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.

Investment Insights Podcast – Prospects and Possibilities of Brexit

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 1, 2016), Stuart takes to the mic to discuss what the impact could look like should Britain exit the European Union (EU).

Quick takes:

  • On June 23, the United Kingdom (UK) will hold a referendum on whether to remain or exit the EU.
  • The consensus leans towards the UK staying put, but polls in recent general elections were wrong.
  • The UK has more to lose from “Brexit” than the EU, but it could also highlight other cracks in Europe.

Markets have reacted by selling off UK markets, particularly the British pound, in light of the impending uncertainty and potential adverse impact of a “yes” for Brexit. So what potential impact could there be for the UK?

  • Direct trade – the EU accounts for roughly half of UK imports and exports; potentially three million jobs at stake¹.
  • Scottish independence – Scotland is more sympathetic to the EU and could seek another referendum for their independence from Britain; they currently make up roughly 40% of UK’s GDP.
  • Multinational headquarters – could start vacating out of London; banking sector could reduce operations in UK and uproot to Frankfort or Paris, as well as Asia.

What’s the potential impact to the EU?

  • Trade – while not as impactful, a UK departure is still negative especially with tepid economic growth in Europe
  • Political risks – France elections in 2017 could see more impetus to opposition party of Marine Le Pen, which is of an anti-Europe mindset; Catalonian desire to secede from Spain could be rekindled
  • Economics – Europe’s focus on broader economic and national security issues could become complicated

Please click here to listen to the full recording

[1] Webb, Dominic and Matthew Keep, In brief: UK-EU economic relations (Briefing Paper Number 06091, House of Commons Library), 19 January 2016, page 3 accessed on www.parliament.uk/commons-library on March 1, 2016.

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.

Happy New Year?

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

Although we are only nine business days into 2016, markets have gotten off to a rough start. As of January 13, 2016, the S&P 500 was down -7.7% while a moderate-risk[1] benchmark was down -4.2%. In fact, this year has seen the worst start to any calendar year on record.

Unlike past corrections, the catalyst for the recent sell-off in markets is less obvious. One thought is that we are seeing a delayed response to the Federal Reserve’s December rate hike. Markets appear displeased with the timing of the Fed’s action, given the stalling economic growth. In our opinion, the Fed should have considered raising rates a year ago when economic growth was stronger.

Another consideration, it’s conceivable that investors are finally grasping the reality of slower growth in China. This is a factor that we have monitored for quite some time (and a factor in being underweight large emerging markets); but, the timing as to why the markets are worrying about China now is less clear.

There are other factors, too, that might be contributing to the downbeat mood in markets:

  • Slowdown in the Chinese economy and continued devaluation of its currency
  • Continued weakness and flight of capital in emerging markets
  • Weak oil prices (lower capital spend offsetting benefit to consumers)
  • Narrow leadership of U.S. equities (e.g. “FANG” stocks driving markets – high valuation, momentum, expectations with little room for disappointment)
  • Selloff in high-yield bonds
  • Continued deterioration in U.S. and global manufacturing
  • Strengthening of U.S. dollar and its corresponding hit to corporate earnings
  • Ongoing weakness in corporate revenue growth and economic growth
  • 2016 U.S. presidential elections
  • Disappointment in global central bank actions (Europe, Japan, China)

While the picture painted above seems saturated in negativity, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are assuredly some more positive factors to consider:

  • Global policy remains accommodative, particularly in Europe and Japan
  • U.S. interest rates remain low by historic standards
  • Job creation in the U.S. remains positive
  • U.S. bank lending continues to grow at moderate pace
  • U.S. services (majority of U.S. economic activity) continue to show moderate growth
  • Looser U.S. fiscal policy should marginally contribute toward GDP growth in 2016 (estimated)
  • Economic growth in Europe appears stable, albeit tepid
  • Direct impact of emerging market weakness to U.S. economy is less than 5% of GDP

In terms of how we address this in our portfolios, we continue to monitor these conditions and are assessing the risks and opportunities. Within our strategic portfolios, such as our Destinations mutual fund program, we have marginally reduced stated risk within more conservative portfolios while maintaining a slight overweight to risk in more aggressive portfolios. Following the trend of the last several years, we have trimmed exposure to riskier segments, such as credit within fixed income and small cap within equities. Tactical portfolios entered the year with neutral to slightly-positive beta on near-term concerns of high valuations and China.

The S&P 500 has dominated all asset classes in recent years.  A potential end to that reign should not cause alarm, but instead refocus attention to the long-term benefits of diversification and why there are reasons to own strategies which do not just act like the S&P 500.

In general, investors should not panic but rather continue to evaluate their risk tolerance and suitability, as well as engage in consistent dialogue with their financial advisors. The turn of the calendar might just be the ideal time to review those needs.

[1] Theoretical benchmark representing 60% equity (42% Russell 3000 Index, 18% MSCI AC ex-US), and 40% fixed income (38% Barclay Aggregate and 2% T-Bill)

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.

January 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

After three years of strong market returns, 2015 performance was relatively flat combined with higher volatility across most asset classes. Sluggish global economic growth, concerns over a hard landing in China, a further decline in oil prices, and the anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate hike since 2006 weighed on markets. The U.S. dollar was a top performing asset class, gaining more than 9%, while commodity-related assets were the worst performers. Large cap U.S. equities outpaced small cap and international equities, fixed income delivered lackluster returns, and alternative strategies generally underperformed expectations, resulting in a difficult year for diversified investors.

Despite a robust fourth quarter, U.S. equity markets ended the year with a small gain on a total return basis. There was also wide dispersion across sectors. Consumer discretionary dominated with a double-digit gain, followed by healthcare and technology. Energy experienced a greater than -20% loss for the year. With sluggish economic growth as the backdrop, investors significantly favored growth over value from a style perspective across all market capitalizations, but particularly in the large cap space where the spread was more than 900 basis points. Small caps faded after a strong start to the year, with the Russell 2000 Index declining more than -4%.

BRICDeveloped international equity markets performed in line with U.S. markets in local terms during 2015, but lagged in U.S. dollar terms. Unlike in the U.S., small caps outpaced large caps in international markets. Japan was the strongest performing market with a gain of almost 10%. Emerging markets significantly underperformed developed markets. The weakest performer was Brazil, with a decline of more than -40% in U.S. dollar terms. Of the BRIC countries, only Russia was able to deliver a positive return.

Longer-term U.S. Treasury yields moved slightly higher in 2015, with the 10-year rising 10 basis points to end the year at a level of 2.27%. The shorter-end of the curve moved higher, resulting in a modest flattening of the yield curve. Even with the Fed’s actions, we expect longer-term rates to remain range-bound in the intermediate term. All investment-grade fixed income sectors except for corporate credit delivered modest gains, and municipal bonds outperformed taxable fixed income. High-yield credit spreads widened meaningfully throughout 2015 and the asset class declined more than -4%. Technical pressures, including increased supply and meaningful outflows, weighed on the high-yield market with the most impact on lowest-rated credits; however, we have yet to see a meaningful decline in fundamentals.

The global macro backdrop keeps us positive on risk assets over the intermediate term as we move through the second half of the business cycle. However, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009, and the risks must not be ignored. We find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Fed_OutlookGlobal monetary policy accommodation: Despite the Fed beginning to normalize monetary policy with the initial rate hike in December, their approach should be patient and data-dependent. The European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan have been more aggressive with easing measures in an attempt to support their economies. China is likely going to require additional support.
  • U.S. growth stable and inflation tame: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. Payroll employment growth has been solid, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5%. Wage growth has been tepid at best despite the tightening labor market, and reported inflation measures and inflation expectations remain below the Fed’s target.
  • Deal Activity: Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deal activity continues to pick up as companies seek growth.
  • Washington: With the new budget, fiscal policy is poised to become modestly accommodative, helping offset more restrictive monetary policy.

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 have moved significantly wider, and weakness has spread outside of the commodity sector.
  • Commodity price weakness: Weakness in commodity-related sectors has begun to spill over to other areas of the economy, and earnings have weakened as a result.
  • Geopolitical risks could cause short-term volatility.

Market technicals remain weak, but valuations are back to more neutral levels. Investor sentiment, a contrarian signal, is near extreme pessimism territory. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets digest the Fed’s actions and we move through the second half of the business cycle; however, our view on risk assets remains positive over the near term. Increased volatility creates opportunities that we may 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.

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”

Miller_HeadshotBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” was the slogan used by Chiffon margarine, manufactured and trademarked by Anderson, Clayton and Company in the 1970s. It’s a catchphrase that is somewhat still indicative of the current market weakness in that China is meddling too much with its markets and currency.

Global risk assets are wrestling with the issue of “price discovery.” China is in the headlines for fooling both with its stock market and its currency. To speak as the Federal Reserve, this is probably not a “transient” problem.

The bar chart below titled, “China’s Stocks Still World’s Most Expensive after Rout,” indicates that the median Chinese stock is two to three times more expensive than other stocks globally. Such a large gap begs the question—are Chinese stocks worth it? Doubtful. China has a slowing economy, overvalued currency, overcapacity in many industries, and a lot of debt.

Last August, when we saw headlines such as “China meddling in stock market seen discouraging return of foreign funds” (Reuters – Aug 6, 2015), “China’s market meddling could do more harm than good” (CNN Money – July 28, 2015), and “China’s stocks keep falling because of government’s inept meddling” (INVESTORS.com – August 26, 2015), some of us wondered if we had just seen a preview of the future.

This week’s action seems to indicate, “yes.” China closed its stock exchanges twice and injected money at least once this week did little. On January 7, China also lifted its restriction imposed last summer on sales of shares held by large institutions. Now, investors have no idea what Chinese equities are worth. Price discovery will likely take time there.

Miller_China_Chart1

Source: Bloomberg

All of this, of course, leads us to sovereign bond markets around the world, most notably in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Central banks in these three developed economies have kept interest rates near zero for years now.

The European Central Bank appears increasingly willing to double down on this bet.

Miller_China_Chart2

Source: European Central Bank, Bloomberg

No doubt “fooling with Mother Nature” lurks in the minds of many investors. It is hard to fathom paying the government to save your money; but, that is exactly what German investors do when they purchase two-year German Treasury bonds at a -0.375% yield! Just think of all the retirees around that world that have been forced out of safe government bonds and bank certificate of deposits into higher-yielding riskier investments because they need income. There is a popular acronym for this forced behavior, TINA–There Is No Alternative.

To help quell this thought inside investor’s minds, check out Five Answers for the Voices in Your Head.

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 – Why So Shaky, Markets?

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded January 7, 2016), Bill lends some insight into why markets have started the year so volatile, and what that means for the long-term outlook.

Two themes are at the heart of the current market weakness: (1) Chinese government has meddled too much with its market and currency and (2) Central banks have kept interest rates too low for too long.

China

  • Stock prices are two to three times more expensive relative to Germany, U.S., Japan and others
  • China halted trading (twice) so investor’s couldn’t get to their investments, causing panicked behavior among investors
  • Officials manipulated down the value of the yuan in an effort to stimulate exports, creating more fear in investors
  • Things must be weak enough where officials think that they have to stimulate exports

Central Banks

  • Central banks around the world have kept interest rates near zero, but now that is shifting
  • U.S. has raised rates and there is talk of raising them again in 2016; but Europe and Japan remain at near-zero levels, creating a credibility issue
  • Investors now questioning why U.S. is going in one direction and Europe and Japan in another, and what that means to their investments

The combination of Chinese market manipulation and central bank credibility is surely causing fear, and perhaps some irrational investing, but it’s important to temper those voices. While the current volatility may take some time to pass, it feels more like a market correction and less of a large-scale economic issue.

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.

It’s Official: China’s Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues

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

Here are the quick takes:

  • The IMF formally approved inclusion of the Chinese renminbi (RMB) into Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
  • Chinese RMB will not replace the U.S. dollar (USD) in the near term
  • Impact more symbolic near term, but progress will be measured over many years

The IMF formally indicated on November 30 it would include the Chinese RMB into its basket of approved reserve currencies. As stated in a previous blog, the inclusion of the RMB would appear to have limited near-term economic impact to the U.S. dollar.

Even with limited economic near-term impact, the inclusion of the RMB certainly has symbolic significance. Clearly, there is political benefit to the IMF’s recognition of the RMB in terms of enhancing China’s global prestige. The inclusion of the RMB might also serve as a carrot to deepen further structural reform as evidenced by China’s promise to have fully open capital accounts by 2020.[1]   Other countries hostile to the U.S., such as Russia and Iran, might view RMB investment as a way to hedge themselves against the risk of U.S.-led economic sanctions by conducting more trade away from the U.S. dollar.

However, the overall effects of the IMF SDR should not be overstated. The SDR is akin to a “recommended list” that cannot be enforced on central banks or markets. As an example, the weight of the USD was basically held flat at around 41%. (The new RMB weight was added at the expense mostly of the EUR). Furthermore, current holdings of central bank reserves deviate quite a bit from the SDR, with USD comprising 60% of total reserves (vs. 41% weight in the IMF SDR).[2] For comparison, central banks hold roughly 20% of reserves in EUR (vs. 31% weight in the IMF SDR). Some central banks hold currencies such as the Australian dollar (AUD) that are not in the IMF SDR.

Major potential shifts into the RMB will take place over a protracted period of years, but here are some milestones to watch:

  • Progress on further structural reform
  • Deeper liquidity in local Chinese bonds
  • Longer track record on responsible governance.

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-22/china-said-to-weigh-pledge-for-opening-capital-account-by-2020-ig1sbvez .

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/proportion-of-euros-held-in-foreign-exchange-reserves-declines-1435686071

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 – Here Comes the Renminbi

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded November 20, 2015), we focus on the likelihood that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will add the Renminbi (RMB) as an approved currency in its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket. Will this displace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency?

What we like: We don’t believe the RMB will supplant the dollar as the favored reserve currency, at least not anytime soon; law and precedent in our judicial system is more structured and supportive–not the case in China; debt markets aren’t well-developed in China; Chinese don’t necessarily want the RMB to be a much stronger currency relative to the U.S. dollar as it would impact their ability to export; approval would likely lead to more reform in China, which would add to global stability

What we don’t like: This won’t necessarily solve China’s current growth problems; would likely have some type of ripple effect (Australian dollar)

What we’re doing about it: Standing pat; announcement may come soon, but would not take shape for another year or so; no need to rush into portfolio changes; not a major concern to the U.S. dollar at this time

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.

China Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues: The End of U.S. Dollar Supremacy?

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

On November 13, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a preliminary indication that it would include the Chinese currency, the RMB, for the first time in its basket of approved reserve currencies, or Special Drawing Rights (“SDRs”). Undoubtedly, China has gained international prestige due to its partial liberalization of its capital accounts as well as its position as the second largest economy in the world after the U.S.

Does this mean the end of the supremacy of the U.S. Dollar?

60% of reserves of foreign central banks are held in U.S. Dollars.[1] Chinese RMB comprise less than 1%. While foreign central banks are likely to accumulate more RMB over time, there remains some questions as to how quickly it could rise in the near term.

First, Chinese bond markets would need to develop deeper liquidity. In order to invest in a currency, central banks would demand liquid investments denominated in the currency. Today, the U.S. bond market is magnitudes deeper than that in China.[2]

Second, it’s not in China’s best interest to immediately go to fully-free capital accounts. Exports are in decline due in part to weak global demand. The last thing the Chinese government would want to do is to put further pressure on exporter margins with a strong currency buttressed by sudden foreign capital inflows. One case in point is the August devaluation of the Chinese RMB that spooked financial markets.

While China has made progress in financial reform—partial liberalization of interest rates and opening up access to its stock markets—China has not opened up its currency to full convertibility and free capital flows.

Furthermore, recent government intervention in the stock market and economy does not provide investors assurance on long-term governance. Neither the Chinese nor the IMF can simply legislate a track record of responsible governance overnight. Time and consistency are needed to win investor confidence.

[1] http://worldif.economist.com/article/6/what-if-the-yuan-competes-with-the-dollar-clash-of-the-currencies , accessed on November 13, 2015.

[2] See http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-investors-shy-away-from-chinas-6-4-trillion-bond-market-1437593482?alg=y , accessed on November 16, 2015.

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.