Follow the earnings, my friend

Wilson-150-x-150Thomas K.R. Wilson, CFA, external Chief Investment Officer, Wealth Advisory

In meeting with clients this summer, the most frequently asked question was, “Why does the stock market keep going up?” Of course, there are variations of this question which range from “How does the market go up with all the distraction in the U.S. government,” to “This bull market is very long, how can it continue?”

On the surface, it does seem odd that the market continues to move higher. There have been a lot of ‘interesting’ comments coming from the White House, which in a different time may have caused the equity market to decline or at least pause. The average economic expansion since 1900 lasted 47 months, however, the one we are currently in has lasted 98 months, thus far. The economic expansion has contributed to a bull market, which began in March 2009, that is now up close to 260%! In addition, there are a litany of geopolitical issues ranging from riots in Venezuela, an expanding Chinese navy, and North Korean missile tests, which combined are pushing the rise of populism in Europe and the constant Middle East conflict to the backburner. Besides, whatever happened to the old cliché of sell in May and go away? For the year, the S&P 500 is up just over 11%, which includes more than 1.5% appreciation since June 1.

There are a variety of reasons why the U.S. equity market is up, but arguable the most important factor is the earnings of U.S. companies. Earnings have been good this year, very good. And, expectations for earnings for the remainder of the year and into 2018 are solid. This comes on the heels of flat to down earnings from 2014 through the first half of 2016. Furthermore, once earnings are finalized for the second quarter, it looks like operating margins achieved their highest level of any quarter in the last decade!                                                               Follow the earnings my friend

James Carville, campaign strategist for President Bill Clinton, is credited with the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid.” As we think about the gains in U.S. equities this year, perhaps a variation of this phrase, “Follow the earnings, my friend” is more appropriate.

For 30 years, Brinker Capital has served financial advisors and their clients by providing the highest quality investment manager due diligence, asset allocation, portfolio construction and client communication services. Brinker Capital Wealth Advisory works with business owners, individual investors and institutions with assets of at least $2 million. To learn more about the services available through Brinker Capital Wealth Advisor, click here.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Source:  JP Morgan

Investment Insights Podcast: Recent rally in European stocks

Jeff Raupp, CFARaupp_Podcast_Graphic, Director of Investments

Year to date, we’ve seen European stocks rally over 15%, just about double the return of the S&P 500 index.

So what’s not to like?

Listen to the latest Investment Insights Podcast to learn about Brinker Capital’s perspective on European stocks.

shutterstock_9514525 (8)

 

 

 

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: Four Areas of Focus in the Last Quarter

Raupp_Podcast_GraphicJeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded October 21, 2016), Jeff highlights four focus areas to watch during the last quarter of 2016: the Fed, earnings, signs of recession, and the election.

  1. The Federal Reserve. Watch for a tightening of interest rates in December and dovish guidance (maintaining low interest rates) for 2017.
  2. Earnings. Watch for improvement in earnings as the pressure of low oil prices on energy companies starts to roll off.
  3. Signs of Recession. Watch for indicators that the business cycle is over. We believe we are in the second half of the cycle, and while it has been about seven years, economic growth has been more muted.
  4. Election. Watch for volatility as elections tend to cause uncertainty in the markets. However, markets tend to bounce back following elections as some of the uncertainty fades away.

For Jeff’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.

Earnings Season Upon Us, but Information Void Looms

Raupp_Podcast_GraphicJeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded August 1, 2016), Jeff covers the current themes impacting markets, including Brexit, earnings season, and the presidential election. Highlights of his discussion include:

  • Since the initial negative reaction from the Brexit vote in late June, markets have rebounded sharply, with U.S. stocks up over 15% since the June 27 lows and international stocks up over 10%.
  • Late summer and fall loom as somewhat of an information void, where economic data is a little sparser and investors have a harder time seeing the impetus for the next leg up in the market.
  • It wouldn’t be surprising to see a pause in the upward momentum in the markets until we get more clarity about the direction of the election.
  • This past week, housing, earnings, employment and wages all had positive reports, but were offset by a very disappointing GDP number.

For Jeff’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.

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.

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.

Investment Insights Podcast – Central Banks Back Economies

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 17, 2016), Bill explains why recession concerns should continue to lessen and what to expect from the upcoming earnings season:

What we like: Recent Wall Street Journal survey indicates that investors are becoming less fearful of a recession; that trend should continue as central banks across the world are firmly standing by their economies–Janet Yellen most recently

What we don’t like: Second quarter earnings season likely to have residual effects from the weak first quarter; markets may trend sideways for a time; corporations have been the largest buyers of stock but have to step aside during earnings season

What we’re doing about it: Continuing to look for opportunities within high-yield, energy and natural resources

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.

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 – October 27, 2015

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded October 27, 2015):

What we like: Tentative budget debt deal between Congress and President should fund government for next several months; better news and business activity out of China; U.S. consumer balance sheet good; wage growth positive; oil prices remain low

What we don’t like: Initial third quarter earnings just OK; some sales misses due to strong dollar and energy; manufacturing sector under great pressure

What we’re doing about it: Slow and steady wins the race; keeping an eye on any recession-related talk

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.

Investment Insights Podcast – October 16, 2015

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded October 16, 2015):

What we like: Fed preaching lower interest rates for longer periods extends friendly monetary policy; Consumer sentiment higher than expected and may indicate potential higher sales and earnings for retailers during holiday season

What we don’t like: Sales growth generally weak; Walmart missed earnings; need growth for stocks to go higher

What we’re doing about it: Looking for positive signs of growth, perhaps that’s consumer sentiment

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.