Thoughts on the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting and interest rates

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

 

  • As expected, the FOMC raised the Fed Funds rate to a target range of 2.25% to 2.50%.
  • The question for many is given markets had effectively “priced in” or were largely expecting the rate increase, why did equities sell off sharply and bonds rally strongly on yesterday’s Fed Funds news?
  • We – and many market participants – expected the Fed’s post meeting statement and Chairman’s Powell press conference to strike a much more dovish tone over the outlook for interest rate policy into 2019.  We think the Fed fell short on both fronts.
  • The Fed now expects two (instead of three) rate increases next year and also lowered their estimate for GDP growth in 2019 and their estimate of the long-term neutral interest rate (the Fed Funds rate that neither hinders nor helps economic growth).
  • However, we believe the Fed did not adequately recognize the impact recent market volatility, slowing economic growth outside the US and the ongoing US / China trade dust up is likely having on corporate sentiment and spending, and how a weakening of both could ultimately cause the US economy to stall and potentially slide into recession.
  • We see two primary risks for the markets and the economy into the new year – 1) a monetary policy mistake (the Fed going too far, too fast) and 2) a trade policy mistake (the US / China trade dynamic worsening).  After today, we have not yet “solved for” monetary policy risk, which means investors will likely be looking even more intently for good news on the trade front.  We are optimistic that it is coming. In the meantime, the risk posed by monetary policy to the economy and markets has increased.
  • Finally, the next Fed meeting isn’t until January.  We expect investor disappointment over today’s FOMC statement and Chairman Powell’s press conference to be additive to already heightened market volatility.  However, a bear market is not our base case.  There is still time for monetary policy and trade policy to move in a more supportive direction for both the economy and risk assets as we enter 2019. Meanwhile, indicators of an imminent bear market or recession aren’t present, and we can continue to cite several positive economic and market data points, including…
    • The yield curve has not inverted
    • Inflation remains contained (including wage inflation)
    • Corporations and consumers have ample access to credit
    • US fiscal policy remains accommodative
    • US corporate earnings should grow 20%+ this year and by mid to high single digits next year
    • Market valuation is attractive with the S&P 500 trading at about 15x forward earnings

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: A quick review of May markets

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Leigh Lowman, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded June 9, 2017), Leigh provides a quick review of May markets.

Quick hits:

  • Risk assets continued with their upward momentum, generally finishing positive for the month.
  • Politics dominated headlines with the spotlight on the Trump administration.
  • Overseas, international markets reacted positively to the French election win of Macron, known for his moderate political stance.
  • Expectations have strengthened for an additional Fed rate hike in June.
  • We currently find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets.

For Leigh’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.

 

Investment Insights Podcast: A quick review of April markets

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Leigh Lowman, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded May 5, 2017), Leigh provides a quick review of April markets.

Quick hits:

  • After drifting lower for most of the month, risk assets rallied at the end of April and finished in positive territory.
  • The French election spurred a rebound in markets when both Republican and Socialist candidates were edged out in favor of a Centralist candidate.
  • On the domestic side, markets were relatively quiet.
  • We currently find a number of factors currently supportive of the economy and markets.

For Leigh’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.

 

Investment Insights Podcast: A few things we’re paying close attention to right now

Goins_PodcastAndrew Goins, Investment Manager

On this week’s podcast (recorded April 13, 2017), Andrew discusses a few things we’re paying close attention to right now.

 

shutterstock_9514525Quick hits:

  • After two Fed rate hikes within 4 months, we’re seeing a bit of a reversal.  We’ve seen empirical evidence highlighting the improvement across active managers in the first quarter.
  • Over the last few months we’ve seen correlations across stocks come down significantly, and is now at the lowest level since 2001.
  • We are beginning to see signs that inflation is ticking up, and should only continue if Trump’s pro-growth policies come to fruition
  • The market is likely overdue for a near term pull-back and we are somewhere in the back half of this business cycle

For Andrew’s full insights, 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.

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.

 

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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: Markets have taken a little bit of a breather

Hart_Podcast_338x284Chris Hart, Senior Vice President

On this week’s podcast (recorded December 22, 2016), Chris is back discussing how directionally many of the trends remain in place as the rotation into equities from bonds continues.

Quick hits:

  • The markets consolidated a bit as Financials and Industrials leadership paused, while previously oversold sectors like Utilities and Healthcare, performed better.
  • International equity performance has proved more challenging.
  • A surprise came from the “dot plot” positioning that was more hawkish than anticipated due to a projected three additional rate hikes in 2017 instead of two.
  • Overall, we remain constructive on the opportunity ahead heading into 2017.

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.