Income Fund, Crystal Strategy Absolute Return Fund, and Crystal Strategy Leveraged Alternative Fund – are designed to mirror the investment strategy of our Crystal Strategy suite of global macro funds.  While each of these funds have their own specific investment strategies and places within an investment portfolio, they do share certain characteristics including broad asset class exposure, diverse strategies, highly-focused stock selection, portfolio hedging and risk management.  For more information on the funds visit, www.crystalstrategyfunds.com.

If you happen to be at the Advisor Summit, be sure to attend the Liquid Alts and Their Growing Role in Portfolio Construction panel on Thursday, May 15 from 2:00pm – 3:00pm to hear from Brinker Capital’s Chief Investment Officer, Bill Miller, as he discusses how our approach to incorporating liquid alternatives into our investment philosophy may help advisors potentially create better outcomes for clients.


Important Information
Please note that investing in alternative strategies involves a high level of risk and is not suitable for all investors. The Crystal Strategy Funds are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested and therefore are not suitable for all investors. The Funds may not achieve their objectives. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.

An investor should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. To obtain this and other information about the Crystal Strategy Funds, see the Prospectus available from your financial advisor, visit www.crystalstrategyfunds.com, or call (855) 572-1722. Read the Prospectus carefully before investing.

The Crystal Strategy Family of Funds is distributed by ALPS Distributors, Inc., 1290 Broadway, Ste. 1100, Denver, CO 80203.  Separately managed accounts and related investment advisory services are provided by Brinker Capital. ALPS is not affiliated with Brinker Capital and does not distribute separately managed accounts. The Crystal Strategy Family of Funds is new and has limited operating history.

Not FDIC Insured – No Bank Guarantee – May Lose Value.

Investment Risks
Alternative Investment Risk. The Team will seek to manage the Fund to balance the potential risks and rewards that we believe are present at any given time and given market. Due to the use of leverage, the Fund will be more aggressive in nature. Likewise, due to the underlying investment process, we believe that there is a strong likelihood that the Fund will perform notably different than traditional strategies with comparable levels of volatility. Similarly, despite the ability to hedge and shift Fund exposures, due to the leveraged nature of the Fund, risks will be magnified and compounded.

Asset Allocation Risk. Portfolio management may favor one or more types of investments or assets that underperform other investments, assets, or securities markets as a whole. Anytime portfolio management buys or sells securities in order to adjust the Fund’s asset allocation, this adjustment will increase portfolio turnover and generate transaction costs.

Borrowing Risk. Borrowing creates leverage. It also adds to Fund expenses and at times could cause the Fund to sell securities when it otherwise might not want to.

Concentration Risk – Investment Companies. Any investment company that  concentrates in a particular segment of the market (such as commodities, gold-related investments, infrastructure-related companies and real estate securities) will generally be more volatile than a fund that invests more broadly. Any market price movements, regulatory or technological changes, or economic conditions affecting the particular market segment in which the investment company concentrates will have a significant impact on the investment company’s performance. While the Fund does not concentrate in a particular industry, it may hold a significant position in an investment company, and there is risk for the Fund with respect to the aggregation of holdings of investment companies. The aggregation of holdings of investment companies may result in the Fund indirectly having significant exposure to a particular industry or group of industries, or in a single issuer. Such indirect concentration may have the effect of increasing the volatility of the Fund’s returns. The Fund does not control the investments of the investment companies, and any indirect concentration occurs as a result of the investment companies following their own investment objectives and strategies.

Derivatives Risk. The Fund’s use of derivatives (which may include options, futures, swaps and credit default swaps) may reduce the Fund’s returns and/or increase volatility. A risk of the Fund’s use of derivatives is that the fluctuations in their values may not correlate perfectly with the overall securities markets. Additional, derivatives are subject to liquidity risk, interest rate risk, market risk, credit risk and management risk.

Short Sale Risk. If the Fund sells a security short and subsequently has to buy the security back at a higher price, the Fund will lose money on the transaction. Any loss will be increased by the amount of compensation, interest or dividends and transaction costs the Fund must pay to a lender of the security. The amount the Fund could lose on a short sale is theoretically unlimited (as compared to a long position, where the maximum loss is the amount invested). The use of short sales, which has the effect of leveraging the Fund, could increase the exposure of the Fund to the market, increase losses and increase the volatility of returns.

Investment Objectives
Absolute Income Fund:  The Fund seeks to provide current income and downside protection to conventional equity markets, with absolute (positive) returns over full market cycles as a secondary objective.

Absolute Return Fund:  The Fund seeks to provide positive (absolute) return over full market cycles.

Leveraged Alternative Fund:  The Fund seeks to provide long-term positive absolute return with reduced correlation to conventional equity markets as a secondary objective.

Bridging the Alternative Investment Information Gap

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

The groundswell of interest in alternative investments continues to build, creating a thirst for clear, comprehensive and client-facing educational materials.

According to Lipper, alternative mutual funds saw the biggest percentage growth of any fund group, with assets under management increasing 41% to $178.6 billion in 2013. A recent report by Goldman Sachs projects liquid alternatives are in the early stage of a growth trend that could produce $2 trillion in assets under management in the next 10 years. In order for this to happen, however, investors must gain a better understanding of how alternative investments work, how they function within a portfolio, and where potential benefits and risks could occur.[1]

EducateAlternative investment strategies are a separate beast than the traditional methods of investing and traditional asset classes that most investors are familiar with. From divergent performance objectives, to the use of leverage, correlation to markets, liquidity requirements and fees, a fair amount about alternatives is different from traditional investments. Understandably, investors have many questions before they can decide whether to and how much of their portfolio to dedicate to alternative investments.

The task of educating investors about alternatives is falling largely on the shoulder of the advisory community. Well over half (60%) of the high-net-worth investors recently surveyed by MainStay Investments, indicated financial advisors as the top resource for alternative investment ideas. Trailing advisors was internet-based research (41%), research papers and reports (35%), and financial service companies (30%).[2]

Historically, advisors have shied away from recommending alternative investment strategies because they are too difficult to explain. The conundrum they now face is that 70% of those advisors surveyed also acknowledge the need to use new portfolio strategies to manage volatility and still seek positive.[3]

Bridge the Education GapIt’s important that advisors start to value the use of alternatives and find ways to bridge the information gap for investors. The good news is that investors have tipped their hands in terms of what they really want to know. According to the MainStay survey, clients want more information in the following areas:

 

  • Explaining the risks associated with alternative investments (73%)
  • Learning about how alternatives work (71%)
  • Finding out who manages the investments (54%)
  • Charting how alternatives affect returns (46%)

[1] http://www.imca.org/pages/Fundamentals-Alternative-Investments-Certificate

 [2] “HNW Investors Turn to Advisors For Alternative Investment Guidance,” InsuranceNewsNet, April 3, 2014.

[3]Few advisers recommend alternative investments: Respondents to a Natixis survey said that they stick to strategies that can be explained to clients more easily,” InvestmentNews, October 24, 2013

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Monthly Market and Economic Outlook: April 2014

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFA, Senior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

The full quarter returns masked the volatility risk assets experienced during the first three months of the year. Markets were able to shrug off geopolitical risks stemming from Russia and the Ukraine, fears of slowing economic growth in the U.S. and China, and a transition in Federal Reserve leadership. In a reversal of what we experienced in 2013, fixed income, commodities and REITs led global equities.

The U.S. equity market recovered from the mild drawdown in January to end the quarter with a modest gain. S&P sector performance was all over the map, with utilities (+10.1%) and healthcare (+5.8%) outperforming and consumer discretionary (-2.9%) and industrials (+0.1%) lagging. U.S. equity market leadership shifted in March. The higher growth-Magnotta_Market_Update_4.10.14momentum stocks that were top performers in 2013, particularly biotech and internet companies, sold off meaningfully while value-oriented and dividend-paying companies posted gains. Leadership by market capitalization also shifted as small caps fell behind large caps.

International developed equities lagged the U.S. markets for the quarter; however, emerging market equities were also the beneficiary of a shift in investor sentiment in March. The asset class gained more than 5% in the final week to end the quarter relatively flat (-0.4%). Performance has been very mixed, with a strong rebound in Latin America, but with Russia and China still weak. This variation in performance and fundamentals argues for active management in the asset class. Valuations in emerging markets have become more attractive relative to developed markets, but risks remain which call into question the sustainability of the rally.

After posting a negative return in 2013, fixed income rallied in the first quarter. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 35 basis points to end the quarter at 2.69% as fears of higher growth and inflation did not materialize. After the initial decline from the 3% level in January, the 10-year note spent the remainder of the quarter within a tight range. All fixed income sectors were positive for the quarter, with credit leading. Both investment-grade and high-yield credit spreads continued to grind tighter throughout the quarter. Within the U.S. credit sector, fundamentals are solid and the supply/demand dynamic is favorable, but valuations are elevated, especially in the investment grade space. We favor an actively managed best ideas strategy in high yield today, rather than broad market exposure.

While we believe that the long-term bias is for interest rates to move higher, the move will be protracted. Fixed income still plays an important role in portfolios as protection against equity market volatility. Our fixed income positioning in portfolios—which includes an emphasis on yield-advantaged, shorter-duration and low-volatility absolute return strategies—is designed to successfully navigate a rising or stable interest rate environment.

Magnotta_Market_Update_4.10.14_2We approach our macro view as a balance between headwinds and tailwinds. We believe the scale remains tipped in favor of tailwinds as we begin the second quarter, with a number of factors supporting the economy and markets over the intermediate term.

  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: Even with the Fed tapering asset purchases, short-term interest rates should remain near zero until 2015. In addition, the ECB stands ready to provide support if necessary, and the Bank of Japan continues its aggressive monetary easing program.
  • Global growth stable: U.S. economic growth has been slow and steady. While the weather appears to have had a negative impact on growth during the first quarter, we still see pent-up demand in cyclical sectors like housing and capital goods. Outside of the U.S. growth has not been very robust, but it is still positive.
  • Labor market progress: The recovery in the labor market has been slow, but we have continued to add jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7%.
  • Inflation tame: With the CPI increasing just +1.1% over the last 12 months and core CPI running at +1.6%, inflation is below the Fed’s 2% target. Inflation expectations are also tame, providing the Fed flexibility to remain accommodative.
  • U.S. companies remain in solid shape: U.S. companies have solid balance sheets with cash that could be reinvested, used for acquisitions, or returned to shareholders. Corporate profits remain at high levels, and margins have been resilient.
  • Less drag from Washington: After serving as a major uncertainty over the last few years, there has been some movement in Washington. Fiscal drag will not have a major impact on growth this year. Congress agreed to both a budget and the extension of the debt ceiling. The deficit has also shown improvement in the short term.
  • Equity fund flows turned positive: Continued inflows would provide further support to the equity markets.

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

  • Fed tapering/tightening: If the Fed continues at its current pace, quantitative easing should end in the fourth quarter. Historically, risk assets have reacted negatively when monetary stimulus has been withdrawn; however, this withdrawal is more gradual, and the economy appears to be on more solid footing this time. Should economic growth and inflation pick up, market participants may become more concerned about the timing of the Fed’s first interest rate hike.
  • Significantly higher interest rates: Rates moving significantly higher from current levels could stifle the economic recovery. Should mortgage rates move higher, it could jeopardize the recovery in the housing market.
  • Emerging markets: Slower growth and capital outflows could continue to weigh on emerging markets. While growth in China is slowing, there is not yet evidence of a hard landing.
  • Geopolitical Risks: The events surrounding Russia and Ukraine are further evidence that geopolitical risks cannot be ignored.

Risk assets should continue to perform if real growth continues to recover; however, we could see volatility as markets digest the continued withdrawal of stimulus by the Federal Reserve. Economic data will be watched closely for signs that could lead to tighter monetary policy earlier than expected. Valuations have certainly moved higher, but are not overly rich relative to history, and may even be reasonable when considering the level of interest rates and inflation. Credit conditions still provide a positive backdrop for the markets.

Magnotta_Market_Update_4.10.14_3

Source: Brinker Capital

Our portfolios are positioned to take advantage of continued strength in risk assets, and we continue to emphasize high-conviction opportunities within asset classes, as well as strategies that can exploit market inefficiencies.

Data points above compiled from FactSet, Standard & Poor’s, MSCI, and Barclays. The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change.

Everyone’s Unique

Jeff Raupp Jeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

Whenever I go to the bowling alley it strikes me how unique people are. And no, it’s not because of the multi-colored shoes or even the matching team jackets complete with catchy names like “Pin Pals” or “Medina Sod” sewn on the back. It’s because of the bowling balls.

Every time I head to the lanes, I can bank on spending at least ten minutes trying to find a ball that works for me. You have the heavy balls with the tiny finger holes and the huge thumb, the balls with the finger holes on the other side of the ball away from the thumb, and the ones where it seems like someone was playing around and drilled three random holes. Half of the time I find myself weighing the embarrassment of using a purple or pink ball that feels okay versus a more masculine black or red ball that weighs a ton but can only fit my pinkie. I’m always left thinking, “Where’s the guy or gal that this ball actually fits?”

Raupp_Everyones_Unique_2.14.14But at the end of the day, I find that if I find the right ball, where my hand feels comfortable and the weight is just right, I have a much better game.

In the same way, how to best save toward your life goals is unique to each investor. Even in the scenario where two investors have the same age, same investable assets and generally the same goals, the portfolio that helps them achieve those goals may be decidedly different between them. Investor emotion can play a huge role in the success or failure of an investment plan, and keeping those emotions in check is vital. There is nothing more damaging to the potential for an investor to meet their goals than an emotional decision to deviate from their long-term strategy due to market conditions.

Fortunately, there’s often more than one way to reach a particular goal. There are strategies that focus on total return versus ones that focus on generating income. Strategies that are more market oriented versus those that look to produce a certain level of return regardless of the markets. And there are tactical strategies and strategic strategies. For any investor’s personal goal(s), several of these, or a combination of these, might provide the necessary investment returns to get you there.

Raupp_Everyones_Unique_2.14.14_1Here’s where the emotions can come into play—if you don’t feel comfortable along the way, your emotions can take over the driver’s wheel, and your investor returns can fall short of your goal. In 2008-2009, many investors panicked, fled the markets, and decided to go to cash near the market bottom; but they missed much of the huge market rebound that followed. While in many cases the investors pre-recession strategy was sound and ultimately would have worked to reach their goals, their irrational decision during a period of volatility made it a tougher road.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the benefit of rolling a few gutter balls while you’re trying to find the right portfolio. That’s why working with an expert to find an investment strategy that can get you to your goals, and that matches your personality and risk profile, is vital to success.

Good bowlers show up at the alley with their own fitted ball and rightly-sized shoes. Good investors put their assets in a strategy fitted to their goals.

Brinker Capital at the Financial Services Institute OneVoice 2014 Conference

Noreen BeamanNoreen Beaman, Chief Executive Officer

In June, we announced Brinker Capital as a Premier Sponsor of the Financial Services Institute (FSI), a voice of independent financial services firms and independent financial advisors.  FSI’s mission is to ensure that all individuals have access to competent and affordable financial advice, products and services.

FSI’s OneVoice 2014 Conference kicks off next week in Washington, D.C. where Brinker Capital is proud to be a Premier Sponsor as well as a presenter.  OneVoice is FSI’s annual conference for the independent broker/dealer community to network and gain knowledge of the latest within the industry.

FSI OneVoice Conference 2014We are honored to have our Vice Chairman, John Coyne, chosen as a panelist for the Alternative Investment panel; our Vice President of Business Administration, Brendan McConnell, as a panelist to share insight on the latest technology tools to help advisors gain efficiencies; and behavioral finance expert, Dr. Daniel Crosby, as a presenter on understanding investor behavior.

This year’s conference promises to be a good one as FSI celebrates 10 years of advocacy for independent financial service advisors and firms.  We look forward to seeing many of you there!

Monthly Market and Economic Outlook – July 2013

Magnotta@AmyMagnotta, CFA, Senior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Risk assets were off to a decent start in the second quarter but then retreated after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony to Congress on May 22 laid the ground work for a reduction in monetary policy accommodation through tapering their asset purchases as early as September. While the U.S. equity markets were able to end the quarter with decent gains, developed international markets were relatively flat and emerging markets experienced sizeable declines. Weaker currencies helped to exacerbate these losses.

After starting to move higher in May, interest rates rose sharply in June and into early July, helped by the fears of Fed tapering. The yield 10-year U.S. Treasury has increased 100 basis points over the last two months to a level of 2.64% (through 7/10). The increase in rates was all in real terms as inflation expectations fell. Bonds experienced their worst first half of the year since 1994, in which we experienced four short-term rate hikes before June 30.

7.12.13_Magnotta_MarketOutlook_2While we have seen these levels of rates in the recent past (we spent much of the 2009-2011 period above these levels), the sharpness of the move may have been a surprise to some fixed income investors who then began to de-risk portfolios. In June, higher-risk sectors like investment-grade credit, high-yield credit and emerging market debt, as well as longer duration assets like TIPS, fared the worst. With growth still sluggish and inflation low, we expect interest rates to remain relatively range-bound over the near term; however, we do expect more volatility in the bond market. Negative technical factors like continued outflows from fixed income funds could weigh on the asset class. Our portfolios remain positioned in defense of rising interest rates, with a shorter duration, emphasis on spread product and a healthy allocation to low volatility absolute return strategies.

After weighing on the markets in June, investors have begun to digest the Fed’s plans to taper asset purchases at some point this year. Should the Fed follow through with their plans to reduce monetary policy accommodation, it will do so in the context of an improving economy, which should be a positive for equity markets.

7.12.13_Magnotta_MarketOutlook_3We continue to approach our macro view as a balance between headwinds and tailwinds. We believe the scale remains tipped in favor of tailwinds as we move into the second half of the year. A number of factors should continue to support the economy and markets for the remainder of the year:

  • Monetary policy remains accommodative: The Fed remains accommodative (even with the scale back on asset purchases short-term interest rates will remain low), the ECB has pledged to support the euro, and now the Bank of Japan is embracing an aggressive monetary easing program in an attempt to boost growth and inflation. This liquidity has helped to boost markets.
  • Fiscal policy uncertainty has waned: After resolutions on the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and sequester, the uncertainty surrounding fiscal policy has faded. The U.S. budget deficit has improved markedly, helped by stronger revenues. Fiscal drag will be much less of an issue in 2014.
  • Labor market steadily improving: The recovery in the labor market has been slow, but steady. Monthly payroll gains over the last three months have averaged 196,000 and the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.6%. The most recent employment report also showed gains in average hourly earnings.
  • Housing market improvement: An improvement in housing, typically a consumer’s largest asset, is a boost to net worth, and as a result, consumer confidence. However, a significant move higher in mortgage rates, which are now above 4.5%, could jeopardize the recovery.
  • U.S. companies remain in solid shape: U.S. companies have solid balance sheets that are flush with cash that could be reinvested or returned to shareholders. Corporate profits remain at high levels and margins have been resilient.

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

  • 7.12.13_Magnotta_MarketOutlook_4Fed mismanages exit: If the economy has not yet reached escape velocity when the Fed begins to scale back its asset purchases, risk assets could react negatively as they have in the past when monetary stimulus has been withdrawn.
  • Significantly higher interest rates: Rates moving significantly higher from here could stifle the economic recovery.
  • Europe: The risk of policy error in Europe still exists. The region has still not addressed its debt and growth problems; however, it seems leaders have realized that austerity alone will not solve its problems.
  • China: A hard landing in China would have a major impact on global growth. A recent spike in the Chinese interbank lending market is cause for concern.

We continue to seek high conviction opportunities and strategies within asset classes for our client portfolios. Some areas of opportunity currently include:

  • Domestic Equity: favor U.S. over international, dividend growers, financial healing (housing, autos)
  • International Equity: frontier markets, Japan, micro-cap
  • Fixed Income: non-Agency mortgage backed securities, short duration, emerging market corporates, global high yield and distressed
  • Real Assets: REIT Preferreds
  • Absolute Return: relative value, long/short credit, closed-end funds
  • Private Equity: company specific opportunities

Asset Class Returns
7.12.13_Magnotta_MarketOutlook_1