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.

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 – Brazil: Does Rousseff’s Impeachment Muddy the Future?

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

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 16, 2016), Stuart discusses what the President of Brazil’s impeachment means for the near-term future of the country. If you missed Stuart’s initial framework around Brazil, you can catch up here first.

As discussed, why talk about Brazil?

  • It’s the largest economy in Latin America.
  • It’s the eighth largest economy in the world.
  • For the last several years, it’s been a large drag on emerging market economic growth.
  • There is potential to have a positive impact with the recent shock to the political system.

What does Rousseff’s impeachment announcement entail?

  • Brazilian senate approved in large majority to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and replace with Vice President Michel Temer.
  • General elections to take place in 2018, and with the Olympics in Rio a few months away, the window for the government to pass reforms is short.
  • Rousseff is the third president to be impeached since 1992.
  • Key test will be whether such enthusiasm for impeaching Rousseff will apply to tough votes on fiscal reform needed to restore economic confidence in Brazil.

What’s the upside with Temer?

  • Michel Temer has already named a cabinet that includes former president of the Central Bank of Brazil, Henirque Meirelles
  • Meirelles presided over the strong Brazilian economy during the two terms of former President Lula prior to Rousseff taking office.
  • The government deficit lies at the heart of what ails Brazil and might improve under the right circumstances.

How does the government begin to reign in the deficit?

  • Debt to GDP is growing 10% a year.
  • The government, simply put, must raise revenues and cut expenditures; but, this is easier said than done.
  • Higher taxes are troublesome and could stunt the already weak economy.
  • One tax likely to be reintroduced is a basis point tax on financial transactions, which should have a high success rate in collecting revenues, but it also could dampen economic activity.
  • Expenditures could be difficult to reduce given legal restrictions and the still-fragile political situation.
  • Fiscal expenditures offer the potential to improve the fiscal situation, but it is also the most susceptible to politics.

 Where does Brazil stand now?

  • Given that Temer has an approval rating just barely above that of Rousseff¹, it is unclear whether he has enough political capital to push through needed reforms.
  • The ongoing corruption investigations known as Carwash potentially affects politicians of all stripes.
  • Opposing interests in Congress might find it in their own self-interest to “bite the bullet” on passing just enough reforms to stabilize the country in time for new elections in 2018.
  • In short, while the economic obstacles are challenging, it is possible to see improvement in the fiscal balances.

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 – 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 – 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.

And The Oscar Goes To…

ColtonColton Growney, Investment Strategy Analyst

Many of us tuned in to watch the Oscars this year. So in light of the awards, in honor of Leo DiCaprio’s (and Ennio Morricone’s) first Oscar win, and with the news that The Revenant may soon be cleared for a Chinese release, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at recent films and the rising importance of the international box office—especially China.

Coloton_Movie_RevenueIt is important to note that despite its slowing economy, China’s box office is growing at an astonishing rate. Gross domestic box office ticket receipts in China show 40% annualized growth over the past ten or so years, to ¥44 B in 2015 (around $7 B, compared to $10 B in the U.S and Canada). In fact, the size of the Chinese box office has doubled from 2013 to 2015. The scale of the Chinese movie market is expected to overtake the United States by 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of a movie’s international gross from foreign markets has increased over the past six years, as has ROI. A given American movie produced in 2015 can reasonably be expected to receive about 25% more of its revenue from international audiences than one released back in 2010, and many films earn much more abroad. Can you guess what the most profitable movie of the past six years has been? Hint: it was released in 2015, and three of its actors presented an Oscar on Sunday night, despite some technical difficulties with a microphone.*

Likewise, domestic movie successes have increased over the past few years. James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), which is one of the highest-grossing films in recent memory, led the Chinese box office until Transformers: Age of Extinction came out in 2014. Since Transformers, eight movies have out-grossed Avatar, five of which were Chinese. The highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time, The Mermaid, was released in February 2016, and broke the domestic record during the 2016 Chinese New Year, when movie-goers broke an international record for highest-grossing single week for a geographic territory. This may reflect an increased ability of Chinese studios to produce blockbuster content, in addition to the growth of viewership.

The U.S response to a growing base has also somewhat warmed its relationship with Chinese consumers. Many recent movies have incorporated Chinese geographies or plot points, including The Martian (2015), Gravity (2014), Pacific Rim (2013), and Transformers, to name a few, while other movies have added Chinese product placements (Transformers, Iron Man 3, Transcendence) or were scrubbed of characteristics perceived unfriendly to Chinese audiences (Pixels) to increase chances of widespread viewership.

Coloton_ROI_Movies

Source: TheNumbers.com

However, the Chinese market for movies remains difficult to crack, and in some ways, the Chinese box office is a microcosm of what we observe in capital markets. For instance, only a certain number of foreign films are allowed into the country each year through state-owned distribution channels. This is undoubtedly a political process, and subjects movies to strict content controls. A recent example of this is in The Hateful Eight—scenes exhibiting gore were extensively edited for Chinese viewers, and the movie flopped. Or, alternatively, a movie can collaborate financially with a Chinese film company in order to make a stronger case for admission to the market, as The Revenant did with ‘substantial’ backing from Guangdong Alpha Animation. Meanwhile, even domestic films may manipulate their successes, as Monster Hunt (2015) may have by ‘selling’ tickets to empty theatres (sound familiar?).

Due to the importance of politics in China, it is likely that companies with ties to the state will come out on top. State run studios like Shanghai Media Group, which has partnered with DreamWorks, and distributors (and Netflix competitors) with government ties such as LeTV, Sohu, and Yoku Tudou, will probably lead any developing cultural revolution in Chinese cinema. Therefore, while American movie studios and distributors have all worked hard to grab a piece of the Chinese consumer’s wallet, it is possible that the domestic industry will have first dibs. The stream of culture may even flow from East to West someday in the future, though as long as stars like ‘Xiao Lizi’ hold the public’s imagination, (‘Little Leo’ DiCaprio’s title in China), the domestic industry will continue to follow Hollywood’s lead.

*By the way, the most profitable movie (with a budget of higher than $50b) of the past six years is Minions (2015), a spin-off of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise. Without making generalizations, the films with highest profitability have tended to have a substantial foreign component. And interestingly, the movies with high domestic profitability (USA) relative to their international take appear to be: American Sniper (2014), The Hunger Games (2012), The Lego Movie (2014), The Lorax (2012), and Lincoln (2012), all of which are (arguably) ‘American’ themed.

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 – Prospects and Possibilities of Brexit

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

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

Quick takes:

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

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

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

What’s the potential impact to the EU?

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

Please click here to listen to the full recording

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

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

Happy New Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly Market And Economic Outlook: November 2015

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

The market correction in the third quarter, prompted by the Federal Reserve’s decision to stay on hold and worries over China, resulted in investor sentiment reaching levels of extreme pessimism. Risk appetites returned in October and global equity markets rebounded sharply. The start to earnings season was also better than expected. With a gain of +8.4%, the S&P 500 Index posted its third-highest monthly return since 2010, bringing the index back into positive territory for the year. Fixed income markets were relatively flat, but high yield and emerging market debt experienced a rebound in the risk-on environment. Year to date through October, the S&P 500 Index leads both international equity and fixed income markets, a headwind for diversified portfolios.

Within the U.S. equity market sector leadership shifted again but all sectors were in positive territory. The energy and materials sectors, which have weighed significantly on index returns this year, both experienced double-digit gains for the month as crude oil prices stabilized. The more defensive consumer staples and utilities sectors underperformed. Large caps outpaced small and mid-caps, and the margin of outperformance for growth over value continued to widen.

International developed equity markets kept pace with U.S. equity markets in October despite a slight strengthening in the U.S. dollar. Performance in Japan and Europe was boosted on expectations of additional monetary easing. Emerging markets were only slightly behind developed markets, helped by supportive monetary and fiscal policies in China and stabilizing commodity prices. All regions were positive but performance was mixed, with Indonesia gaining more than +15% while India gained less than +2%.

U.S. Treasury yields moved slightly higher during October, and they have continued their move upward as we have entered November. Investment-grade fixed income was flat for the quarter and has provided modest gains so far this year. Municipal bonds outperformed taxable bonds. After peaking at a level of 650 basis points in the beginning of the month, the increase in risk appetite helped high yield spreads tighten more than 100 basis points and the asset class gained more than 2%. Spreads still remain wide relative to fundamentals.

Our outlook remains biased in favor of the positives, but recognizing risks remain. The global macro backdrop keeps us positive on risk assets over the intermediate-term, even as we move through the second half of the business cycle. A number of factors should support the economy and markets over the intermediate term.

  • Global monetary policy accommodation: Despite the Federal Reserve heading toward monetary policy normalization, their approach will be patient and data dependent. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have both executed bold easing measures in an attempt to support their economies. Emerging economies have room to ease.
  • U.S. growth stable and inflation tame: U.S. GDP growth, while muted, remains positive. Employment growth is solid as the unemployment rate fell 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.
  • U.S. companies remain in decent shape: M&A deal activity continues to pick up as companies seek growth. Earnings growth outside of the energy sector is positive, but margins, while resilient, have likely peaked for the cycle.
  • Washington: Policy uncertainty is low and all parties in Washington were able to agree on a budget deal and also raised the debt ceiling to reduce near-term uncertainty. 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:

  • Fed tightening: After delaying in September, expectations are for the Fed to raise the fed funds rate December. 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. It remains to be seen whether central bank policies can spur sustainable growth in Europe and Japan. A significant slowdown in China is a concern, along with slower growth in other emerging economics like Brazil.
  • Geopolitical risks could cause short-term volatility.

While the equity market drop was concerning, we viewed the move as more of a correction than the start of a bear market. The worst equity market declines are associated with recessions, which are preceded by substantial central bank tightening or accelerating inflation. As described above, we don’t see these conditions being met yet today. The trend of the macro data in the U.S. is still positive, and a significant slowdown in China, which will certainly weigh on global growth, is not likely enough to tip the U.S. economy into contraction. Even as the Fed begins tightening monetary policy later this year, the pace will be measured as inflation is still below target. While we expect a higher level of volatility as the market digests the Fed’s actions and we move through the second half of the business cycle, we remain positive on risk assets over the intermediate 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.

Has Quantitative Easing Worked? A Two-Part Blog Series Perspective

Solomon-(2)Brad Solomon, Junior Investment Analyst

Part one in a two-part blog series discussing quantitative easing measures on a domestic and global scale.

As policy rates hover near (or below) zero, the focus has been on the timing and magnitude of rate hikes by the Fed and other central banks. Don’t worry, I’m not here to add my speculative voice to that crowded discussion. Instead, I want to provide a quick ex-post assessment of another tool that has left the spotlight after being largely phased out by the Fed. I’m talking about quantitative easing (QE)—the buying of massive amounts of financial assets—or large-scale asset purchases (LSAPs) as they are termed by some economists.

At its core, QE attempts to influence the supply and demand for financial assets, thereby shifting preferences towards spending and investment and away from saving. (For those interested in getting further into the weeds on QE’s theoretical underpinnings, check out Ben Bernanke’s 2012 Jackson Hole speech, Jeremy Stein’s remarks that same year, or this release by the IMF.) Among the U.S., U.K., Japan, and the ECB, the scope of QE to date has amounted to around 10-20% of 2014 nominal GDP. To put that into perspective for the U.S.’s case, that is about the magnitude of U.S. total federal discretionary spending over the trailing four years.

Solomon_QE_1

So, with the Bank of Japan and ECB contemplating expanding quantitative easing at their upcoming meetings, does the existing research generally conclude that QE globally has been a few trillion dollars well spent? Let’s take a closer look.

LSAPs have seemed to benefit U.S. equities unequivocally well, and international equities less so. Evidence on financial system vitality is mixed.

The algebraic explanation is relatively straightforward: the yield on risk-free securities is an element of the discount rate used to value stocks and other assets. Artificially keeping this rate low, as well as creating expectations that it will stay that way, increases the discounted present value of other financial assets. However, only in the U.S. has the annualized return of that country’s respective MSCI index over the past five years exceeded the return required by a general equity risk premium of 5.57% (from Fama & French, 2002) and country risk premiums as computed by Aswatch Damodaran of NYU (2015).

Solomon_QE_2

Evidence on QE’s ability to reduce stress within the financial system is mixed. Event studies show that QE announcements were followed by sharp reductions in financial stress indicators, which consist of variables including the TED spread, corporate bond spreads, and beta of banking stocks. However, some studies on Japan’s experience with QE assert that it took a substantial amount of time for bank lending to improve, as banks were burdened by nonperforming loans and uneasiness towards extending credit.

Solomon_QE_3

Furthermore, QE may have also distorted asset prices (some have gone far enough to use the term bond bubble) while creating “price-insensitive buyers,” a term used by Ben Inker of GMO to describe an investor for whom the expected return on the asset does not dictate their decision to purchase.

Look for part two of this blog series later in the week.

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.