Vlog – Quarter End Q&A: 3Q2018

Brinker Capital’s Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, asks and answers those questions we think will be top of mind for clients as they open their quarterly statements and think back on the quarter that was:

  1. Can this record bull market continue to run?
  2. Will weakness in emerging market equities spark a bear market here at home?
  3. Will the Fed continue to raise rates and what might that mean for the economy?

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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: The dreaded yield curve inversion


Andrew Goins
, CFA, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded September 24, 2018), Andrew discusses the probability of future Fed rate hikes and the potential impact of the yield curve.

Quick hits:

  • The more highly anticipated event will be the release of the Beige Book following this weeks meetings, which covers everything discussed and includes the widely followed dot plot.
  • We’ve been dealing with a very flat yield curve for much of this year.
  • Everyone is watching closely for the dreaded yield curve inversion, which has been an ominous sign for impending recessions historically.
  • While the curve remains flat, but positively sloped, and with the weight of the evidence leaning positive, our portfolios remain overweight to equities.

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

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This is not a recommendation for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. These securities are shown for illustrative purposes only.

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: We are likely in the 7th inning of this game

Chris HartSenior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 15, 2018), Chris discusses what we should expect in the later half of the cycle.

 

Quick hits:

  • In a widely anticipated move last week, the Fed raised its policy rate by 25 basis points up to a range of 1.75% to 2.0%.
  • It is important to remember that late in the cycle, by definition, means that there is still room for growth and expansion.
  • The Fed has to walk a tight path as it works to balance the risk of overtightening and choking off economic growth with the risk of overheating the economy.
  • Regardless of whether you tend to lean dovish or hawkish, there are indicators in the fixed income markets to watch for that help assess the potential for recession in the intermediate term.
  • Regardless of one’s opinion on policy and interest rates, we have consistently highlighted a theme of the road to interest rate normalization and the risks of policy uncertainty.

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

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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.

Dinner with Janet

By: Chuck Widger, Founder & Executive Chairman

Yellen_small-2On April 4, I joined a group of 15 private sector investors for a dinner with former Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Dr. Janet Yellen. It was a delightful, insightful, interesting, and informative evening. Below is a mix of her thoughts on the economy, Fed policy, and where we are headed. I am also noting important policy nuances raised by a couple of her core economic policy principles.

Yellen has a positive outlook on the economy. She sees economic growth in 2018 and 2019 at +2.5% and +2.8%, respectively. She described the economy and the labor market to be in excellent shape and expects tax cuts and spending to lift real GDP in 2018 and 2019 by one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point above the economy’s current growth rate of 2.6%. The labor market is almost at full employment, with the potential for the unemployment rate to drop another 0.6% to a level of 3.5%. However, the labor force participation rate may not improve because of structural reasons.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Fed will continue on its current path and pursue a total of three increases in the Fed Funds rate this year. What might those extraordinary circumstances be? While Yellen believes there is not a lot of pressure on margins from wage costs and thus no present inflation problems, overheating from all the stimulus is a possibility. Faster growth and a tighter labor market could cause the Fed to make a policy mistake. Significantly faster and greater increases in interest rates could (and they have in the past) chill growth and lead to a recession.

In discussing the economy and Fed policy-making, Yellen showed appealing humility. She acknowledged that our monetary leaders bring their best judgment not an absolute certainty to making policy choices. For example, while commenting on the natural rate of interest, she observed, “What if it’s higher than I/we anticipate? While I have a view on what it is, I do not have absolute certainty.” Humility combined with significant intellectual talent is always an appealing character trait.

So, what are the nuances? Two points stood out. First, her emphasis on the Phillips curve as the only actual framework for understanding the relationship between inflation and unemployment, and second, her view that tax reduction and full capital expensing will have little supply-side effect on economic growth. Both raise important policy distinctions between Keynesian and supply-side economics.

Keynesian economists put greater emphasis on the Fed’s ability to fine tune the economy than supply-siders. In contrast, supply-siders favor letting the natural forces in a market economy do their thing. Yellen’s emphatic statement endorsing the Phillips Curve as the only framework for predicting the tradeoffs between unemployment and inflation is quite Keynesian. For example, if unemployment is high, the policy choice is to reduce interest rates and increase the money supply to create demand and thereby reduce the unemployment rate with little impact on inflation. This is fine-tuning through government intervention.

phillips-curve-2Yellen similarly sees the tax reform’s rate reduction as increasing demand and thereby spurring demand because consumers have more to spend. Tax reform and full capital expensing will provide only a small spur to economic growth through increased production by businesses.

Supply-side economists, like the new Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors Larry Kudlow, beg to differ. They believe when businesses produce and sell more because they have more after-tax cash, they create more demand through the purchases they make and the increased wages they pay. Supply-siders really aren’t interested in the demand side of the supply-demand equation because supply will create its own demand. Therefore, there is not much need for the Fed to “fine tune” the economy. Market forces will balance and grow the economy naturally.

These are important nuances. They reflect an economist’s view on the extent to which the Fed (and the federal government) should intervene in the economy.

The reality is there is something to each of these frameworks. The emphasis on application is, and should be, a matter of degree. There are very few absolutes in economics. The pragmatic application of theory works best.

Below are a few additional pieces of information from our discussion with Dr. Yellen.

  • For the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) there is plenty of blame to go around. The Fed failed to supervise the banking system and the shadow banking system. Our banking system engaged in poor practices and pursued unaligned incentives (bad behavior). And, the markets demanded high cash returns through CDAs and mortgage-backed securities.
  • The safety net placed under the financial system post-GFC has not been endangered by the deregulation pursued by the new administration.
  • Current worries are to the upside. An “overheating” economy is of more concern than undershooting the Fed’s inflation target.
  • Another worry is the Fed continues to conduct an accommodation experiment. As it increases rates, it must balance the different risks of slowing the economy and stoking inflation.
  • The Fed is now trying to engineer a “soft landing from below.”
  • Bitcoin is speculative excess according to Yellen. One dinner guest suggested interested investors should consult the 17th Century Dutch tulip bulb mania when considering bitcoin investments.

Yellen is to be thanked for her public service and her leadership as Chair of the Federal Reserve. A record of good stewardship of a vital US institution by a personable, highly intelligent public servant offers a refreshing reinforcement of public trust in a vital US institution.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Opinions represented are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security and are subject to change without notice.  

Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor. 

Chart source: The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. DK Publishing, 2012. pg.203

President Trump, trade & the markets…Is it time to hit the panic button?

Holland_F_150x150
Tim Holland, CFASenior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 23, 2018), Tim discusses the Trump Administration’s trade policies and its impact on Brinker Capital’s portfolio positioning.

Quick hits:

  • Investors have been fixated on the Trump Administration’s trade policy. First, the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and now talk of much broader based action directed at China.
  • After rallying strongly off its February lows, the S&P 500 has been correcting on increasing concerns protectionist trade policies will torpedo consumer and corporate sentiment and spending, and ultimately the stock market.
  • We remain bullish on the economy and risk assets, including US stocks. Why? Simply put, the hard and soft economic data – or maybe said another way, reality, not rhetoric – tells us we should.
  • 4 BIG BOXES that help drive our thinking: fiscal policy, monetary policy, economic fundamentals, and sentiment.

For the rest of Tim’s insight, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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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: Fiscal policy takes the baton from monetary policy – What it means for the economy & risk assets

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded February 23, 2018), Tim takes a closer look at US fiscal policy and how it might impact the economy and markets as we move through 2018.

Quick hits:

  • For now, we see fiscal policy as a net positive for economic growth and risk assets, particularly equities.
  • We also don’t see interest rates and inflation as a risk to the economy and markets.
  • We do think rates are biased higher, which is one reason we are conservatively positioned within fixed income.
  • Increased investor concern over higher rates and inflation is driving greater market volatility, something we all lived through earlier this month.

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

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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.

The road to interest rate normalization in 2017

Holland 150 x 150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

Since 1965, the Fed has implemented policy tightening 15 times and the impact on the bond market has not always translated into longer rates rising. For example, in 2004 the Fed began raising rates in response to concerns of a housing bubble. As a result, the bond market did well as the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell.

More recently, during the current market cycle, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2015. The 10-year Treasury yield fell and the bond market generated a positive return while equities plummeted in the first quarter of 2016. A year later, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2016. The impact on markets was minimal with both equities and fixed income generating strong positive returns in the two months that followed. Year to date, equities and bonds have rallied in the face of two rate increases by the Fed; first in March and then in June. We expect one more rate increase in 2017.

shutterstock_124163875 resizedCatalysts for higher interest rates

Many positive factors are currently present in the U.S. economy that justify and support a move toward interest rate normalization:

  • Stable U.S. economic growth. U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. The new administration and an all-Republican government will try to stimulate the economy through reflationary policies including tax cuts, infrastructure spending and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Supportive credit environment. High yield credit spreads have meaningfully contracted and are back to the tight levels we saw in 2014.
  • Inflation expectations. Historically, there has been a strong positive correlation between interest rates and inflation. Many of the anticipated policies of the Trump administration are inflationary. In addition, the Brinker Capital investment team believes the economy is in the second half of the business cycle, which is typically characterized by wage growth and increased capital expenditures—both of which eventually translate into higher prices. We expect inflation expectations to move higher.
  • Unemployment levels. The labor market has become stronger and is nearing full employment. Unemployment has dropped to a level last seen in 2001.

A rising rate environment should prove challenging for some areas of fixed income.  However, fixed income can serve as the ballast for a broadly diversified portfolio and a good counter to equity market volatility.  Our fixed income exposure is focused on strategies with below average duration and a yield cushion.

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.

Fed continues on road to interest rate normalization

lowmanLeigh Lowman, Investment Manager

In a widely anticipated move, the Fed increased interest rates by 25 basis points on March 15, 2017, the second interest rate hike in three months and there are talks of potentially two more raises this year. Positive economic data and a rise in business confidence served as a catalyst for the Fed to continue its interest rate normalization efforts with the possibility of as many as two additional rate increases later this year. However, recent rhetoric from the Fed reaffirmed their commitment to move at a cautious pace, supporting Brinker Capital’s view that the process of longer term rates will likely be prolonged and characterized in fits and starts, rather than linear, as the market adapts to the new normal.

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Source: FactSet, Federal Reserve, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. U.S. Data are as of February 28, 2017. Market expectations are the federal funds rates priced into the fed futures market as of the date of the December 2016 FOMC meeting. *Forecasts of 17 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) participants are median estimates. **Last futures market expectation is for November 2019 due to data availability.

Catalysts for higher interest rates

Many positive factors are currently present in the economy that point to a move toward interest rate normalization:

  • Stable U.S. economic growth. Economic growth in the U.S. has been modest but steady. The new administration and an all-Republican government will likely further stimulate the economy through reflationary fiscal policies including tax cuts, infrastructure spending and a more benign regulatory environment.
  • Supportive credit environment. High yield credit spreads have meaningfully contracted and are back to the tight levels we saw in 2014. Commodity prices have also stabilized.
  • Inflation expectations. Historically, there has been a strong positive correlation between interest rates and inflation. Many of the anticipated policies of the Trump administration are inherently inflationary. Inflation expectations have increased accordingly and headline inflation has been moving towards the Fed’s 2% long-run objective. In addition, we believe we are in the second half of the business cycle, typically characterized by wage growth and increased capital expenditures, both of which eventually translate into higher prices.
  • Unemployment levels. The labor market has become stronger and is nearing full employment. Unemployment has dropped to a level last seen in 2007.

Historical perspective

From 1965 to present, the Fed has implemented policy tightening a total of 15 times and the impact on the bond market has not always translated into longer rates rising. For example, back in 2004 the Fed began raising rates in response to beginning concerns of a housing bubble and the bond market did well as the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell.

More recently during the current market cycle, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2015. The 10 year Treasury yield fell and the bond market generated a positive return while equities plummeted in the first quarter of 2016. A year later, the Fed increased rates by 25 basis points in December 2016. The impact on markets was minimal with both equities and fixed income generating strong positive returns in the two months that followed.

Fixed income allocation

Traditional fixed income has historically provided a hedge against equity market risk with substantially less drawdown than equities. Although a rising rate environment would suggest flat to negative returns for some areas of fixed income, the asset class still provides stability in portfolios when equities sell off. For example, fixed income provided an attractive safe haven during the market correction in the beginning of 2016.

In an environment of rising rates, Brinker Capital believes an allocation to traditional fixed income is still merited as we expect the asset class to provide a good counter to equity volatility.

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Source: Fact Set, Brinker Capital, Inc. Index returns are for illustrative purposes only. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Overall, much uncertainty remains on the timing and trajectory of interest rate changes. Brinker Capital remains committed to helping investors navigate through a rising rate environment through building diversified portfolios across multiple asset classes.

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.

Investment Insights Podcast: What a difference Fed meeting can make

Chris HartHart_Podcast_338x284, Senior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 17, 2017), Chris discusses how the recent Fed rate hike has impacted the markets.

 

shutterstock_9514525 (2)

Quick hits:

  • Markets moved higher across the board which was a reversal from the flat to down trend that was in place for the last few sessions.
  • Most institutional investors do not have expectations of recession over the near term.
  • The economy continues to strengthen and we believe the case remains to be constructive on risk assets over the intermediate term.
  • Rates are still low by historic standards and even with the increase, the road to interest rate normalization will be long.
  • We continue to believe that a modest overweight to risk is prudent over the intermediate term, and as a result are not planning material changes to portfolio positioning at this point in time.

For the rest of Chris’s 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: Pointing towards a global re-acceleration

Hart_Podcast_338x284Chris Hart, Senior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded December 12, 2016), Chris is back discussing how economic and market data have been more favorable and point towards a global re-acceleration.

Quick hits:

  • Risk assets continued to move higher
  • The past week saw a continuation of the “Trump Trade” where pro-growth and pro-cyclical areas of the markets fared best.
  • From an equity sector perspective, cyclicals such as Financials and Industrials continue to be the recipients of strong flows
  • Within fixed income, the credit backdrop remains supportive and treasury yields continue to rise.
  • Current expectations are for a hike in short term interest rates likely by 25 basis points
  • There is good participation across sectors and not the very narrow leadership environment we saw in 2015

For the rest of Chris’s 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.