Nix the Mixed Emotions About Retirement

cook_headshotPaul Cook, AIF®, Vice President and Regional Director, Retirement Plan Services

The future holds many uncertainties, leaving us to often have mixed feelings when thinking about retirement. Even if you feel more than ready, on an emotional level, to move to the next phase of your life, you may have some uncertainty about whether you will be able to maintain the lifestyle you wish.

Last week in Roddy Marino’s Eight Signs You Are Ready to Retire, he shared some useful statistics from an Ameriprise Financial survey that address this notion of mixed emotion. Close to 50% of respondents felt they were ready to retire, but admitted that there was still some concern. 21% admitted more bluntly that they felt uncertain or not ready at all. Suffice it to say that a large portion, about 63%, of newly retired boomers said they felt stressed about retirement leading up to the decision.[1]

We’ve talked before about how your physical health can impact your retirement, but let’s take another approach and look at six financial certainties that may help to lower your stress and avoid some of the mixed emotions about retirement.

  1. You will need cash. Throughout your retirement journey, you will need quick access to your money. Typically, you will need enough liquidity to cover two years’ worth of anticipated living expenses.
  1. The quicker you spend, the shorter it will last. Your predictable expenses may total up to, for example, $2,000 a month. But how many years could you go on spending $24,000? The impact of spending on your portfolio becomes clear once you determine a spend-rate. For example, if you had $500,000 in a retirement savings account and withdrew $2,000 a month, the portfolio would last 20-29 years. A $500 reduction in spending, however, could result in 9-15 more years of longevity for the portfolio.
  1. The money not needed to cover expenses must be invested…wisely. While you can’t control the markets, you should feel confident that your investments are managed with skill and integrity. Choose an investment advisor with whom you have a trust and have a high level of confidence.
  1. Eventually, you will run out of cash and need more. One of the tricky parts of managing your money in retirement involves knowing how to create an income stream from your portfolio. You need to figure out which assets to take distributions from, and when. To ensure that each of your assets performs optimally, you must conduct a careful technical analysis and evaluate moving market trends. If you are like most retirees, you could benefit from having an expert perform this service for you so that you can have confidence that you are benefiting from all possible market and tax advantages.
  1. You’ll make more confident decisions if you know how your investment performance and expenses measure against your goals. Throughout your retirement journey, it is helpful to know where you stand against your goals. If your overall goal is to outlive your savings, then you should have a system in place that helps you contextualize your spending and its relative impact on long-term goals.
  1. Markets are volatile. When markets fluctuate, many investors feel like all semblance of control over their financial future is lost. Having a well-diversified portfolio may help to smooth the ride and reduce some of the emotions of investing.

If you approach retirement by developing an income solution that addresses each of these known facts, you can feel as if you are on more solid ground to enjoy your retirement.

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.


[1] Ameriprise Study: First Wave of Baby Boomers Say Health and Emotional Preparation are Keys to a Successful Retirement, February 3, 2015

The Impact of Brexit

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

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

Key Highlights:

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

Brexit’s Impact on Global Economies and Markets

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

How Brinker Capital is Positioned in Strategic Portfolios

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

Overall Summary

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

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

Investment Insights Podcast – Japan: Sunset on the Horizon?

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

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

Why talk about Japan?

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

What’s the latest?

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

How did Japan get here?

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

Japan_Chart_1

So, did the quantitative easing measures work?

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

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

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

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

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

Please click here to listen to the full recording.

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

It’s Official: China’s Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues

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

Here are the quick takes:

  • The IMF formally approved inclusion of the Chinese renminbi (RMB) into Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
  • Chinese RMB will not replace the U.S. dollar (USD) in the near term
  • Impact more symbolic near term, but progress will be measured over many years

The IMF formally indicated on November 30 it would include the Chinese RMB into its basket of approved reserve currencies. As stated in a previous blog, the inclusion of the RMB would appear to have limited near-term economic impact to the U.S. dollar.

Even with limited economic near-term impact, the inclusion of the RMB certainly has symbolic significance. Clearly, there is political benefit to the IMF’s recognition of the RMB in terms of enhancing China’s global prestige. The inclusion of the RMB might also serve as a carrot to deepen further structural reform as evidenced by China’s promise to have fully open capital accounts by 2020.[1]   Other countries hostile to the U.S., such as Russia and Iran, might view RMB investment as a way to hedge themselves against the risk of U.S.-led economic sanctions by conducting more trade away from the U.S. dollar.

However, the overall effects of the IMF SDR should not be overstated. The SDR is akin to a “recommended list” that cannot be enforced on central banks or markets. As an example, the weight of the USD was basically held flat at around 41%. (The new RMB weight was added at the expense mostly of the EUR). Furthermore, current holdings of central bank reserves deviate quite a bit from the SDR, with USD comprising 60% of total reserves (vs. 41% weight in the IMF SDR).[2] For comparison, central banks hold roughly 20% of reserves in EUR (vs. 31% weight in the IMF SDR). Some central banks hold currencies such as the Australian dollar (AUD) that are not in the IMF SDR.

Major potential shifts into the RMB will take place over a protracted period of years, but here are some milestones to watch:

  • Progress on further structural reform
  • Deeper liquidity in local Chinese bonds
  • Longer track record on responsible governance.

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-22/china-said-to-weigh-pledge-for-opening-capital-account-by-2020-ig1sbvez .

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/proportion-of-euros-held-in-foreign-exchange-reserves-declines-1435686071

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

China Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues: The End of U.S. Dollar Supremacy?

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

On November 13, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a preliminary indication that it would include the Chinese currency, the RMB, for the first time in its basket of approved reserve currencies, or Special Drawing Rights (“SDRs”). Undoubtedly, China has gained international prestige due to its partial liberalization of its capital accounts as well as its position as the second largest economy in the world after the U.S.

Does this mean the end of the supremacy of the U.S. Dollar?

60% of reserves of foreign central banks are held in U.S. Dollars.[1] Chinese RMB comprise less than 1%. While foreign central banks are likely to accumulate more RMB over time, there remains some questions as to how quickly it could rise in the near term.

First, Chinese bond markets would need to develop deeper liquidity. In order to invest in a currency, central banks would demand liquid investments denominated in the currency. Today, the U.S. bond market is magnitudes deeper than that in China.[2]

Second, it’s not in China’s best interest to immediately go to fully-free capital accounts. Exports are in decline due in part to weak global demand. The last thing the Chinese government would want to do is to put further pressure on exporter margins with a strong currency buttressed by sudden foreign capital inflows. One case in point is the August devaluation of the Chinese RMB that spooked financial markets.

While China has made progress in financial reform—partial liberalization of interest rates and opening up access to its stock markets—China has not opened up its currency to full convertibility and free capital flows.

Furthermore, recent government intervention in the stock market and economy does not provide investors assurance on long-term governance. Neither the Chinese nor the IMF can simply legislate a track record of responsible governance overnight. Time and consistency are needed to win investor confidence.

[1] http://worldif.economist.com/article/6/what-if-the-yuan-competes-with-the-dollar-clash-of-the-currencies , accessed on November 13, 2015.

[2] See http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-investors-shy-away-from-chinas-6-4-trillion-bond-market-1437593482?alg=y , accessed on November 16, 2015.

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.

Handling ETFs at the Brinker Capital Trading Desk

Joe PreisserJoe Preisser, Portfolio Specialist, Brinker Capital

In light of the continued media attention focused on the performance of certain exchange traded funds, during the equity market selloff at the end of August, we thought it prudent to discuss the steps we take here at Brinker Capital to ensure that all of the client orders entrusted to us are handled with the utmost care.

The price action seen across the exchange traded fund (ETF) landscape in late August, and in particular on the 24th, was nothing short of extreme, and is something our trading desk makes every effort to protect our client’s orders from.  We use our trading expertise and depth of experience to ensure that we make every effort to achieve the best executions available for our client’s orders.  ETFs have truly changed the investment landscape through their unique construction and, as a result, require a thorough understanding of their characteristics in order to effectively trade them. We pride ourselves on having gathered a great deal of knowledge, insight and experience in trading these instruments over the past five and a half years, and on having developed strong relationships with a number of well-respected trading desks on Wall Street to further enhance our expertise.

As many of the articles in the financial press discussed, there was a historic level of volatility during the first hour of trading on Monday, August 24, with much of the drastic price swings caused by the exorbitant number of trading halts that occurred across equity markets.  As an ETF is predominantly a simple reflection of the average price of its components, if those underlying constituents are halted, the ETF will not be priced appropriately by the market makers transacting in the security.  This problem can also occur on more mundane openings as well, as an ETF’s components open for trading at slightly differing times.  As a result of this phenomena, unless we have a very specific reason for trading an ETF during the first few minutes of a trading session—an ETF with European exposure would be an example of an exception—we will generally avoid trading during the first fifteen to thirty minutes of the session in order to allow for all of an ETF’s underlying holdings to open and the initial volatility to abate.  Although we did not have any active orders during the morning of August 24, if we had we would not have been transacting until the volatility abated.

shutterstock_70010218The strong relationships I mentioned earlier, with several of the most respected trading desks on Wall Street, allows us to leverage their expertise whenever we are moving into or out of a large position. We carefully examine every instrument we are asked to trade, and make our decisions on an individual basis as to what the best approach would be in order to minimize our impact on that instrument and to attempt to achieve the best possible executions.  Often, when we have a large order in an ETF, which itself is relatively illiquid, we will utilize the expertise of one of our trading partners to transact directly in the basket of securities that comprise the ETF in order to access the truly available liquidity and to minimize our impact on the security we are trading.  This strategy of course would not have helped on the 24th because it was the temporary illiquidity of the underlying securities that rendered the ETFs themselves illiquid, but I feel this example is important as it highlights the efforts we undertake in an effort to seek the best possible prices for our clients. In addition, a number of the articles discussing this episode highlighted the importance of imposing price limits while avoiding the use of “market” orders and this is a guideline we strictly adhere to.  Whenever we have a meaningful trade, we always set an appropriate limit, and will closely monitor the trade until its completion to ensure that the price does not deviate from the parameters which we put in place.

While this article has discussed our approach to ETF trading, we certainly apply the same level of expertise, care and attention to all of the client orders placed in our care, regardless of the investment vehicle.

Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. 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.

Monthly Market and Economic Outlook: June 2015

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Financial markets in May were mixed with modestly positive returns in U.S. equity markets (+1.3% for the S&P 500), modestly negative returns for international equity markets (-1.5% for the MSCI ACWI ex USA), and flat returns in U.S. fixed income markets (-0.2% for the Barclays Aggregate). U.S. economic data was on the weaker side, generally attributed to bad weather; however, the labor market continues to show improvement. The expectation is still for the Fed to commence rate hikes later this year.

In U.S. equity markets all sectors were positive for the month except for Energy and Telecom. The healthcare sector led with gains of more than 4%. Small caps led large caps for the month, and growth led value except in the mid cap segment.

International equity markets delivered a small gain in local terms, but the stronger dollar weighed on returns for U.S. investors. Japan gained more than 5% in local terms amid stronger economic data, while Europe gained less than 1% in local terms. Emerging market equities lagged developed markets in May, declining -4% in US dollar terms. China and Brazil were particularly weak performers. Despite weaker performance in May, both developed international and emerging markets lead U.S. equity markets so far this year by a sizeable margin.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield ended the month 10 basis points higher at a level of 2.13% and so far in June 10-year yields have backed up another 25 basis points (through June 5). However, because of the small coupon cushion in U.S. Treasuries today, only a small increase in yields can lead to a negative total return for investors. The credit sector was mixed in May, with investment grade experiencing declines and high yield delivering small gains. Municipal bonds continued to underperform taxable bonds. Year to date high yield leads all fixed income sectors.

Our outlook remains biased in favor of the positives, but recognizing risks remain. We have entered the second half of the business cycle, but remain optimistic regarding the global macro backdrop and risk assets over the intermediate-term. As a result our strategic portfolios are positioned with a modest overweight to overall risk. 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, the ECB and the Bank of Japan have both executed bold easing measures in an attempt to support their economies.
  • U.S. growth stable and inflation tame: Despite a soft patch in the first quarter, U.S. economic growth is expected to turn positive in the second quarter and the labor market has markedly improved. Reported inflation measures and inflation expectations remain below the Fed’s target.
  • U.S. companies remain in solid shape: U.S. companies are beginning to put cash to work through capex, hiring and M&A. Earnings growth outside of the energy sector is positive, and margins have been resilient.
  • Less uncertainty in Washington: After serving as a major uncertainty over the last few years, Washington has done little damage so far this year; however, Congress will still need to address the debt ceiling before the fall. Government spending has shifted to a contributor to GDP growth in 2015 after years of fiscal drag.

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

  • Timing/impact of Fed tightening: The Fed has set the stage to commence rate hikes later this year. Both the timing of the first rate increase, and the subsequent path of rates is uncertain, which could lead to increased market 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. Growth in emerging economies has slowed as well.
  • Geopolitical risks: Could cause short-term volatility.

Despite higher than average valuations and neutral investor sentiment, the trend is still positive and the macro backdrop leans favorable, so we believe there is the potential for additional equity market gains. The quantitative easing programs of the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, combined with signs of economic improvement, have us more positive in the short-term regarding international developed equities, but we need to see follow-through with structural reforms. We expect U.S. interest rates to continue to normalize; however, U.S. Treasuries still offer relative value over sovereign bonds in other developed markets, which could keep a ceiling on long-term rates in the short-term.

As we operate without the liquidity provided by the Fed and move through the second half of the business cycle, we expect higher levels of both equity and bond market volatility. This volatility should lead to more attractive opportunities for active management across asset classes. Our portfolios are positioned to take advantage of continued strength in risk assets, and we continue to emphasize high conviction opportunities within asset classes, as well as strategies that can exploit market inefficiencies.

Asset Class Outlook Comments
U.S. Equity + Quality bias
Intl Equity + Neutral vs. U.S.
Fixed Income +/- High-yield favorable
Absolute Return + Benefit from higher volatility
Real Assets +/- Favor global natural resources
Private Equity + Later in cycle

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.

World Cup of Liquidity

Joe PreisserJoe Preisser, Portfolio Specialist, Brinker Capital

With the eyes of the world currently trained on Brazil, and the incredible spectacle of the globe’s most popular sporting event, there is another coordinated effort taking place on the world stage, albeit one with less fanfare and pageantry, but possessing a far greater effect on the global economy, and that is the historically accommodative policies of two of the world’s major central banks. The unprecedented amount of liquidity being thrust into the system by these institutions has helped fuel the current bull market in equities, which continues to push stocks listed around the world further and further into record territory.

World CupThe more powerful of these central banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of The United States, is attempting to gradually extricate itself from a portion of the record measures it has taken to revive growth following the Great Recession, which have caused its balance sheet swell to more than $4 trillion (New York Times) while not causing the economy to suddenly decelerate. “To this end, last week the Fed announced a continuation of the reduction of its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion, bringing the new total to $35 billion.” They also voiced their collective intention to keep short-term interest rates at their current historically low levels until 2015. Financial markets rallied following this news as investors focused largely on the Fed’s comments regarding rates, as well as the little-discussed fact that although their monthly purchases are being slowly phased out, the Central Bank continues to reinvest the proceeds from maturing bonds, thus maintaining a measure of the palliative effect. According to the New York Times, “Fed officials generally argue that the effect of bond buying on the economy is determined by the Fed’s total holdings, not its monthly purchases. In this view, reinvestment would preserve the effect of the stimulus campaign.” Although the American Central Bank is attempting to pare back its efforts to boost growth in the world’s largest economy, the accommodative measures currently in place look to remain so long after its bond purchases are concluded.

Preisser_Liquidity_6.23.17_2Mario Draghi, on June 5, made history when he announced that the European Central Bank (ECB) had become the first major Central Bank to introduce a negative deposit rate. As part of a collection of measures designed to spur growth and combat what has become dangerously low inflation within the Monetary Union, the ECB effectively began penalizing banks for any attempt to keep high levels of cash stored with them. In addition to this unprecedented step, Mr. Draghi unveiled a plan to issue four-year loans at current interest rates to banks, with the stipulation that the funds in turn be lent to businesses within the Eurozone, (New York Times). The actions of the ECB were cheered by investors who sent stocks listed across the Continent to levels unseen in more than six-and-a-half years, with the expectation that the Central Bank will remain committed to combating the significant economic challenges that remain for this collection of sovereign nations. To this end, Mr. Draghi suggested, during his press conference, that he is considering additional growth inducing measures, which may include the highly controversial step of direct asset purchases. Mr. Draghi gave voice to his resolve, and a glimpse of what the future might hold when he said, “we think this is a significant package. Are we finished? The answer is no” (New York Times).

The actions of both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have directly contributed to the current rally in risk assets, but have also created a conundrum of sorts for investors; as though their historic measures have sent prices to record levels, the conclusion of these programs carry with them serious risks of disruption, as they too are unprecedented.

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.

Market Commentary: Liquidity

Joe PreisserJoe Preisser, Portfolio Specialist, Brinker Capital

The powerful figure of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States (Fed) continues to hold sway over the global landscape, as the collective eyes of investors around the world watch intently for any discernible hint of a shift in policy, which when detected, has radiated across the marketplace. During the course of the past five weeks, the American Central Bank has launched a veritable public relations barrage in an effort to stave off the steep sell-off in risk assets that accompanied comments issued by Chairman Ben Bernanke following the conclusion of a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on June 19.  During the ensuing press conference, Mr. Bernanke suggested that if the economic data from the U.S. continued in its current pattern of improvement, the time may be near for a measure of the support the Fed has provided to the U.S. economy. namely the $85 billion per month of asset purchases currently being made, to be curtailed.

7.26.13_Preisser_Liquidity_2Market participants reacted to the Chairman’s comments by throwing what has been called the “taper tantrum”(Bloomberg News), which culminated in a 4.8% decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 over the course of five trading days, and a .35% rise in yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note during the same time frame.  The Central Bank’s officials, and especially the Chairman himself, have proven themselves particularly deft at quelling the market’s concerns in the day’s since, and in so doing have provided a catalyst that has sent stocks rallying around the world, and those listed in the United States to record highs. The volatility witnessed over recent weeks highlights the market’s continued dependence on the liquidity provided by the Fed, and further illustrates the difficulties surrounding its eventual removal, which may begin as early as September.

Reassurances from Fed officials—that the Central Bank remains committed to the continuity of its current accommodative stance for the foreseeable future—poured forth into the mainstream media as the selling pressure built within the marketplace. Beginning on June 25, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fischer, and Minneapolis Fed President, Narayana Kocherlakota both issued comments designed to emphasize the fact that the Central Bank would keep in place its support of the economic recovery in the U.S. Mr. Kocherlakota was quoted by Bloomberg News on the 25th as saying, “The committee should continue to buy assets at least until the unemployment rate has fallen below 7 percent.  The purchases should continue as long as the medium-term outlook for the inflation rate remains below 2.5 percent and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored.” What have been categorized as unusually direct statements, of these two, non-voting members of the Committee (Bloomberg News), served to soothe concerns among investors, and were followed in short order by those of Richmond Fed President, Jeffery Lacker, who helped to further assuage any lingering uncertainty.  Mr. Lacker reiterated the fact that continued, substantive labor market improvement was necessary for the tapering of asset purchases to commence, and noted his confidence that deflation was not an issue (Bloomberg News), which helped to accelerate the rebound in risk assets.

7.26.13_Preisser_Liquidity_3The highly anticipated release of the June employment report was well received by the market. Although it revealed the creation of 195,000 jobs within the United States, which exceed the consensus estimate of 165,000 (New York Times), it fell short of the whisper number of 200,000 that had circulated, and the unemployment rate remained stagnant at 7.6%. The report buoyed the belief that the Fed would need to maintain its current pace of asset purchases for a longer period of time than many had feared as the pace of job creation, although improving, does not warrant tapering.  Jan Hatzius, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, was quoted in the New York Times on July 5—“Beyond the headline numbers for job growth, it gets a little more mixed. There is still a lot of slack in the labor market.”

Stocks received a further lift from Chairman Bernanke who, in answering audience questions following a speech he delivered at the National Bureau of Economic Research conference on July 10, made an effort to stress the fact that the Central Bank remained committed to furthering the economic recovery.  Mr. Bernanke was quoted by the Wall Street Journal—“There is some perspective, gradual and possible change in the mix of instruments.  But that shouldn’t be confused with the overall thrust of policy, which is highly accommodative.” The Chairman once again reiterated this pledge in testimony before Congress on July 17—“Our intention is to keep monetary policy highly accommodative for the foreseeable future, and the reason that’s necessary is because inflation is below our target and unemployment is still quite high” (New York Times). These statements served to further the belief that has come to be known as the, Bernanke Put for the Chairman’s willingness to intercede when financial market’s struggle, which has been perceived to offer protection to investors, remains in place and provided further support to risk assets.

7.26.13_Preisser_Liquidity

Although benchmark indices in the United States have risen to record levels, a measure of uncertainty lingers beneath the surface as the inevitability of the scaling back of the Fed’s asset purchases remains, along with the question of who will succeed Mr. Bernanke as the next Chairman of the American Central Bank.  Despite no official word having been offered that his tenure atop the Federal Reserve will come to an end in January, this is widely considered to be the case.

Speculation as to who will replace Mr. Bernanke has risen to the fore with the two perceived leading candidates appearing to be the Fed’s current No. 2, Janet Yellen, and former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers. According to the Wall Street Journal—“The race to become the next leader of the Federal Reserve looks increasingly like a contest between two economists: Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen.”  In addition to the questions surrounding the identity of the next head of the Central Bank, a recent poll of economists, conducted by Bloomberg News, revealed the belief among a majority of those queried that the Federal Reserve would in fact begin tapering in September. With summer’s effusive glow illuminating Wall Street and the record gains of its equity markets, the cool winds of fall hold within them the possibility of bringing the unwelcome specter of volatility as these issues seek resolution.