Investment Insights Podcast: The Reluctant Bull

Hart_Podcast_338x284Chris Hart, Core Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded August 19, 2016), Chris discusses the current market environment, the looming concerns for investors, and what to expect as we near the end of the summer cycle.

Listen to the podcast here, but first, a few quick hits:

  • Markets continue to move higher, leading experts to describe it as a “reluctant bull” with investors skeptical of the rally.
  • Concerns over oil, China, and the Federal Reserve continue to preoccupy the markets and are still worrisome, but perhaps less so than a few months ago.
  • Domestic stocks have risen in six of the last eight weeks thanks in part to more positive corporate results.
  • While the economy is late in the business cycle and not calling for an acceleration, the strength of the market is noteworthy.
  • As we enter the seasonally weak late summer period in the markets, uncertainty remains especially with the upcoming election.
  • Overall, we remain constructive on risk assets but cautious in our outlook and we maintain our focus on finding select opportunities to take advantage of.

For Chris’s full insight, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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.

June 2016 Monthly Market and Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

After a weak start to the month, risk assets finished May with strong returns. Despite increased rumblings for a mid-year Fed rate hike creating uncertainty in the market, climbing oil prices and strong housing data helped uphold investor confidence and worked as a catalyst for positive gains during the month. Corporate earnings generally beat analyst expectations, but overall earnings growth is still negative year-over-year. Markets were volatile and we expect this trend to likely continue as central bank actions continue to unfold and we move closer to the end of the business cycle.

The S&P 500 Index gained 1.8% for the month, finishing just shy of the all-time high reached in May 2015.  Sector performance was mixed. Energy, materials and industrials lagged for the month, but still remain in positive territory year-to-date. Technology, healthcare and financials sectors had strong performance with technology posting returns of over 5%. Growth outpaced value in large and small caps and was equivalent in mid cap. Small and micro cap stocks outperformed large cap stocks.

International equity markets lagged U.S. equity markets.  Although international equities experienced a similar pullback in the beginning of the month, the subsequent rally failed to pick up the same momentum as U.S. equities.  A strong dollar coupled with weak profit growth and uncertainty surrounding the potential Brexit were drags on performance.  Emerging markets lagged developed international equity markets; with almost all EM countries finishing the month in negative territory. In particular, Latin America posted double-digit negative returns resulting from political turmoil in Brazil.

The Barclays Aggregate Index was flat for the month with most sectors finishing either flat or in slightly negative territory. Treasury yields fell mid-month only to rise back up as the market began pricing in the possibility of another Fed rate hike. Treasury yields ended the month relatively unchanged from beginning levels and the investment grade credit was flat.  High yield spreads slightly contracted and the asset class eked out a small gain. Municipals also finished slightly positive.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term; however, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009 and the second half of the business cycle. The worst equity market declines are typically associated with recessions, which are preceded by aggressive central bank tightening or accelerating inflation, factors which are not present today. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and a near-term end to the business cycle is not our base case, the risks must not be ignored.

A number of factors we find supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

Global monetary policy remains accommodative: The Fed’s approach to tightening monetary policy is patient and data dependent. The Bank of Japan and the ECB remain supportive.

Stable U.S. growth and tame inflation: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. While first quarter growth was muted at an annualized rate of +0.5%, we expect a bounce in the second quarter as has been the pattern. Payroll employment growth had been solid, but May’s report was disappointing. Wage growth has been tepid at best despite the tightening labor market, and reported inflation measures and inflation expectations, while off the lows, remain below the Fed’s target.

U.S. fiscal policy more accommodative: Fiscal policy is modestly accommodative in 2016, helping offset more restrictive monetary policy.

Constructive backdrop for U.S. consumer: The U.S. consumer should see benefits from lower energy prices and a stronger labor market.

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

Risk of policy mistake: In the U.S. the subsequent path of rates is uncertain and may not be in line with market expectations, which could lead to increased volatility. Negative interest rates are already prevalent in other developed market economies. An event that brings into question central bank credibility could weigh on markets.

Slower global growth: Economic growth outside the U.S. is decidedly weaker, and while China looks to be improving, a slowdown remains a concern.

Another downturn in commodity prices: Oil prices have rebounded off of the recent lows and lower energy prices on the whole benefit the consumer; however, another significant leg down in prices could become destabilizing. This could also trigger further weakness in the high yield credit markets, which have recovered since oil bottomed in February.

Presidential Election Uncertainty: The lack of clarity will likely weigh on investors leading up to November’s election. Depending on the rhetoric, certain sectors could be more impacted.

The technical backdrop of the market has improved, as have credit conditions, helped by a macroeconomic environment that leans favorable. Investor sentiment moved from extreme pessimism levels in early 2016 back into more neutral territory. Valuations are at or slightly above historical averages, but we need to see earnings growth reaccelerate. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets assess the impact of slower global growth and actions of policymakers; but our view on risk assets still tilts positive over the near term. Higher volatility has led to attractive pockets of opportunity we can take advantage of as active managers.

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. 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. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

May 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Continuing the rally that began in mid-February, risk assets posted modest gains in April, helped by more dovish comments from the Federal Reserve and further gains in oil prices. Expectations regarding the pace of additional rate hikes by the Fed have been tempered from where they started the year. Economic data releases were mixed, and while a majority of companies beat earnings expectations, earnings growth has been negative year over year.

The S&P 500 Index gained 0.4% for the month. Energy and materials were by far the strongest performing sectors, returning 8.7% and 5.0% respectively. On the negative side was technology and the more defensive sectors like consumer staples, telecom and utilities. U.S. small and micro-cap companies outpaced large caps during the month, and value continued to outpace growth.

International equity markets outperformed U.S. equity markets in April, helped by further weakness in the U.S. dollar. Developed international markets, led by solid returns from Japan and the Eurozone, outpaced emerging markets. Within emerging markets, strong performance from Brazil was offset by weaker performance in emerging Asia.

The Barclays Aggregate Index return was in line with that of the S&P 500 Index in April. Treasury yields were relatively unchanged, but solid returns from investment grade credit helped the index. High-yield credit spreads continued to contract throughout the month, leading to another month of strong gains for the asset class.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term; however, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009 and the second half of the business cycle. The worst equity market declines are typically associated with recessions, which are preceded by aggressive central bank tightening or accelerating inflation, factors which are not present today.  While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and a near-term end to the business cycle is not our base case, the risks must not be ignored.

A number of factors we find supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

Global monetary policy remains accommodative: The Fed’s approach to tightening monetary policy is patient and data dependent.  The Bank of Japan and the ECB have been more aggressive with easing measures in an attempt to support their economies, while China may require additional support.

Stable U.S. growth and tame inflation: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. While first quarter growth was muted at an annualized rate of +0.5%, we expect to see a bounce in the second quarter as has been the pattern. Payroll employment growth has been solid and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.0%. Wage growth has been tepid at best despite the tightening labor market, and reported inflation measures and inflation expectations, while off the lows, remain below the Fed’s target.

U.S. fiscal policy more accommodative: With the new budget, fiscal policy is poised to become modestly accommodative in 2016, helping offset more restrictive monetary policy.

Constructive backdrop for U.S. consumer: The U.S. consumer should see benefits from lower energy prices and a stronger labor market.

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

Risk of policy mistake: The potential for a policy mistake by the Fed or another major central bank is a concern, and central bank communication will be key. In the U.S. the subsequent path of rates is uncertain and may not be in line with market expectations, which could lead to increased volatility. Negative interest rates are already prevalent in other developed market economies. An event that brings into question central bank credibility could weigh on markets.

Slower global growth: Economic growth outside the U.S. is decidedly weaker, and while China looks to be improving, a significant slowdown remains a concern.

Another downturn in commodity prices: Oil prices have rebounded off of the recent lows and lower energy prices on the whole benefit the consumer; however, another significant leg down in prices could become destabilizing. This could also trigger further weakness in the high yield credit markets, which have recovered since oil bottomed in February.

Presidential Election Uncertainty: The lack of clarity will likely weigh on investors leading up to November’s election. Depending on the rhetoric, certain sectors could be more impacted.

The technical backdrop of the market has improved, as have credit conditions, while the macroeconomic environment leans favorable. Investor sentiment moved from extreme pessimism levels in early 2016 back into more neutral territory. Valuations are at or slightly above historical averages, but we need to see earnings growth reaccelerate. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets assess the impact of slower global growth and actions of policymakers; but our view on risk assets still tilts positive over the near term. Higher volatility has led to attractive pockets of opportunity we can take advantage of as active managers.

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. 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. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

April 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

After an extremely volatile quarter, the broad equity market indexes ended just about where they started. Risk assets began the year under heavy pressure, with the S&P 500 Index declining more than -10% to a 22-month low on February 11. Concerns over the global growth outlook and the impact of further weakness in crude oil prices weighed on investors, and investor sentiment hit levels of extreme pessimism. Then we experienced a major reversal beginning on February 12, helped by a rebound in oil prices after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to freeze production, and more dovish comments by the Federal Reserve. Expectations regarding the pace of additional rate hikes by the Fed have been tempered from where they started the year.

All U.S. equity sectors ended the quarter in positive territory except for healthcare and financials. Dividend paying stocks significantly outperformed, resulting in a strong quarter for both the telecom and utilities sectors, and value indexes overall. From a market capitalization perspective, mid-caps outperformed both large and small caps, helped by the strong performance of REITs, another yield-oriented asset class.

Developed international equity markets lagged U.S. equity markets in the first quarter despite benefiting from a weaker U.S. dollar. Japan and Europe were particularly weak despite additional easing moves by their central banks, while the commodity-sensitive countries, such as Canada and Australia were positive for the quarter. Emerging markets outperformed U.S. equity markets for the quarter despite declines in China and India. Brazil was the strongest performer, helped by a rebound in the currency, expectations for political change, and the bounce in commodity prices.

ECBBonds outperformed stocks during the quarter, and did not even decline during the risk-on rally. Additional easing from the European Central Bank and a negative interest rate policy in Japan prevented U.S. bond yields from moving higher.

All fixed income sectors were positive for the quarter, led by corporate credit, which benefited from meaningful spread tightening, and TIPS, which benefited from their longer duration. Municipal bonds delivered positive returns, but lagged taxable fixed income.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term; however, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009 and the second half of the business cycle. The worst equity market declines are typically associated with recessions, which are preceded by aggressive central bank tightening or accelerating inflation, factors which are not present today. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and a near-term end to the business cycle is not our base case, the risks must not be ignored.

A number of factors we find supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: Despite the Federal Reserve beginning to normalize monetary policy with a first rate hike in December, their approach is patient and data dependent. The Bank of Japan and the ECB have been more aggressive with easing measures in an attempt to support their economies, and China is likely going to require additional support.
  • Stable U.S. growth and tame inflation: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. Payroll employment growth has been solid and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.0%. Wage growth has been tepid at best despite the tightening labor market, and reported inflation measures and inflation expectations, while off the lows, remain below the Fed’s target.
  • U.S. fiscal policy more accommodative: With the new budget fiscal policy is poised to become modestly accommodative in 2016, helping offset more restrictive monetary policy.
  • Solid backdrop for U.S. consumer: The U.S. consumer should see benefits from lower energy prices and a stronger labor market.

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

  • Risk of policy mistake: The potential for a policy mistake by the Fed or another major central bank is a concern, and central bank communication will be key. In the U.S. the subsequent path of rates is uncertain and may not be in line with market expectations, which could lead to increased volatility. Negative interest rates are already prevalent in other developed market economies.
  • Slower global growth: Economic growth outside the U.S. is decidedly weaker, and a significant slowdown in China is a concern.
  • Another downturn in commodity prices: Oil prices have rebounded off of the recent lows and lower energy prices on the whole benefit the consumer; however, another significant leg down in prices could become destabilizing.
  • Further weakness in credit markets: While high yield credit spreads have tightened from February’s wide levels, further weakness would signal concern regarding risk assets more broadly.

The technical backdrop of the market has improved, as have credit conditions, while the macroeconomic environment remains favorable. Investor sentiment moved from extreme pessimism levels in early 2016 back into more neutral territory. Valuations are at or slightly above historical averages, but we need to see earnings growth reaccelerate. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets assess the impact of slower global growth and actions of policymakers; however, our view on risk assets tilts positive over the near term. Higher volatility has led to attractive pockets of opportunity we can take advantage of as active managers.

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. 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. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast – Brazil: Does Instability Bring Hope?

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 21, 2016), Stuart weighs in on all things Brazil especially on the current political climate and its economic impact.

Why talk about Brazil?

  • It’s the eighth largest economy in the world.
  • It’s the largest economy in Latin America.
  • For the last several years, it’s been a large drag on emerging market economic growth.

So, what’s been happening?

  • Brazilian markets shifted from a bear to a bull in March, as currency rebounded and markets followed.
  • There is increased hope for major political change as the current administration under President Dilma Rousseff faces potential impeachment.
  • Rousseff’s approval rating has plummeted (62% now disapprove) since her reelection in 2014 amid political scandal and economic stagnation.

Let’s talk about this scandal

  • In what has been labeled “Operation Car Wash”, the two-year investigation centers around corruption between oil giant Petrobras involving dozens of corporate executives and political figures.
  • Rousseff was head of Petrobras until 2010, prior to taking office.
  • Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula, who was to be Rousseff’s Chief of Staff, has been implicated on bribery charges.
  • Encouraged by massive protests, opposing politicians have called for a formal impeachment process to begin.

How does this begin to shape the Brazilian economy?

  • The prospect of a new start in Brazil bodes well for markets–Brazilian index has risen over 27% in 2016, currency has appreciated 10% in March alone.

That’s great, but there’s more to it

  • The path to impeachment is murky and should not be taken for granted.
  • Operation Car Wash has indicted politicians from both the current regime and the opposition.
  • Even with the possibility of a new government, political consensus on structural reform appears evasive for Brazil.
  • Pensions, infrastructure, and autonomy of the central bank are important to address in order to revive the Brazilian economy.

 Where does Brazil stand now?

  • Overall, the economy is in a difficult situation–GDP declined in 2015 and is set to decline again in 2016.
  • Inflation continues to rise and exceeds targets set by Central Bank.
  • Unemployment and bad credit also continue to rise.
  • Given that Brazil represents over half of the GDP and total population of Latin America, economic prospects are important for growth.

Please click here to listen to the full recording.

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, a Registered Investment Advisor.

March 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

February was a fragmented month. Equity markets were down mid- to high-single-digits for the first half of the month but rebounded off the February 11 bottom to end the month relatively flat. While fears of slower growth in U.S. and China as well as volatile oil prices continued to serve as negative catalysts to equity markets in the beginning of the month, positive reports of strong consumer spending and  employment as well as signs of stabilization in oil prices helped dissipate fears. In response, the market rallied during the second half of the month, finishing in neutral territory.

The S&P 500 Index ended slightly negative with a return of -0.1% for February. Sector performance was mixed with more defensive sectors – telecom, utilities and consumer staples – posting positive returns. Underperformance of health care and technology sectors caused growth to lag value for the month. Small caps continued to lag large caps, and micro caps had a particularly challenging month, underperforming all market caps.

International equity markets lagged U.S. markets in both local and in U.S. dollar terms for the month. Weak economic data coupled with concerns over the effectiveness of monetary policy response in both Europe and Japan caused investor confidence to drop, negatively impacting developed international markets. Emerging markets were relatively flat on the month, remaining ahead of developed international markets as these export heavy countries benefited from more stable currencies and an upturn in oil prices.

U.S. Treasury yields continued to fall in the beginning of the month, bottoming at 1.66%, before bouncing back to end the month at 1.74% as equities rebounded. The yield curve marginally flattened during the month. All investment grade sectors were positive for the month and municipal bonds also posted a small gain. High yield credit gained 0.6% as spreads contracted 113 basis points after reaching a high of 839 basis points on February 11th. We remain positive on this asset class due to the underlying fundamentals and attractive absolute yields.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term as we believe we remain in a correction period rather than the start of a bear market. The worst equity market declines are typically associated with recessions, which are preceded by aggressive central bank tightening or accelerating inflation, factors we do not believe are present today. However, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009 and the second half of the business cycle, and, while a recession is not our base case, the risks must not be ignored.

A number of factors we find supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Global monetary policy accommodation: Despite the Federal Reserve beginning to normalize monetary policy with a first rate hike in December, their approach should be patient and data dependent.  More signs point to the Fed delaying the next rate hike in March. The Bank of Japan and the ECB have been more aggressive with easing measures in an attempt to support their economies, and China is likely going to require additional support.
  • U.S. growth stable and inflation tame: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. GDP estimates are running at 2.2% for the first quarter (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta). Payroll employment growth has been solid and the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9%. Wage growth has been tepid at best despite the tightening labor market, and reported inflation measures and inflation expectations, while off the lows, remain below the Fed’s target.
  • Washington: The new budget fiscal policy is poised to become modestly accommodative, helping offset more restrictive monetary policy.vola

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

  • Policy mistake: The potential for a policy mistake by the Fed or another major central bank is a concern, and central bank communication will be key. In the U.S. the subsequent path of rates is uncertain and may not be in line with market expectations, which could lead to increased volatility.
  • Slower global growth: Economic growth outside the U.S. is decidedly weaker, and a significant slowdown in China is a concern.
  • Wider credit spreads: While overall credit conditions are still accommodative, high yield credit spreads remain wide, and weakness is widespread.
  • Another downturn in commodity prices: Oil prices have rebounded off of the recent lows; however, another significant leg down in prices could become destabilizing.

On the balance, the technical backdrop of the market remains on the weaker side, but valuations are at more neutral levels. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets digest the Fed’s actions and assess the impact of slower global growth; however, our view on risk assets tilts positive over the near term. Higher volatility has led to attractive pockets of opportunity that as active managers we can take advantage of.

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. 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. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast – Jolting The Economy

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 10, 2016), Bill highlights the latest news out of Europe and China:

What we like: Mario Draghi and the ECB announced a number of pro-stimulus policies; banks supportive in lending to businesses; more quantitative easing supports sovereign debt markets; Draghi trying to be the backstop to support the economy; China’s Five-Year Plan focused on stimulating economy

What we don’t like: Market is realizing that pure monetary stimulus is not enough; there is a global oversupply and printing more money or having markets lend more money isn’t enough to offset; investors are hearing the rhetoric but looking for results

What we’re doing about it: Keeping the same mindset that there will not be a recession; looking for opportunities within high-yield and energy

Click here to listen to the audio recording

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.

And The Oscar Goes To…

ColtonColton Growney, Investment Strategy Analyst

Many of us tuned in to watch the Oscars this year. So in light of the awards, in honor of Leo DiCaprio’s (and Ennio Morricone’s) first Oscar win, and with the news that The Revenant may soon be cleared for a Chinese release, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at recent films and the rising importance of the international box office—especially China.

Coloton_Movie_RevenueIt is important to note that despite its slowing economy, China’s box office is growing at an astonishing rate. Gross domestic box office ticket receipts in China show 40% annualized growth over the past ten or so years, to ¥44 B in 2015 (around $7 B, compared to $10 B in the U.S and Canada). In fact, the size of the Chinese box office has doubled from 2013 to 2015. The scale of the Chinese movie market is expected to overtake the United States by 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of a movie’s international gross from foreign markets has increased over the past six years, as has ROI. A given American movie produced in 2015 can reasonably be expected to receive about 25% more of its revenue from international audiences than one released back in 2010, and many films earn much more abroad. Can you guess what the most profitable movie of the past six years has been? Hint: it was released in 2015, and three of its actors presented an Oscar on Sunday night, despite some technical difficulties with a microphone.*

Likewise, domestic movie successes have increased over the past few years. James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), which is one of the highest-grossing films in recent memory, led the Chinese box office until Transformers: Age of Extinction came out in 2014. Since Transformers, eight movies have out-grossed Avatar, five of which were Chinese. The highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time, The Mermaid, was released in February 2016, and broke the domestic record during the 2016 Chinese New Year, when movie-goers broke an international record for highest-grossing single week for a geographic territory. This may reflect an increased ability of Chinese studios to produce blockbuster content, in addition to the growth of viewership.

The U.S response to a growing base has also somewhat warmed its relationship with Chinese consumers. Many recent movies have incorporated Chinese geographies or plot points, including The Martian (2015), Gravity (2014), Pacific Rim (2013), and Transformers, to name a few, while other movies have added Chinese product placements (Transformers, Iron Man 3, Transcendence) or were scrubbed of characteristics perceived unfriendly to Chinese audiences (Pixels) to increase chances of widespread viewership.

Coloton_ROI_Movies

Source: TheNumbers.com

However, the Chinese market for movies remains difficult to crack, and in some ways, the Chinese box office is a microcosm of what we observe in capital markets. For instance, only a certain number of foreign films are allowed into the country each year through state-owned distribution channels. This is undoubtedly a political process, and subjects movies to strict content controls. A recent example of this is in The Hateful Eight—scenes exhibiting gore were extensively edited for Chinese viewers, and the movie flopped. Or, alternatively, a movie can collaborate financially with a Chinese film company in order to make a stronger case for admission to the market, as The Revenant did with ‘substantial’ backing from Guangdong Alpha Animation. Meanwhile, even domestic films may manipulate their successes, as Monster Hunt (2015) may have by ‘selling’ tickets to empty theatres (sound familiar?).

Due to the importance of politics in China, it is likely that companies with ties to the state will come out on top. State run studios like Shanghai Media Group, which has partnered with DreamWorks, and distributors (and Netflix competitors) with government ties such as LeTV, Sohu, and Yoku Tudou, will probably lead any developing cultural revolution in Chinese cinema. Therefore, while American movie studios and distributors have all worked hard to grab a piece of the Chinese consumer’s wallet, it is possible that the domestic industry will have first dibs. The stream of culture may even flow from East to West someday in the future, though as long as stars like ‘Xiao Lizi’ hold the public’s imagination, (‘Little Leo’ DiCaprio’s title in China), the domestic industry will continue to follow Hollywood’s lead.

*By the way, the most profitable movie (with a budget of higher than $50b) of the past six years is Minions (2015), a spin-off of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise. Without making generalizations, the films with highest profitability have tended to have a substantial foreign component. And interestingly, the movies with high domestic profitability (USA) relative to their international take appear to be: American Sniper (2014), The Hunger Games (2012), The Lego Movie (2014), The Lorax (2012), and Lincoln (2012), all of which are (arguably) ‘American’ themed.

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.

60% of the Time, It Works Every Time

Solomon-(2)Brad Solomon, Junior Investment Analyst

“Bonds Show 60% Odds of Recession.”

It was a bold, slightly jarring headline to an article I happened across one recent morning. I had done a solid minute of skimming before I scrolled back to the top and noticed the published date—October 22, 2011.  If the models cited in the article had bet their chips on red, so to say, then the U.S. economy continued to hit black for some time.  Over the next four years, the domestic unemployment rate nearly halved while the S&P 500 returned a cumulative 84%.  Say what you want about much of that return being multiple expansion (84% total return on cumulative earnings per share growth of 16%)—it would’ve been a tough four years for investors to sit on the sidelines.

I’m writing this from an investment perspective rather than an academic one, but it is still a preoccupation for both fields to monitor to the economy.  Why?—because, as quantified by Evercore ISI, S&P 500 bear markets have been more severe (-30%) when they predate what actually morphs into an economic recession versus times when dire signs of economic stress do not ultimately turn up (-15%).

The world is once again on “recession watch” in 2016; signs of financial strain include the offshore weakening of China’s yuan, widening credit spreads, an apparent peak in blue chip earnings per share, and spiking European bank credit default swaps (CDSs).  One telling recession indicator, yield curve inversion, has seemingly not reared its head.  As measured through the difference between 10-year and 3-month Treasury yields, the spread today stands around 150 basis points, while it has fallen like clockwork to zero or below prior to each U.S. recession since 1956. (Recessions are indicated by the shaded grey areas below, as defined by the NBER.)

Source: The Federal Reserve, Brinker Capital

Source: The Federal Reserve, Brinker Capital

A number of commentators have raised concerns that the statistics above should not warrant an “all clear” sense of thinking there won’t be a recession.  In full awareness of the folly of claiming that “this time is different”—well, this time may be different.  Breaking down the term spread into its two components—the yield on a shorter-dated bill and longer-dated bond—the short rates have been artificially held down by a zero-bound federal funds rate for the past six years, while the feature of positive convexity that is inherently more pronounced for long rates means that it is, in theory, very tough to close the gap” on the remaining 150 basis point spread that would indicate an inverted yield curve mathematically.  (A convexity illustration is shown below—the takeaway is that the yield-price relationship becomes asymptotic at high prices, meaning that the 10-year note would need to be exorbitantly bid up to bring its yield down to equate with much shorter maturities.)

Source: Brinker Capital

Source: Brinker Capital

So, what are the odds of a recession?  If it’s not clear yet, I’m not writing this to assign a current probability but rather to warn against viewing such a figure in isolation.  Following the logic illustrated in papers such as this one, statistical programs make it possible to truly fine-tune a model: plug in any number of explanatory vectors (time series variables such as industrial production or unemployment claims) and “fit” the historical data to the response variable, which is essentially a switch that is “on” during a recession” and “off” when not.  But as calibrated as the model becomes, there is still subjectivity involved: what is the proper “trigger” for alarm?  Should your reaction to a 70% implied probability be different from your reaction to a 60% reading?  An important consideration is the objective behind such a model in the first place—to create a continuous distribution (infinite number) of outcomes and assign a probability to a discrete event (red or black, recession or no recession).  When framed this way, often it is the unquantifiable, intangible narratives and examination of what’s different this time (rather than what looks “the same”) that can create a fuller picture.

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 – Markets Rally in Anticipation of G20 Summit

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded February 26, 2016), Bill discusses the recent string of positive news, the hopeful outcome following the G20 Summit, and what still remains as cause for concern:

What we like: G20 Summit underway to discuss new policies intended to help support economic growth around the world; Communist party in China soon to meet to discuss five-year plan; stock markets have rallied a bit recently

What we don’t like: Economic data continues to be mixed; need a steadier drumbeat of good data to gain more confidence

What we’re doing about it: Tactically speaking, we are leaning towards a more bullish stance; monitoring the stabilization of oil prices

Click here to listen to the audio recording

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.