The Impact of Brexit

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

An overview of highlights from our Investment Team on the impact of Brexit on markets and Brinker Capital portfolios.

Key Highlights:

  • Today is largely a retracement of last week’s market action. Over the last week, the MSCI EAFE Index was up over 7% and the Russell 3000 Index almost 2% as the market anticipated a “remain” vote. We’ve retraced that rally today, but global markets are only marginally down from levels seen a week ago.
  • Brinker Capital portfolios have generally been underweight to international markets, specifically developed international markets.
  • This vote is a political event, not an economic event. It marks the coming end of the UK’s trade agreement with the EU, but the process is one that will likely take years. What it has done immediately is increased the level of uncertainty in markets. We will likely see additional global central bank liquidity and easing in an effort to support economies and markets.
  • Emotional trading can create opportunities, so our focus over the coming weeks and months will be to identify and take advantage of these opportunities.

Brexit’s Impact on Global Economies and Markets

  • The economic and political impact on the UK is decidedly negative, but the degree of which is uncertain. The currency and equity markets will be weaker in the near term while the long-term outlook is unclear given the politics involved.
  • The negative economic impact on Europe is less, but still meaningful. From a political perspective, the departure highlights the rising risk of populism and becomes another distraction for the EU from much-needed reforms. We expect a weaker euro and European risk assets in the near term; the central bank could try to cushion some impact.
  • International markets will experience the indirect effects of lower global growth and general risk aversion.
  • We do not see it as having a significant direct impact on the U.S. economy; however, a strengthening U.S. dollar as a result will be a headwind for U.S. companies with significant international business.
  • Expectations for additional interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have plummeted. Today, the futures curve is predicting a zero chance of a rate hike in September (down from 31% yesterday) and a 14% chance in December (down from 50%).

How Brinker Capital is Positioned in Strategic Portfolios

  • Portfolios have been positioned with a meaningful underweight to international equity markets in favor of domestic equity markets.
  • The underweight has been concentrated in developed international markets, due to concerns over long-term structural issues in their economies that have an impact on economic growth.
  • We don’t anticipate any immediate changes to the portfolios as a result of these events as we feel we were well positioned ahead of the news, and we expect to reallocate portfolios in late July.

Overall Summary

  • We think this is an extended process that will develop over the coming months and years. Today, the market is pricing in the uncertainty, but this will be a fluid and evolving process.
  • The market selloff today has been relatively orderly and largely a retracement of the gains of the last week.
  • Our portfolios were well positioned in advance of the vote with an underweight to international markets.
  • We expect the uncertainty to result in higher levels of volatility, which creates opportunities for active management.

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 – Japan: Sunset on the Horizon?

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 29, 2016), Stuart puts the focus on Japan and their struggling economy especially on the current political climate and its economic impact.

Why talk about Japan?

  • It’s the third largest economy in the world.
  • It’s one of the world’s leading lenders to the rest of the world, including the U.S.
  • Political fallout and economic downside loom if monetary easing policy is not accompanied with fiscal progress.

What’s the latest?

  • On April 27, the Bank of Japan decided not to add to currently high quantitative easing, greatly disappointing the markets.
  • The Japanese Yen appreciated over 2% (versus the U.S. dollar), that’s a negative given that two-thirds of the equity market is based towards overseas earnings.

How did Japan get here?

  • Back in 2013, Shinzo Abe inspired hope to reinvigorate the economy through the three arrows: monetary policy, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform.
  • The reality is there has been little-to-no follow through on fiscal policy or structural reform.
  • Bank of Japan has created a massive QE program, owning one out of every three long-duration government bonds.

Japan_Chart_1

So, did the quantitative easing measures work?

  • QE helped asset prices, but did not reset inflationary expectations nor economic growth (GDP around 1%).
  • Japanese corporations aren’t investing back into Japan, but rather overseas.
  • Negative interest rates have resulted in a deceleration in bank lending.

That’s not great, but what does that mean exactly?

  • Failure in Japan could also have implications for global markets.
  • Despite stagnant growth for parts of the last three decades, Japan remains the third largest economy and second largest equity market.
  • Japan is also one of the largest holders of U.S. Treasuries.

Shoot me straight here, has Japan entered into the “sunset” phase?

  • It appears likely that Japan still has liquidity to muddle through its problems for now, but one cannot rule out a more negative scenario with the latest inaction and failure to improve the economy.
  • Fiscal stimulus could come in light of the recent earthquake, but progress on tax code reform and increased spending would provide longer-lasting relief.
  • One potentially negative scenario could come in July if a larger-than-expected victory for the opposition happens–this could lead to general elections and the departure of Abe causing policy uncertainty and higher volatility.

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.

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.

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.

February 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

It was a rough start to 2016 for investors. Fears of weaker growth in the U.S. and China and volatile oil prices weighed on global equity markets. With signs of slower growth in the U.S., investors began to worry about the impact of additional tightening moves by the Federal Reserve. Global equities and commodities experienced mid-single digit declines and high-yield credit spreads widened further. U.S. Treasuries benefited from the flight to safety and yields declined. After strong gains in 2015, the strength in the U.S. dollar moderated to start the year.

The S&P 500 Index declined -5% in January. The more defensive sectors – telecom, utilities and consumer staples – were able to produce gains against the backdrop of weaker economic data, but all other sectors were negative on the month. Small caps lagged large caps, while microcaps experienced double-digit declines. Growth lagged value across all market caps, due to the underperformance of the healthcare, consumer discretionary and technology sectors.

International equity markets were in line with U.S. markets in local terms, but lagged slightly in U.S. dollar terms. Emerging markets finished slightly ahead of developed markets in January, despite continued weakness in the equity markets of China and Brazil. The equity markets of both Europe and Japan fell during the month; however, Japan was able to erase some losses on the last trading day of the month when the Bank of Japan moved to implement a negative interest rate policy on excess reserves held at the central bank.

Yields fell across the curve in January as investors preferred the safety of government bonds. The 10-year Treasury note fell 39 basis points to end the month at a level of 1.88%. The decline was felt in both real yields and inflation expectations, and long duration assets benefited. The yield curve flattened marginally. Municipal bonds continued their solid performance run with a 1% gain. Investment grade credit spreads widened, but the asset class was still able to eke out a gain. The high-yield index, on the other hand, experienced another 80 basis points of spread widening and declined -1.6% for the month. Technical pressures still weigh on the high-yield market; however, we have yet to see a meaningful decline in fundamentals outside of the energy sector, at an absolute yield above 9% today, we view the asset class as attractive.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term as we view the current market environment as 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. 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 remain below the Fed’s target.
  • 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.
  • Prolonged weakness in commodity prices: Weakness in commodity-related sectors has begun to spill over to other areas of the economy, and company fundamentals are deteriorating.
  • Geopolitical risks could cause short-term volatility.

On the balance the technical backdrop of the market is weak, but valuations are back to more neutral levels and investor sentiment, a contrarian signal, reached extreme pessimism territory. Investors continue to pull money from equity oriented strategies. 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 leans positive over the near term. Increased volatility creates opportunities that 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 – The World of Negative Interest Rates

Rosenberger_PodcastAndrew Rosenberger, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded February 2, 2016), Andy discusses what the world of negative interest rates looks like and how it impacts investors:

  • Japan surprised markets by entering the world of negative interest rates, joining Sweden, Denmark, and the European Central Bank.
  • Just a few years ago it seemed that negative interest rates were impossible; but, today there is over $5.5 TRILLION dollars of government debt with negative yields.
  • Long-term impact to investors is, candidly, unknown. Short-term impact seems to lean towards lower yields globally, including the U.S.
  • Large yield differentials between developed countries (Germany, Japan, U.S.) are a major reason why the U.S. dollar continues to appreciate.
  • Demand created by large yield spreads is why we believe we won’t see meaningfully higher yields in the United States anytime in the near term and why we believe the Fed will back off their initially suggested pace of raising interest rates, perhaps even holding off overall.

For Andy’s full insights, 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.

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.

Will The Santa Claus Rally Deliver in 2015?

HartChris Hart, Core Investment Manager

It is that time of year again. The time when Wall Street pundits begin to talk about the potential for the stock market to deliver its year-end present to investors, neatly wrapped in the form of positive gains to finish out the year, and even carry over into January. While seasonality is typically associated with the entire fourth quarter of a given year—as November and December tend to be stronger months for the S&P 500 Index—the “Santa Claus rally” is a more defined subset.

The Santa Claus rally concept was first popularized in 1972 by Yale Hirsch, the publisher of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, when he identified the positive trend between the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the New Year. Over those seven trading days since 1969, the S&P 500 Index posted an average gain of 1.4%. However, investors have had to wait until the last week of the month to see if the actual Santa Claus rally occurs.

Over the years, analysts have speculated many possible explanations for the notion of a Santa Claus rally. One is that investors are simply more optimistic in the holiday season and market bears are on vacation. Others contend that consumers may be investing their holiday bonuses. A more technical explanations could be that year-end, tax-loss selling creates oversold conditions (i.e. buying opportunities) for value investors to buy stocks. Some propose the theory that portfolio managers may try to “window dress” their portfolios in an effort to squeeze out additional performance before year end. Regardless of the various possible explanations, market data supports the idea that since 1950, December has been the best month of the year for the S&P 500 Index.

Strategas: Historically the Best Month of the Year

Source: Strategas

That said, there are no guarantees on Wall Street and the delivery of a Santa Claus rally is no exception. In fact, the lack of a rally could be an important market signal. The Stock Trader’s Almanac warns, “If Santa Claus should fail to call; bears may come to Broad & Wall.” Interestingly, Jeffery Hirsch, son of Yale Hirsch and current editor of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, notes that over the past 21 years, the Santa Claus rally has failed to materialize only four times, and that preceded flat market performance in 1994 & 2005, and down markets in 2000 and 2008.

With so many macro forces at work here in the U.S. and globally, the presence of both headwinds and tailwinds in the current market allows room for debate as to whether or not the Santa Claus rally will occur 2015. The dollar remains strong, manufacturing is slowing, and energy remains under pressure due to low oil prices. However, valuations are not unreasonable, economic growth continues, albeit modestly, and we are seven years into a domestic bull market that continues to move higher amid shorter-term bouts of resistance and volatility. While some naysayers contend that the abnormally strong gains in October may have cannibalized some of December’s potential rally, I believe the Federal Reserve is one of the real wild cards here. If the Fed decides to raise interest rates in mid-December for the first time since 2008, higher levels of uncertainty could temper investor enthusiasm, depending on the Fed’s language regarding the duration and magnitude of any such action.

While I remain a believer in the magic of the holidays and am optimistic that the market can justify a Santa Claus rally in 2015, there are too many mixed signals across the markets to be certain. In the end, I just hope the Santa Rally of 2015 does not prove to be as elusive as that clever little Elf on the Shelf.

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.