Investment Insights Podcast: Emerging Markets – Going beyond the headlines

Holland_Podcast_150x126Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded July 28, 2017), Tim takes a closer look at Emerging Markets and why we own them.

Quick hits:

  • After under-performing U.S. and developed international equities for several years, Emerging Market equities are outdistancing both asset classes since the beginning of 2016.
  • The four largest emerging markets on an adjusted GDP basis are Brazil, Russia, India and China, often referred to as the “BRIC Countries.
  • While there are many positives to investing in emerging markets, there are also meaningful risks including political instability, infrastructure problems and currency volatility.
  • Considering the cyclical and secular tailwinds, we are overweight emerging market equities and remain constructive on the asset class.

For Tim’s full insights, click here to listen to the audio recording.

investment podcast (4)

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. 

Foreign securities are more volatile, harder to price and less liquid than U.S. securities; and are subject to different accounting and regulatory standards, and political and economic risks. These risks are enhanced in emerging markets countries.

April 2017 market and economic review and outlook

lowmanLeigh Lowman, Investment Manager

Risk assets finished the quarter in strong positive territory but experienced a pullback in March after notably strong performance for the first two months of the year. In a widely anticipated move, the Fed increased interest rates by 25 basis points on March 15 and rhetoric alluded to the possibility of an additional 2-3 rate hikes this year. However, headlines during the quarter were dominated by speculation surrounding the Trump administration economic plan. After initially surging in the post-election market, investor confidence began to wane as pro-growth policies have yet to come to fruition. Efforts to reform Obamacare were thwarted just prior to the Congress vote on March 24, but uncertainty still remains on the future of healthcare. Overall, economic data remains positive with low unemployment and positive earnings reports and we continue to see signs of improved global growth.

shutterstock_313473086 (5)

The S&P 500 Index was flat for the month but finished the quarter up 6.1%. Sector performance was mixed with the technology sector (+12.6%) posting double-digit returns for the quarter. Likewise, healthcare (+8.4%) posted strong quarter returns, a sharp reversal from the sector’s poor performance last year. Energy was negative for both the month (-1.0%) and the quarter (-6.7%). Financials lagged in March (-2.8%) but remained positive for the quarter (+2.5%). Growth outperformed value and large cap led both mid and small cap.

Developed international equity outperformed domestic equity for both the month and quarter, up 2.9% in March and 7.4% for the first quarter. Economic data leaned positive for the European Union and Japan as both regions experienced a pick-up in global earnings and nominal growth. Recent outcomes of European regional elections may also have signaled a weakening in the populist movement, but political uncertainty is still apparent as upcoming elections begin to unfold.

Emerging markets were up 2.6% for the month and 11.5% for the quarter. The region rebounded from a difficult fourth quarter as fears of US protectionism began to dissipate.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Index was flat for the month and up 0.8% for the quarter. During the month, the 10 year Treasury yield rose as high as 2.6% in anticipation of the Fed raising interest rates, but finished the quarter at 2.4%, slightly lower than where it started in 2017. After steadily contracting during the first two months of the year, high yield spreads slightly widened in March but still remain at relatively low levels. Municipal bonds outperformed taxable bonds during the quarter, largely due to limited supply and solid demand.

We remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term, although we acknowledge we are in the later innings of the bull market and the second half of the business cycle. While our macro outlook is biased in favor of the positives and recession is not our base case, especially considering the potential of reflationary policies from the new administration, the risks must not be ignored.

We find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Reflationary fiscal policies: With the new administration and an all-Republican government, we expect fiscal policy expansion in 2017, including tax cuts, repatriation of foreign sourced profits, increased infrastructure and defense spending, and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Global growth improving: U.S. economic growth is ticking higher and there are signs growth outside of the U.S., in both developed and emerging markets, is improving.
  • Business confidence has increased:  Measures like CEO Confidence and NFIB Small Business Optimism have spiked since the election. This typically leads to additional project spending and hiring, which should boost growth.
  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: The Federal Reserve is taking a careful approach to policy normalization. ECB and Bank of Japan balance sheets expanded in 2016 and central banks remain supportive of growth.

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

  • Administration unknowns: While the upcoming administration’s policies are currently being viewed favorably, uncertainties remain. The market may be too optimistic that all of the pro-growth policies anticipated will come to fruition. We are unsure how Trump’s trade policies will develop, and there is the possibility for geopolitical missteps.
  • Risk of policy mistake: The Federal Reserve has begun to slowly normalize monetary policy, but the future path of rates is still unclear. Should inflation move significantly higher, there is also the risk that the Fed falls behind the curve. The ECB and the Bank of Japan could also disappoint market participants, bringing the credibility of central banks into question.

The technical backdrop of the market is favorable, credit conditions are supportive, and we have started to see some acceleration in economic growth. So far Trump’s policies are being seen as pro-growth, and investor confidence has improved. We expect higher volatility to continue as we digest the onset of new policies under the Trump administration and the actions of central banks, but our view on risk assets remains positive over the intermediate term. Higher volatility can lead 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. Indices are unmanaged and an investor cannot invest directly in an index. 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.

Barclays Municipal Bond Index: A market-weighted index, maintained by Barclays Capital, used to represent the broad market for investment grade, tax-exempt bonds with a maturity of over one year. Such index will have different level of volatility than the actual investment portfolio. S&P 500: An index consisting of 500 stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry grouping, among other factors. The S&P 500 is designed to be a leading indicator of U.S. equities and is meant to reflect the risk/return characteristics of the large-cap universe. Companies included in the Index are selected by the S&P Index Committee, a team of analysts and economists at Standard & Poor’s. World Index Ex-U.S. includes both developed and emerging markets. Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate: A market capitalization-weighted index, maintained by Bloomberg Barclays, and is often used to represent investment grade bonds being traded in the United States.

Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast: Three things we’ve learned in the first quarter of this year

Jeff Raupp, CFARaupp_Podcast_Graphic, Director of Investments

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 3, 2017), Jeff discusses three things we’ve learned in the first quarter of this year.

 

Here are some quick hits before you have a listen:

  • While the administration’s policies are still considered bullish for stocks, the road to implementation will be a bumpy one.
  • We remain in the second half of the business cycle.
  • A rising Fed funds rate does not mean get out of emerging markets.

shutterstock_9514525 (3)

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.

Investment Insights Podcast: Outlook Positive Despite Rate Hike Possibility

magnotta_headshot_2016Amy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

On this week’s podcast (recorded September 9, 2016), Amy reviews how the markets performed during August and provides an outlook to what’s ahead. Here a few quick hits before you listen:

  • August was a relatively calm month for financial markets. Large cap developed market equities eked out small gains, while emerging markets, high-yield bonds and small caps fared better.
  • U.S. economic data releases have been mixed, but lean positive. Yet, with better economic data comes the possibility of an additional Fed interest rate hike sooner rather than later.
  • While the possibility of a rate hike could adversely affect markets in the near term, it doesn’t change our positive intermediate-term outlook.
  • Risks facing the economy include the potential for a central bank policy mistake, uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election, and disappointing economic growth outside of the U.S.
  • We expect higher volatility to continue as we digest the actions of global central banks, but our view on risk assets still tilts positive over the intermediate term. Increased volatility often leads to pockets of attractive opportunities.

Click here to listen to Amy’s full 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.

Investment Insights Podcast: Frontier Markets Still Attractive

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 2, 2016), Stuart weighs in on frontier markets and how this space is still an attractive area for investors.

Quick take:

  • Today’s frontier markets closer to yesterday’s higher-growth emerging markets.
  • Frontier markets are different and may offer potentially higher growth prospects relative to re-emerging markets.
  • Frontier markets can offer potential positive benefits in portfolio diversification.
Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Frontier markets still offer investors the potential for higher returns and lower correlation within broadly diversified portfolios. Although emerging and frontier markets both offer younger populations and higher economic growth potential relative to developed markets, there are also key differences that currently favor frontier markets.

Frontier markets include a variety of countries that, in many cases, are more tied to domestic factors as opposed to global growth. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Kenya and Nigeria, and in South Asia, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, offer potential investment opportunities. Several of these markets are enacting structural reform and attracting foreign direct investment to improve economic growth prospects. While depressed oil prices have an impact on growth in Middle East economies, such as Oman and Qatar, these countries also boast higher incomes and strong population growth rates.

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

Source: MSCI, Blackrock

In contrast, emerging markets are more of a mixed bag. The larger BRICK economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea) within emerging markets contain a spectrum of moderate growth to stagnation along with banking sectors hobbled by large and rising bad credit. Depressed commodity prices directly hurt Brazil and Russia, while a capacity glut in basic materials impacts bank loans in China and India. The question of “whither the BRICKs” is vital to the direction of emerging markets given they comprise over half of the index.[1]

Investing in frontier markets provides more exposure to domestic growth sectors whereas emerging markets are more geared toward industries influenced by global commodity exports. Domestic sectors account for three out of every four dollars in frontier markets, while they comprise only one out of every two dollars in emerging markets. Industry sectors related to global trends (in many cases commodities) comprise nearly half of emerging market companies but only a quarter of frontier markets.[2]

Frontier markets only comprise less than 3% of the world’s total market capitalization.[3]  Coupled with potentially faster growth relative to the developed world, further structural reform could propel further growth in capital markets.

Superior population growth is one supportive factor. Median population growth of 1.5% in Frontier markets exceeds growth in both developed and emerging markets.

2014 Median Compound Annual Population Growth
Frontier Markets 1.5%
Developed Markets 0.7%
Emerging Markets 0.9%

Source: World Bank and Brinker Capital

A growing variety of funds and ETFs have come to market and allowed greater access to investing in frontier markets in recent years. Nonetheless, frontier markets continue to offer potential benefits to diversifying investment portfolios. Even over the last five years, frontier markets still show lower correlation to broad equity indices (and even lower relative to emerging markets).

Please click here to listen to the full recording.

[1] BRICK comprises 54% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Free Index.  Source: MSCI and Blackrock.
[2] MSCI, Blackrock, and Brinker Capital
[3] Bloomberg and Brinker Capital

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.

May 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Brinker Capital. Views expressed are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change. Not all asset classes referenced in this material may be represented in your portfolio. All investments involve risk including loss of principal. Fixed income investments are subject to interest rate and credit risk. Foreign securities involve additional risks, including foreign currency changes, political risks, foreign taxes, and different methods of accounting and financial reporting. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

April 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Brinker Capital. Views expressed are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change. Not all asset classes referenced in this material may be represented in your portfolio. All investments involve risk including loss of principal. Fixed income investments are subject to interest rate and credit risk. Foreign securities involve additional risks, including foreign currency changes, political risks, foreign taxes, and different methods of accounting and financial reporting. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast – Brazil: Does Instability Bring Hope?

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

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

Why talk about Brazil?

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

So, what’s been happening?

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

Let’s talk about this scandal

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

How does this begin to shape the Brazilian economy?

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

That’s great, but there’s more to it

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

 Where does Brazil stand now?

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

Please click here to listen to the full recording.

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

March 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Brinker Capital. Views expressed are for informational purposes only. Holdings subject to change. Not all asset classes referenced in this material may be represented in your portfolio. All investments involve risk including loss of principal. Fixed income investments are subject to interest rate and credit risk. Foreign securities involve additional risks, including foreign currency changes, political risks, foreign taxes, and different methods of accounting and financial reporting. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

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.