SECOND QUARTER ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
April 11, 2018
U.S. & World Economy
All Weather Portfolios
In our January newsletter we forecasted that interest rates would rise enough to cause the long-term bond market to lose 5%, which would cause the stock market to drop 10+%. That is exactly what happened in February and March. At some point toward the end of an economic business cycle, “good news” for the economy turns into “bad news” for the markets as the Fed raises interest rates to “cool” expansion; the yield curve flattens, the economy takes a dip, and then we start a new cycle.
Timing this has proved unrewarding in the face of steep odds, favoring an upward biased stock market. According to Check Capital, since WWII the stock market has been up 78% of years (roughly 4 out of 5 years), 95% of all rolling 5-year periods and 100% of each decade. We de-risked our portfolios in January and remain confident that our balanced “all weather” portfolios with direct real estate and alternatives will smooth out these peaks and valleys.
The new tax law has opened the door to some favorable estate freezing and capital basis shifting strategies. I am available to discuss with you and your tax attorney to see if you could benefit you as well.
The first quarter of 2018 brought the return of volatility and the first stock market correction since oil prices collapsed in 2015. Interest rate hikes are partly to blame but so are talks of tariffs and nationalization, inflation and the actual consequences (or lack thereof) of tax reform. We close out the first quarter of 2018 with the S&P giving back 1.2%, the third consecutive quarterly gain for bond yields which translates to falling bond prices, and a weakening U.S. Dollar.
But corrections are both normal and healthy, particularly during extended bull markets. However, a flattening yield curve is not healthy. There has been a rising supply of short-term debt being sold at the same time the Fed is raising interest rates and that is leading to a flattening, a smaller gap between 2-year and 10-year yields. We have to remember that the Fed is no longer the largest buyer of U.S. debt since the end of their multiple QEs (Quantitative Easing). The number of rate hikes the Fed will make in 2018 is a subject of constant debate and is not solidly predictable since so many aspects of economic expansion, stall or contraction are taken into consideration.
In light of the increased volatility, global trade tension and rising rates, we have searched for opportunities that should outperform in a period of small or negative performance in stock markets and rising rates. Think disruptive technology, long-short and multi-strategy alternative funds, and real estate investments that can modify rents daily or over very short periods of time. We continue to search for niche ways to serve our sophisticated clientele. We look forward to discussing the hedge fund and real opportunities with you when suitable.
Our model illustrated below includes liquid REITs and Vida Longevity Fund but does not include direct investment real estate or other hedge funds in our portfolios. Overall the strategy was slightly negative where Real Asset was the most affected by the rate increase, the benign inflation data, and increased equity volatility. Alternative strategy was slightly negative. In spite of the equity volatility, our Global Equity bounded back to have positive returns for the quarter. Global Fixed Income was slightly positive.
The best performing region in Global Equities was Emerging Market. U.S. Equity was mixed where the market still favored the growth sector such as technology. Real Assets categories are a turning story where trailing 1-year returns were decently positive, but the first quarter return is the most negative return due to an increase in Treasury rates and a lower than expected inflation number. We lowered exposure to Real Assets in the beginning of our tactical model rebalance (early Q1) however, we plan to keep Real Assets within the model. We will be making some security changes primarily for clients who do not have access to direct real estate investments.
Once again, the best performing Fixed Income asset was Emerging Market Debt in local currency. High quality Corporate Bond was the most negatively affected by the yield increase. In Alternative categories, the Managed Futures return was consistently negative. This is the area that should have done well since it is the least similar to the equity market. We have decided to eliminate this from our portfolios and we are using proceeds to add different Alternative styles and have added more weight to Fixed Income and Real Asset categories.
While we are awaiting final figures for some of our illiquid investments, we can already determine that our diversified portfolios outperformed the popular 60% equity and 40% fixed income which was -1.04% for the first quarter.
Time - Not Timing - Is What Matters
With the recent market volatility, I thought it beneficial to look at some facts and history to put things into perspective… Studies show that people place too much emphasis on recent events and disregard long-term realities. Even amidst the recent market downturn, remember that stocks have rewarded investors over time. For example: Even including downturns, the S&P 500’s mean return over all rolling 10-year periods from 1927 to 2015 was 10.46%.
Keep in mind that a long-term perspective can help you prevail through challenging times. Fear of loss is a common emotion among investors, driving many to buy and sell investments at the wrong time. In general, people get emotional about money—especially the possibility of losing it. According to Nobel Prize Winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, for most people, the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the prospect of gaining $150.
Risk aversion can have its cost, and it’s not just the missed opportunity. Too often, emotion sparks irrational behavior such as cashing out, chasing returns and jumping from fund to fund – essentially buying high and selling low – which translates to locking in losses. A recent study by Dalbar, Inc., showed that the average equity investor returns lag those of the S&P 500 by 3.66% due to emotional buying and selling.
We do not recommend jumping in and out of the Market. Successful market timing is very difficult because it requires getting out at the right time and getting back in at the right time. Let’s also not forget history. The following statistics help with this point:
On average, you should expect the market to experience a 5% correction at least 3 times per year. (Although, in recent years we have not seen this constantly occur.)
The bottom line is this: Time – not timing – is what matters. It’s time in the market, not timing the market, that matters the most.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Warren Buffet Quotes: “The market is the most efficient mechanism in the world for transferring wealth from impatient people to patient people.”
As always, we thank you for the trust and confidence you have placed in the team at Optivest Wealth Management.
As we enter this period of heightened volatility and checkered quarterly returns, it is even more important to keep a strategically balanced portfolio. We remain opportunistic in adding non-correlated allocations (see Leslie’s thoughts) and stick to our unemotional disciplines (see Bart’s advice) to avoid common market timing whipsaw mistakes, all the while continuously optimizing our core securities selection (per Stella’s article).
Don’t hesitate to call or reach out to your service team with questions: 949.363.8686
All the Best,
Mark, Leslie, Stella and Bart