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.

January 2016 Monthly Market And Economic Outlook

Amy MagnottaAmy Magnotta, CFASenior Investment Manager, Brinker Capital

After three years of strong market returns, 2015 performance was relatively flat combined with higher volatility across most asset classes. Sluggish global economic growth, concerns over a hard landing in China, a further decline in oil prices, and the anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate hike since 2006 weighed on markets. The U.S. dollar was a top performing asset class, gaining more than 9%, while commodity-related assets were the worst performers. Large cap U.S. equities outpaced small cap and international equities, fixed income delivered lackluster returns, and alternative strategies generally underperformed expectations, resulting in a difficult year for diversified investors.

Despite a robust fourth quarter, U.S. equity markets ended the year with a small gain on a total return basis. There was also wide dispersion across sectors. Consumer discretionary dominated with a double-digit gain, followed by healthcare and technology. Energy experienced a greater than -20% loss for the year. With sluggish economic growth as the backdrop, investors significantly favored growth over value from a style perspective across all market capitalizations, but particularly in the large cap space where the spread was more than 900 basis points. Small caps faded after a strong start to the year, with the Russell 2000 Index declining more than -4%.

BRICDeveloped international equity markets performed in line with U.S. markets in local terms during 2015, but lagged in U.S. dollar terms. Unlike in the U.S., small caps outpaced large caps in international markets. Japan was the strongest performing market with a gain of almost 10%. Emerging markets significantly underperformed developed markets. The weakest performer was Brazil, with a decline of more than -40% in U.S. dollar terms. Of the BRIC countries, only Russia was able to deliver a positive return.

Longer-term U.S. Treasury yields moved slightly higher in 2015, with the 10-year rising 10 basis points to end the year at a level of 2.27%. The shorter-end of the curve moved higher, resulting in a modest flattening of the yield curve. Even with the Fed’s actions, we expect longer-term rates to remain range-bound in the intermediate term. All investment-grade fixed income sectors except for corporate credit delivered modest gains, and municipal bonds outperformed taxable fixed income. High-yield credit spreads widened meaningfully throughout 2015 and the asset class declined more than -4%. Technical pressures, including increased supply and meaningful outflows, weighed on the high-yield market with the most impact on lowest-rated credits; however, we have yet to see a meaningful decline in fundamentals.

The global macro backdrop keeps us positive on risk assets over the intermediate term as we move through the second half of the business cycle. However, we acknowledge that we are in the later innings of the bull market that began in 2009, and the risks must not be ignored. We find a number of factors supportive of the economy and markets over the near term.

  • Fed_OutlookGlobal monetary policy accommodation: Despite the Fed beginning to normalize monetary policy with the initial rate hike in December, their approach should be patient and data-dependent. The European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan have been more aggressive with easing measures in an attempt to support their economies. China is likely going to require additional support.
  • U.S. growth stable and inflation tame: U.S. economic growth has been modest but steady. Payroll employment growth has been solid, and the unemployment rate has fallen 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.
  • Deal Activity: Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deal activity continues to pick up as companies seek growth.
  • Washington: 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:

  • Policy mistake: The potential for a policy mistake by the Fed or another major central bank is a concern, and central bank communication will be key. In the U.S., 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, and a significant slowdown in China is a concern.
  • Wider credit spreads: While overall credit conditions are still accommodative, high-yield credit spreads have moved significantly wider, and weakness has spread outside of the commodity sector.
  • Commodity price weakness: Weakness in commodity-related sectors has begun to spill over to other areas of the economy, and earnings have weakened as a result.
  • Geopolitical risks could cause short-term volatility.

Market technicals remain weak, but valuations are back to more neutral levels. Investor sentiment, a contrarian signal, is near extreme pessimism territory. We expect a higher level of volatility as markets digest the Fed’s actions and we move through the second half of the business cycle; however, our view on risk assets remains positive over the near term. Increased volatility creates opportunities that we may 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.

Early Concern in 2016 Yields Opportunity

Miller_HeadshotBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

Overall global economic concerns and yesterday’s market events present a great opportunity to remind investors to stay focused on their goals. To that end, we highlight two performance metrics:

First, as illustrated below, some asset classes, including gold, U.S. Treasury bonds, TIPs and pipeline Master Limited Partnerships, finished up yesterday in the face of poor global equity performance. In some cases, this is the opposite of last year’s performance. Such a flip-flop in performance across asset classes only serves to highlight the value of Brinker Capital’s multi-asset class investment philosophy. A commitment to diversification can help calm investors on bad days and moderate enthusiasm on good days.

Performance Across Asset Classes

Source: Brinker Capital, FactSet

Second, big drops in the S&P are infrequent but certainly not an unfamiliar occurrence on an absolute basis. There have been single-day dips of 2% or greater in the S&P 500 a total of 222 times in the trailing 20 years, or just slightly under 5% of the total number of trading days.

More importantly, following these dips the median S&P return in the following month (2.44% over the subsequent 20 trading days) has been more than double that of the median 20-day S&P return over the period on a non-conditional basis (1.01%).

Over the last 20 years, a strategy that fled to cash for 20-day periods following those 2% S&P 500 declines would have fared 2% worse on an annualized basis than staying 100% invested in equity. That’s a cumulative return difference of 151%.

S&P 500 Performance

Source: Brinker Capital, FactSet

Again, yesterday’s volatility presents a great opportunity early in 2016 to remind investors that it’s not time to panic–it’s important to stay focused on their goals. While we can’t predict what specifically may happen in the future, Brinker Capital has been identifying trends and leveraging our six-asset class philosophy when positioning our portfolios to anticipate a period of increased market volatility in many of our strategic and tactical portfolios.

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.