Investment Insights Podcast: Four Areas of Focus in the Last Quarter

Raupp_Podcast_GraphicJeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Vice President

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

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

For Jeff’s full insight, click here to listen to the audio recording.

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

Will The Santa Claus Rally Deliver in 2015?

HartChris Hart, Core Investment Manager

It is that time of year again. The time when Wall Street pundits begin to talk about the potential for the stock market to deliver its year-end present to investors, neatly wrapped in the form of positive gains to finish out the year, and even carry over into January. While seasonality is typically associated with the entire fourth quarter of a given year—as November and December tend to be stronger months for the S&P 500 Index—the “Santa Claus rally” is a more defined subset.

The Santa Claus rally concept was first popularized in 1972 by Yale Hirsch, the publisher of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, when he identified the positive trend between the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the New Year. Over those seven trading days since 1969, the S&P 500 Index posted an average gain of 1.4%. However, investors have had to wait until the last week of the month to see if the actual Santa Claus rally occurs.

Over the years, analysts have speculated many possible explanations for the notion of a Santa Claus rally. One is that investors are simply more optimistic in the holiday season and market bears are on vacation. Others contend that consumers may be investing their holiday bonuses. A more technical explanations could be that year-end, tax-loss selling creates oversold conditions (i.e. buying opportunities) for value investors to buy stocks. Some propose the theory that portfolio managers may try to “window dress” their portfolios in an effort to squeeze out additional performance before year end. Regardless of the various possible explanations, market data supports the idea that since 1950, December has been the best month of the year for the S&P 500 Index.

Strategas: Historically the Best Month of the Year

Source: Strategas

That said, there are no guarantees on Wall Street and the delivery of a Santa Claus rally is no exception. In fact, the lack of a rally could be an important market signal. The Stock Trader’s Almanac warns, “If Santa Claus should fail to call; bears may come to Broad & Wall.” Interestingly, Jeffery Hirsch, son of Yale Hirsch and current editor of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, notes that over the past 21 years, the Santa Claus rally has failed to materialize only four times, and that preceded flat market performance in 1994 & 2005, and down markets in 2000 and 2008.

With so many macro forces at work here in the U.S. and globally, the presence of both headwinds and tailwinds in the current market allows room for debate as to whether or not the Santa Claus rally will occur 2015. The dollar remains strong, manufacturing is slowing, and energy remains under pressure due to low oil prices. However, valuations are not unreasonable, economic growth continues, albeit modestly, and we are seven years into a domestic bull market that continues to move higher amid shorter-term bouts of resistance and volatility. While some naysayers contend that the abnormally strong gains in October may have cannibalized some of December’s potential rally, I believe the Federal Reserve is one of the real wild cards here. If the Fed decides to raise interest rates in mid-December for the first time since 2008, higher levels of uncertainty could temper investor enthusiasm, depending on the Fed’s language regarding the duration and magnitude of any such action.

While I remain a believer in the magic of the holidays and am optimistic that the market can justify a Santa Claus rally in 2015, there are too many mixed signals across the markets to be certain. In the end, I just hope the Santa Rally of 2015 does not prove to be as elusive as that clever little Elf on the Shelf.

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: December 2014

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

Global equity markets were positive in November, helped by optimism over the prospect of additional monetary policy easing in Japan and Europe. U.S. equity markets posted another solid monthly gain, led by large and mid cap growth companies. The energy sector was down more than -8% due to the collapse in oil prices after OPEC decided not to cut output. However, the expectation of higher disposable incomes as a result of lower gasoline prices helped push the consumer sectors higher in November.

International equities lagged U.S. equity markets again in November. The S&P 500 Index has gained almost 14% year to date through November, while the MSCI All Country World ex USA Index is flat. The U.S. dollar, which has gained over 10% so far this year, has also been a contributor. Developed market equities fared better than emerging markets in November. European equities reacted positively to the expectation that the ECB would soon announce a full scale quantitative easing program. Within emerging markets, equity market gains in China and India were offset by weak performance in Brazil and Russia.

outlook_chartDespite stronger economic data, longer-term U.S. Treasury yields continue to move lower, while rates on the shorter end of the curve were unchanged to slightly higher, resulting in a flattening yield curve. From the beginning of November through December 12, the yield on the 10-year note fell 25 basis points to 2.10% and the yield on the 30-year bond fell 32 basis points to 2.75%. The yield on the 2-year note rose 6 basis points over that same period. The Barclays Aggregate Index was up +0.7% for the month, led by government bonds.

The negative sentiment surrounding the energy sector has weighed significantly on the high yield asset class. Energy represents 13% of the Barclays High Yield Index, up from 6% of the index in 2008. The credit issues outside of the energy sector have been limited, and should the economy continue to grow, current spread levels (525 basis points above Treasuries which we last saw in December 2012) look more attractive.

Our macro outlook has not changed. When weighing the positives and the risks, we continue to believe the balance is shifted even more in favor of the positives over the intermediate-term and the global macro backdrop is constructive for risk assets. As a result our strategic portfolios are positioned with an overweight to overall risk. A number of factors should support the economy and markets over the intermediate term.

  • Global monetary policy remains accommodative: Even with QE complete Fed policy is still accommodative. U.S. short-term interest rates should remain near-zero until mid-2015 if inflation remains contained. The ECB stands ready to take even more aggressive action to support the European economy, and the Bank of Japan expanded its already aggressive easing program.
  • Pickup in U.S. growth: Economic growth in the U.S. has picked up. Companies are starting to spend on hiring and capital expenditures. Both manufacturing and service PMIs remain in expansion territory. Housing has been weaker, but consumer and CEO confidence are elevated.
  • U.S. companies remain in solid shape: U.S. companies have solid balance sheets that are with cash. M&A deal activity has picked up this year. Earnings growth has been ahead of expectations 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. Fiscal drag will not have a major impact on growth this year, and the budget deficit has also declined significantly. Government spending will again become a contributor to GDP growth in 2015.

Risks facing the economy and markets remain, including:

  • Timing of Fed tightening: QE ended without a major impact, so concern has shifted to the timing of the Fed’s first interest rate hike. While economic growth has picked up and the labor market has shown steady improvement, inflation measures and inflation expectations remain contained.
  • Global growth: While growth in the U.S. has picked up more recently, growth outside the U.S. is decidedly weaker. Both the OECD and IMF have downgraded their forecasts for global growth.
  • Geopolitical risks: The geopolitical impact of the significant drop in oil prices, as well as issues in the Middle East and Ukraine, could cause short-term volatility.

Despite levels of investor sentiment that have moved back towards optimism territory and valuations that are close to long-term averages, we remain positive on equities for the reasons previously stated. In addition, seasonality and the election cycle are in our favor. The fourth quarter tends to be bullish for equities, as well as the 12-month period following mid-term elections.


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.