Posts Tagged ‘PIMCO’
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
“There Will Be Haircuts”
“Good as Money,” proclaimed the ad for Twenty Grand Cognac. Being a beer drinker, and never having cashed in a Budweiser to pay for a fill-up at the local gas station, I said to myself “Man, that must be really good stuff!” Even in a financial meltdown I thought, you could use it in place of cash, diamonds, gold or Bitcoins! And if the Mongol hordes descend upon us during a future revolution, who wouldn’t prefer a few belts of Twenty Grand on the way out, instead of some shiny rocks and a slingshot?
Well, not being inebriated at that moment I immediately shifted focus to a more serious topic. What IS money? A medium of exchange and a store of value is a rather succinct definition, but we generally think of it as cash or perhaps checks that reflect some balance of “ready” cash at a friendly bank. Yet as technology and financial innovation have progressed over the past few decades, and as central banks have tenuously validated the liquidity and price of various forms of credit, it seems that the definition of money has been extended; not perhaps to a bottle of Twenty Grand Cognac, but at least to some other rather liquid forms of near currency such as money market funds, institutional “repo” and short-term Treasuries “guaranteed” by the Fed to trade at par over the next few years.
All of the above are close to serving as a “medium of exchange” because they presumably can be converted overnight at the holder’s whim without loss and then transferred to a savings or checking account. It has been the objective of the Fed over the past few years to make even more innovative forms of money by supporting stock and bond prices at cost on an ever ascending scale, thereby assuring holders via a “Bernanke put” that they might just as well own stocks as the cash in their purses. Gosh, a decade or so ago a house almost became a money substitute. MEW – or mortgage equity withdrawal – could be liquefied instantaneously based on a “never go down” housing market. You could equitize your home and go sailing off into the sunset on a new 28-foot skiff on any day but Sunday.
So as long as liquid assets can hold par/cost with an option to increase in price, then these new forms of credit or equity might be considered “money” or something better! They might therefore represent a “store of value” in addition to serving as a convertible medium of exchange. But then, that phrase “Good as Money” on the cognac bottle kept coming back to haunt me. Is all this newfangled money actually “money good?” Technology and Fed liquidity may have allowed them to serve as modern “mediums of exchange,” but are they legitimate “stores of value?” Well, the past decade has proved that houses were merely homes and not ATM machines. They were not “good as money.” Likewise, the Fed’s modern day liquid wealth creations such as bonds and stocks may suffer a similar fate at a future bubbled price whether it be 1.50% for a 10-year Treasury or Dow 16,000.
But let’s not go there and speak of a bubble popping. Let’s perhaps more immediately speak about current and future haircuts when we question the “goodness of money.” Carmen Reinhart has said with historical observation that we are in an environment where politicians and central bankers are reluctant to allow write-offs: limited entitlement cuts fiscally, no asset price sink holes monetarily. Yet if there are no spending cuts or asset price write-offs, then it’s hard to see how deficits and outstanding debt as a percentage of GDP can ever be reduced. Granted, the ability of central banks to avoid a debt deflation in recent years has been critical to stabilizing global economies. And too, there have been write-offs, in home mortgages in the U.S., for example, and sovereign debt in Greece. But the cost of these strategies, which avoid what I simplistically call “haircuts,” has been high, and their ability to reduce overall debt/GDP ratios is questionable. Chairman Bernanke has admitted that the cost of zero-bound interest rates, for instance, extracts a toll on pension funds and individual savers. Some of his Fed colleagues have spoken out about the negative aspects of QE and future difficulties of exit strategies should they ever take place. (They won’t!) So current policies come with a cost even as they act to magically float asset prices higher, making many of them to appear “good as money” – shots of cognac notwithstanding.
But the point of this Outlook is that even IF… even IF QEs and near zero-bound yields are able to refloat global economies and generate a semblance of old normal real growth, they will do so utilizing historically tried and true “haircuts” that rather surreptitiously “trim” an asset holder’s money without them really knowing they had entered a barbershop. These haircuts are hidden forms of taxes that reduce an investor’s purchasing power as manipulated interest rates lag inflation. In the process, governments and their central banks theoretically reduce real debt levels as well as the excessive liabilities of levered corporations and households. But they represent a hidden wealth transfer that belies the vaunted phrase “good as money.”
Before drinking up, let’s examine these haircuts to see why they do not represent an authentic store of value even if their bubbly prices never pop. I will give each haircut a symbolic name – I welcome your suggestions as well via e-mail reply: email@example.com
(1) Negative Real Interest Rates – “Trimming the Bangs”
During and after World War II most countries with high debt overloads resorted to artificially capping interest rates below the rate of inflation. They forced savers to accept negative real interest rates which lowered the cost of government debt but prevented savers from keeping up with the cost of living. Long Treasuries, for instance, were capped at 2½% while inflation was soaring towards double-digits. The resulting negative real rates together with an accelerating economy allowed the U.S. economy to lower its Depression-era debt/GDP from 250% to a number almost half as much years later, but at a cost of capital market distortions.
Today, central banks are doing the same thing with near zero-bound yields and effective caps on higher rates via quantitative easing. The Treasury’s average cost of money is steadily grinding lower than 2%. If current policies continue to be enforced in future years it will eventually be less than 1% because of the inclusion of T-bill and short maturity financing. The government’s gain, however, is the saver’s loss. Investors are being haircutted by at least 200 basis points judged by historical standards, which in the past offered no QE and priced Fed Funds close to the level of inflation. Large holders of U.S. government bonds, including China and Japan, will be repaid, but in the interim they will be implicitly defaulted on or haircutted via negative real interest rates.
Are Treasuries money good? Yes. But are they good money? Most assuredly not, when current and future haircuts are considered. These rather innocuous seeming (-1%) and (-2%) real rate haircuts are not a bob or a mullet in hairstyle parlance. More like a “trimming of the bangs.” But at the cut’s conclusion, there’s a lot of hair left on the floor.
(2) Inflation / Currency Devaluation – “the “Don Draper”
Inflation’s sort of like your everyday “Mad Men – Don Draper” type of haircut. It’s been around for a long time and we don’t really give it a second thought except when it’s on top of a handsome head like Jon Hamm’s. 2% ± a year – some say more – but what the heck, inflation’s just like breathing air … you just gotta have it for a modern-day levered economy to survive. Sometimes, though, it gets out of control, and when it is unexpected, a decent size hit to your bond and stock portfolio is a possibility. If our TV idol Don Draper lives another decade or so on the airwaves, he’ll find out in the inflationary 70s. Such was the example as well in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and in modern day Zimbabwe with its One Hundred Trillion Dollar bill shown below. As central banks surreptitiously inflate, they also devalue their currency and purchasing power relative to other “hard money” countries. Either way – historical bouts of inflation or currency devaluation suggest that your investment portfolio may not be “good as the money” you might be banking on.
(3) Capital Controls – the “Uncle Sam Cut”
Uncle Sam with his rather dapper white hair and trimmed beard serves as a good example for this type of haircut, if only to show that even the U.S. can latch on to your money or capital. Back in the 1930s, FDR instituted a rather blatant form of expropriation shown above. All private ownership of gold was forbidden (and subject to a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison!) if it wasn’t turned into the government. Today we have less obvious but similar forms of capital controls – currency pegging (China and many others), taxes on incoming capital (Brazil) and outright taxation/embargos of bank deposits (Cyprus). Governments use these methods to keep money out or to keep money in, the net result of which is a haircut on your capital or your potential return on capital. Future haircuts might even include a wealth tax. Are gold and/or AA+ sovereign bonds good as money? Usually, but capital controls can clip you if you’re not careful.
(4) Outright Default – the “Dobbins”
Ah, here’s my favorite haircut, and I’ve named it the “Dobbins” in honor of this 5-year bond issued in the 1920s with a beautiful gold seal and payable, in dollars or machine guns! Bond holders got neither and so it represents the historical example of the ultimate haircut – the buzz, the shaved head, the “Dobbins.” As suggested earlier, the objective of central banks is to prevent your portfolio from resembling a “Dobbins.” I have tweeted in the past that the Fed is where all bad bonds go to die. That is half figurative and half literal, because central banks are typically limited from purchasing bonds payable in machine guns or subprime mortgages (there have been exceptions and Bloomberg reported that nearly 25% of global central banks are now buying stocks believe it or not)! But by purchasing Treasuries and Agency mortgages they have rather successfully incented the private sector to do their bidding. This behavior reflects the admission that modern-day developed economies are asset-priced supported. Unless prices can continuously be floated upward, defaults and debt deflation may emerge. Don’t buy a Dobbins bond or a Dobbins-like asset or a bond from a country whose central bank is buying stocks. They probably aren’t “good as money!”
So it seems as if the barber has you cornered, doesn’t it? Sort of like Sweeney Todd! Let’s acknowledge that possibility, along with the observation that all of these haircuts imply lower-than-average future returns for bonds, stocks, and other financial assets. If so, the rather mixed metaphor of “money’s goodness” and “avoiding haircuts” is still the question of our modern investment age. The easiest answer to the question of what to buy is to simply take your ball and go home. If the rules aren’t fair, don’t play. That endgame however, results in a Treasury bill rate of 10 basis points or a negative yield in Germany, France and Northern EU markets. So a bond and equity investor can choose to play with historically high risk to principal or quit the game and earn nothing. PIMCO’s advice is to continue to participate in an obviously central-bank-generated bubble but to gradually reduce risk positions in 2013 and perhaps beyond. While this Outlook has indeed claimed that Treasuries are money good but not “good money,” they are better than the alternative (cash) as long as central banks and dollar reserve countries (China, Japan) continue to participate.
The same conclusion applies to credit risk alternatives such as corporate bonds and stocks. Granted, this sounds a little like Chuck Prince and his dance floor metaphor does it not? His example proved that dancing, and full heads of hair are not forever. So give your own portfolio a trim as the year goes on. In doing so, you will give up some higher returns upfront in order to avoid the swift hand of Sweeney Todd. There will be haircuts. Make sure your head doesn’t go with it.
1) Central banks and policymakers are acting like barbers. They haircut your investments.
2) Negative real interest rates, inflation, currency devaluation, capital controls and outright default are the barber’s scissors.
3) Gradually reduce duration, risk positions and “carry” as the year proceeds.
William H. Gross
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investors should consult their financial advisor prior to making an investment decision.
This material contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.
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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
A Man in the Mirror
by William H. Gross, PIMCO
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a…
— Michael Jackson
Am I a great investor? No, not yet. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s “Jake” in The Sun Also Rises, “wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?” But the thinking so and the reality are often miles apart. When looking in the mirror, the average human sees a six-plus or a seven reflection on a scale of one to ten. The big nose or weak chin is masked by brighter eyes or near picture perfect teeth. And when the public is consulted, the vocal compliments as opposed to the near silent/ whispered critiques are taken as a supermajority vote for good looks. So it is with investing, or any career that is exposed to the public eye. The brickbats come via the blogs and ambitious competitors, but the roses dominate one’s mental and even physical scrapbook. In addition to hope, it is how we survive day-to-day. We look at the man or woman in the mirror and see an image that is as distorted from reality as the one in a circus fun zone.
Yet at first blush, there is a partial saving grace in the money management business. We have numbers. Subjective perceptions aside, we have total return and alpha histories that purport to show how much better an individual or a firm has been than the competition, or if not, what an excellent return relative to inflation, or if not, what a generous amount of wealth creation over and above cash … the comparisons are seemingly endless yet the conclusions nearly always positive, rendering the “saving grace” almost meaningless: everyone in their own mind is at least a six-plus or a seven, and if not for the most recent year, then over the last three, five, or 10 years. Investors thrive on the numbers and turn them in their favor when observing their reflections. That first blush becomes a permanently rosy complexion with Snow White cheeks.
The investing public is often similarly deceived. Consultants warn against going with the flow, selecting a firm or an individual based upon recent experience, but the reality is generally otherwise. Three straight flips of the coin to “heads” produces a buzz in the crowd for another “heads,” despite the obvious 50/50 probabilities, as do 13 straight years of outperforming the S&P 500 followed by … Well, you get my point. The Financial Times just published a study confirming that a significant majority of computer simulated monkeys beat the stock market between 1968 and 2011 – good looking monkeys that is.
In questioning initially whether I am a great investor, I open the door to question whether other similarly esteemed public icons like Bill Miller are as well. It seems, perhaps, that the longer and longer you keep at it in this business the more and more time you have to expose your Achilles heel – wherever and whatever that might be. Ex-Fidelity mutual fund manager Peter Lynch was certainly brilliant in one respect: he knew to get out when the gettin’ was good. How his “buy what you know best” philosophy would have survived the dot-coms or the Lehman/subprime bust is another question.
So time and longevity must be a critical consideration in any objective confirmation of “greatness” in this business. 10 years, 20 years, 30 years? How many coins do you have to flip before a string of heads begins to suggest that it must be a two-headed coin, loaded with some philosophical/commonsensical bias that places the long-term odds clearly in a firm’s or an individual’s favor? I must tell you, after 40 rather successful years, I still don’t know if I or PIMCO qualifies. I don’t know if anyone, including investing’s most esteemed “oracle” Warren Buffett, does, and here’s why.
Investing and the success at it are predominately viewed on a cyclical or even a secular basis, yet even that longer term time frame may be too short. Whether a tops-down or bottoms-up investor in bonds, stocks, or private equity, the standard analysis tends to judge an investor or his firm on the basis of how the bullish or bearish aspects of the cycle were managed. Go to cash at the right time? Buy growth stocks at the bottom? Extend duration when yields were peaking? Buy value stocks at the right price? Whatever. If the numbers exhibit rather consistent alpha with lower than average risk and attractive information ratios then the Investing Hall of Fame may be just around the corner. Clearly the ability of the investor to adapt to the market’s “four seasons” should be proof enough that there was something more than luck involved? And if those four seasons span a number of bull/ bear cycles or even several decades, then a confirmation or coronation should take place shortly thereafter! First a market maven, then a wizard, and finally a King. Oh, to be a King.
But let me admit something. There is not a Bond King or a Stock King or an Investor Sovereign alive that can claim title to a throne. All of us, even the old guys like Buffett, Soros, Fuss, yeah – me too, have cut our teeth during perhaps a most advantageous period of time, the most attractive epoch, that an investor could experience. Since the early 1970s when the dollar was released from gold and credit began its incredible, liquefying, total return journey to the present day, an investor that took marginal risk, levered it wisely and was conveniently sheltered from periodic bouts of deleveraging or asset withdrawals could, and in some cases, was rewarded with the crown of “greatness.” Perhaps, however, it was the epoch that made the man as opposed to the man that made the epoch.
Authors Dimson, Marsh and Staunton would probably agree. In fact, the title of their book “Triumph of the Optimists” rather cagily describes an epochal 101 years of investment returns – one in which it paid to be an optimist and a risk taker as opposed to a more conservative Scrooge McDuck. Written in 2002, they perhaps correctly surmised however, that the next 101 years were unlikely to be as fortunate because of the unrealistic assumptions that many investors had priced into their markets. And all of this before QE and 0% interest rates! In any case, their point – and mine as well – is that different epochs produce different returns and fresh coronations as well.
I have always been a marginal or what I would call a measured risk taker; decently good at interest rate calls and perhaps decently better at promoting that image, but a risk taker at the margin. It didn’t work too well for a few months in 2011, nor in selected years over the past four decades, but because credit was almost always expanding, almost always fertilizing capitalism with its risk-taking bias, then PIMCO prospered as well. On a somewhat technical basis, my/our firm’s tendency to sell volatility and earn “carry” in a number of forms – outright through options and futures, in the mortgage market via prepayment risk, and on the curve via bullets and roll down as opposed to barbells with substandard carry – has been rewarded over long periods of time. When volatility has increased measurably (1979-1981, 1998, 2008), we have been fortunate enough to have either seen the future as it approached, or been just marginally overweighted from a “carry” standpoint so that we survived the dunking, whereas other firms did not.
My point is this: PIMCO’s epoch, Berkshire Hathaway’s epoch, Peter Lynch’s epoch, all occurred or have occurred within an epoch of credit expansion – a period where those that reached for carry, that sold volatility, that tilted towards yield and more credit risk, or that were sheltered either structurally or reputationally from withdrawals and delevering (Buffett) that clipped competitors at just the wrong time – succeeded. Yet all of these epochs were perhaps just that – epochs. What if an epoch changes? What if perpetual credit expansion and its fertilization of asset prices and returns are substantially altered? What if zero-bound interest rates define the end of a total return epoch that began in the 1970s, accelerated in 1981 and has come to a mathematical dead-end for bonds in 2012/2013 and commonsensically for other conjoined asset classes as well? What if a future epoch favors lower than index carry or continual bouts of 2008 Lehmanesque volatility, or encompasses a period of global geopolitical confrontation with a quest for scarce and scarcer resources such as oil, water, or simply food as suggested by Jeremy Grantham? What if the effects of global “climate change or perhaps aging demographics,” substantially alter the rather fertile petri dish of capitalistic expansion and endorsement? What if quantitative easing policies eventually collapse instead of elevate asset prices? What if there is a future that demands that an investor – a seemingly great investor – change course, or at least learn new tricks? Ah, now, that would be a test of greatness: the ability to adapt to a new epoch. The problem with the Buffetts, the Fusses, the Granthams, the Marks, the Dalios, the Gabellis, the Coopermans, and the Grosses of the world is that they’ll likely never find out. Epochs can and likely will outlast them. But then one never knows what time has in store for each of us, or what any of us will do in the spans of time.
What I do know, is that, like Michael Jackson sang in his brilliant, but all too short lifetime, I am and will continue to look at the man in the mirror. PIMCO, Gross, El-Erian? – yes, we’re lookin’ good – in this epoch. If there’s a different one coming though, to make our and your world a better place, we might need to look in the mirror and make a Chaaaaaaaange … Depends on what we see, I suppose. We will keep you informed.
Man in the Mirror Speed Read
- Investors should be judged on their ability to adapt to different epochs, not cycles. An epoch may be 40-50 years in time, perhaps longer.
- Bill Miller may in fact be a great investor, but he’ll need 5 or 6 more straight “heads” in a future epoch to confirm it. Peter Lynch is a “party pooper.” Warren is the Oracle, but if an epoch changes will he and others like him be around to adapt to it?
- No matter how self-indulgent you think this IO is, I just looked in the mirror and saw at least a 7. You must be blind!
William H. Gross
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. This material contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
by William R. Benz, Managing Director, PIMCO
- Investors may want to consider pivoting to strategies that are less focused on traditional benchmarks and more oriented to generating income and providing greater flexibility to hedge against rising rates, widening credit spreads or higher inflation.
- With interest rates near historical lows, and return expectations broadly diminished, investors seeking to meet yield or return targets may want to include strategies that specifically target income and flexible, relatively liquid absolute inflation-adjusted returns in their investment portfolios.
Fixed income investing has come a long way since I first started in the business, back in 1986. In fact, the growth is truly astounding: The overall bond market has grown more than six times, from $15 trillion in 1989 to $92 trillion in 2012. The number of investable sectors has similarly grown, from core governments, investment grade corporates and a relatively new mortgage-backed security market to a full spectrum of sectors, sub-sectors, countries, currencies and derivatives across the capital structure today. If back then, investors were primarily judging risk based on average maturity, average quality and, for those at the cutting edge, duration and convexity, today’s risk measures are far more sophisticated and more specific. Calculators have been replaced by super computers, with yield-to-maturity calculations giving way to all the different algorithms that bond traders and asset managers use to measure and assess risk. Indeed, a lot has changed.
What hasn’t changed much are the underlying reasons investors look to fixed income. Yes, there’s been some evolution over time, and yes, investors are increasingly differentiating among types of fixed income based on their own unique situations and needs. Yet, in general, investors have continued to own if not increase their allocations to bonds for one or more of the following reasons:
- Total return/absolute return
- Inflation/deflation hedge
- Liability management
At least some of this may change going forward, however, given today’s low-yielding environment.
At PIMCO we talk about the need to “pivot” in terms of changing the way we think about markets and investment strategies as well as the way we serve our clients. For example, while some investors may be tempted to move away from their traditional core fixed income allocations into equities and higher risk alternatives, they may be better served by first rethinking or redefining their definition of “core.” For most investors, core fixed income means a benchmark-driven allocation to intermediate-duration, multi-sector, multi-country and/or multi-currency bonds – an approach that has basically served them very well over the past 10, 20, or even more years. But is this the best way forward? For some, perhaps, especially those who are willing to expand their opportunity set and consider more forward-looking (e.g., GDP- rather than market value-weighted) indexes. But, for many, probably not.
Figure 1 attempts to capture the concept of pivoting, albeit in a simplistic manner. It starts with the 20-year to 30-year super-secular decline in longer-term government bond yields; the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, for example, fell from a yield of 10.8% at the beginning of 1980 to less than 2% today supporting many asset classes. For the most part, this was a great time to be in a wide variety of securities – including a variety of bonds, first governments, then credit, emerging markets, mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities, as well as equities all of which had broad outperformance and provided robust real returns during this period. But now, with interest rates near historical lows, and return expectations broadly diminished, investors seeking to meet yield or return targets may want to include strategies that specifically target income and flexible, relatively liquid absolute inflation-adjusted returns in their investment portfolios. And at some point in the next few years, they will likely want to pivot further and add more sectors traditionally viewed as inflation hedges as the impact of accommodative central bank monetary policies worldwide takes root. Indeed, we’re already seeing some investors moving in this direction.
A Journey Back in Time
To better understand the context for this shift, it’s helpful to take a look back in time.
And let’s start by considering the role of bonds prior to the 1960s, before the inflation era of the late 1960s and 1970s. Back then, bonds were primarily viewed as income-generating instruments and as a diversifier to equities. We sometimes joke about “clipping coupons,” but that was what bond investors did and how they viewed the bond market: as a relatively low-risk and stable − if not boring − market, where the primary skill was to pick a bond that wouldn’t default, clip coupons and earn income over the life of the bond.
Things changed significantly, however, beginning in the mid- to late 1960s as inflation began to take hold. This was not a cyclical phenomenon, but a secular one, with businesses, consumers and investors all making major adjustments to their view of the world and how they hired, manufactured, purchased and invested. Bonds were out, dubbed by many as “certificates of confiscation,” with equities, cash and real estate becoming the investments of choice. Why buy bonds when you could put your money in a local bank account and earn a 20% deposit rate for three months, many would ask. Looking at the list of potential investment benefits – income, total return, liquidity, diversification, deflation hedge and liability hedge – bonds didn’t tick many boxes.
But things changed again, starting in the early to mid-1980s, with Paul Volcker and a more hawkish group of central bankers around the globe. While it didn’t happen overnight, inflation became a thing of the past, and disinflation – defined as steadily declining rates of inflation – became the new policy and the new norm. Bonds enjoyed a renaissance, not for five to 10 years, not for 10 to 20 years, but for 25 to 30 years, as shown in Figure 2.
In fact, bonds outperformed equities for much of this period, with the most striking span being the 13 years from the beginning of 2000 through the end of 2012: A diversified basket of global bonds (as represented by the Barclay’s U.S./Global Aggregate Index) returned roughly 118% versus a loss of 5.8% for a basket of global stocks (as represented by the MSCI World Index on a cumulative). Bonds moved from income and diversification to the realm of total return, as investors initially tiptoed into long government bonds and then, more aggressively, into corporates, mortgage- and asset-backed securities, high yield, emerging markets, bank capital and all the other spread sectors and yield-providing instruments. There were plenty of mines and missteps along the way, with Orange County, Argentina, Mexico, Russia, WorldCom, Enron, Bear Stearns and Lehman perhaps being the most notable. Yet investors continued to snap up bonds, and they continued to pursue attractive total returns through a combination of yield and price appreciation.
Bonds also provided liquidity, and for some, actually became a new cash alternative. After all, why own cash if rates were heading lower? And with mutual funds in the U.S. and UCITS vehicles in the European Union on the rise, who needed cash when there was liquidity for your fund holdings? While most investors still kept some cash as a true liquidity buffer, they increasingly began to tier their liquidity holdings from the most liquid, highest quality investments that could meet their immediate needs to progressively longer maturity investments, such as short duration bonds, to take advantage of term, credit, volatility and liquidity premiums.
While bonds were always seen as portfolio diversifiers, this became even more important after the equity tech bubble burst in the early 2000s, with investors owning bonds not just to help meet their income, total return and liquidity needs, but to dampen volatility as they correspondingly increased their allocations to equities, hedge funds and higher risk sectors. What many didn’t realize, however, was that not all bonds behave equally in terms of providing diversification. This became a harsh lesson for those with large positions in corporates, high yield, emerging markets and non-agency mortgages during the financial crisis, as these sectors carried significant equity-like risk. And it was a similarly costly discovery for those who viewed their eurozone peripheral government bond holdings as a means of diversifying equity risk during the recent eurozone crisis. This is not to say that diversification doesn’t work; it just means that bond investors need to do their homework.
The benefits of diversification become most clear during periods when markets are worried most about deflation, and we need to look no further than the 2008 financial crisis and the 2011 eurozone crisis to see the benefits of owning high-quality government bonds, which are perceived as a safe haven and frequently rally as many other asset classes decline in tandem. In 2008, for instance, 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds returned 20.1% versus U.S. equities at -36.55%, as measured by the S&P 500. In 2011, 10-year Treasuries again outperformed U.S. equities, returning 16.04% versus 2.07%.
Long bonds, and/or derivative overlays meant to mimic long bonds, have also come to be viewed by many as the best way to hedge liabilities, particularly by pensions and others fearing a mismatch to their longer duration liabilities as interest rates have fallen and increased the value of their liabilities versus their assets during much of this period. LDI, or liability driven investing, got its start in the late 1980s and has since become a major part of institutional investing in the U.S., U.K. and Netherlands.
In short, regardless of whether investors have sought income, total return, liquidity, diversification, deflation hedging or liability management, bonds have been viewed as “king” for much of the past 25 to 30 years.
Investing in the New Era
But now we’re entering a new era when bonds will likely struggle to fulfill at least parts of their primary mission. This isn’t to say that bonds won’t continue to play an important role in portfolios. They most certainly will. But in anticipation of secular shifts in the years ahead, including eventual rises in interest rates and inflation, we believe investors can benefit from pivoting and rethinking their approach to the fixed income sector – particularly as they look to achieve their income and absolute return objectives.
For investors who are concerned with low yields and an inability to meet their income needs, pivoting toward an income- or yield-based approach may make sense. This doesn’t imply a wholesale shift toward high yield and riskier sectors, but it does suggest potentially moving away from a portfolio built using the standard intermediate duration benchmark toward a portfolio that is less tied to a benchmark in an effort to more effectively meet specific income targets with the goal of delivering income rather than simply matching the bond market’s total return over time.
For those with intermediate benchmarks who worry about the risk of rising interest rates, a more flexible duration approach may make sense – one that is still multi-sector, multi-country and multi-currency, but one that also has the ability to go to a short or even negative duration to hedge against, if not benefit from, rising rates. This would be more of an absolute return investment style targeting a specific return goal over Libor, depending on an investor’s objectives, along with ample liquidity such that it remains a key component of the core bond allocation.
Investors with intermediate credit-based benchmarks may also want to hedge against rising rates, or widening spreads, and similarly shift to a more flexible, benchmark-agnostic style that allows for shorter durations, short credit positions and/or the ability to move across different spread sectors, such as investment grade versus high yield. Again, this would be an absolute return strategy with ready liquidity and relatively modest single-digit return targets, rather than the double-digit targets generally found in the hedge fund or alternatives space.
Those worried most about inflation might look to shift their core nominal bond positions toward real return-oriented strategies by moving directly from nominal instruments into inflation-linked securities. Alternatively, investors might consider an allocation to emerging market currencies which may respond positively to inflationary pressures in the developed world. If inflation stems from a decline in reserve currencies like the U.S. dollar, euro, and Japanese yen, EM currencies—particularly in countries with healthy fundamentals—are likely to appreciate in response, providing a hedge.
Investors may also simply allow portfolio managers more investing flexibility in their portfolios. This always sounds counterintuitive. Yet, if yields have indeed troughed and are destined to embark on a secular journey higher, adding additional tools is probably the best, if not the only, way to provide necessary income, meet required return objectives and hedge against downside risk.
In summary, fixed income investors need to think differently in this environment, potentially pivoting to strategies that are less focused on traditional benchmarks and more oriented to generating income and providing greater flexibility to hedge against rising rates, widening credit spreads or higher inflation. The same can be said for equity investors – and even more so for multi-asset investors – in terms of expanding the opportunity set and moving away from traditional benchmark investing. It’s a new era … and it may be time to pivot.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investing in the bond market is subject to certain risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit and inflation risk; investments may be worth more or less than the original cost when redeemed. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic and industry conditions. Investing in foreign-denominated and/or -domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. Currency rates may fluctuate significantly over short periods of time and may reduce the returns of a portfolio. Inflation-linked bonds (ILBs) issued by a government are fixed income securities whose principal value is periodically adjusted according to the rate of inflation; ILBs decline in value when real interest rates rise. Commodities contain heightened risk including market, political, regulatory and natural conditions, and may not be suitable for all investors. The value of real estate and portfolios that invest in real estate may fluctuate due to: losses from casualty or condemnation, changes in local and general economic conditions, supply and demand, interest rates, property tax rates, regulatory limitations on rents, zoning laws, and operating expenses. High yield, lower-rated securities involve greater risk than higher-rated securities; portfolios that invest in them may be subject to greater levels of credit and liquidity risk than portfolios that do not. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks, such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested. Diversification does not ensure against loss.
There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market.
This material contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO and YOUR GLOBAL INVESTMENT AUTHORITY are trademarks or registered trademarks of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, respectively, in the United States and throughout the world. ©2013, PIMCO.
Copyright © PIMCO
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
by William Gross, PIMCO
But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values?
– Alan Greenspan 1996
PIMCO’s dear friend and former counselor Alan Greenspan coined this now famous phrase in the midst of what turned out to be a fairly rationally priced stock market in late 1996. While the market was indeed moving in the direction of “dot-com” fever three to four years later, the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the time was a relatively anorexic 6,000, and the trailing P/E ratio was only 12x. For a central bank that was then more concerned about economic growth and inflation as opposed to stock prices, risk spreads, and artificially suppressed interest rates, the Chairman’s query made global headlines, became a book title for Professor Robert Shiller and a strategic beacon for portfolio managers thereafter. Having experienced two and perhaps three bouts of significant market irrationality since Greenspan’s speech (the 1998 Asian Crisis, 2000 Dot-Coms, and of course 2007’s subprime euphoria), investors these days have their ears pressed to the ground and eyes glued to the tape for any sign of renewed irrationality. If the game is now musical chairs as opposed to Chuck Prince’s marathon dancing, it pays to be close to a chair, even as the “can’t miss” euphoria mesmerizes 2013 asset managers worldwide.
Into this academic but high-staked market fog has stepped another Fed official, this time not a Chairman but a relatively new yet similarly quizzical Governor. Jeremy Stein’s February 2013 speech has not gained the attention that Chairman Greenspan’s did, but it is remarkably similar in its intent and initial question: Governor Stein asks, “What factors lead to overheating episodes in credit markets?… Why is it that sometimes, things get out of balance?” Without mimicking Chairman Greenspan’s phrase, Governor Stein renews the quest, asking nearly a decade and a half later, “How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values?”
I suppose it’s fair to criticize both queries on two grounds: 1) Although asked by Chairman Greenspan, it was never really answered in the 1996 speech. 2) If the Fed’s so smart, why are some of us still poor? Why did our 401(k)s become 201(k)s in 2009 before recovering to near peak levels currently? If they’re so smart, why the roller coaster ride, the 30% decline in home prices since 2006, and our current 7.9% unemployment rate?
Well to answer for the absent Chairman and the necessarily silent Governor Stein, the Fed incorrectly assumed that as long as inflation was benign, and future productivity prospects were near historical proportions, then asset price exuberance was an indirect and much less significant influence on economic growth. The Chairman admitted as much in a public “mea culpa” several years ago. We’re not that smart, he seemed to intone. Sometimes we make mistakes. I’m with you there, Mr. Chairman. Sometimes we all do.
So let’s approach this new paper with eyes wide open and pant bottoms close to those mythical musical chairs. Governor Stein’s speech reflects importantly on the answer to the question asked by a recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Is (the) Bull Sprint Becoming a Marathon?” Is there indeed “A Boom Time” in markets as the Financial Times queried on the heels of Dell, Virgin Media, and then HJ Heinz?
Governor Stein, as does PIMCO, suggests caution. On a scale of 1-10 measuring asset price “irrationality”, we are probably at a 6 and moving in an upward direction. Admittedly, Stein never ventures into the netherworld of stock market prices or leveraged buyouts. He appears to know better. What he does stake claim to however is a thesis for high yield spreads with the implication that other credit markets bear similar consequences. His initial starting point is that the pricing of credit is primarily an institutional as opposed to a household decision making process. Individuals may become unduly irrational when it comes to buying high yield ETFs or mutual funds, but it is the banks, insurance companies and pension funds, to name the most dominant, that influence the price of credit – high yield bonds – and by osmosis, investment grade corporates, municipals, and other non-Treasury risk credit assets. From this initial premise, he then points to recent research by Harvard’s Robin Greenwood and Samuel Hanson that suggests that while credit spreads are helpful future guides, that a non-price measure – the new issue volume (and perhaps quality) of high yield bonds – is a more trustworthy input. To quote: “When the high-yield share (of issuance) is elevated, future returns on corporate credit tend to be low.” And because of financial innovation and easier regulatory changes, institutional buyers such as banks, insurance companies and pension funds tend to match the mountains of issuance with an exuberance that eventually can be labeled irrational. Stein’s bottomline is that recent evidence suggests that we are seeing a “fairly significant pattern of reaching-for-yield behavior emerging in corporate credit.” In fact, investors bought over $100 billion of high yield and levered loan paper last year, a record level even exceeding the ominous levels in 2006 and 2007. Shown below in Chart 1 is a history of CLO issuance, admittedly a subset of high yield, but one which illustrates the supply pattern Governor Stein is leery of.
Now at this point, I suppose readers expect yours truly to jump all over the Governor’s speech/premise and to advance my own more learned thesis. Not really. With previously expressed reservations about the prescience of the Fed (or any of us!) I applaud his attempt to answer the initial 1996 question. I think Governor Stein’s speech was a little uni-dimensional, and a little too supply and model driven as opposed to behaviorally influenced, but I liked it, and PIMCO agrees with its conclusion. Corporate credit and high yield bonds are somewhat exuberantly and irrationally priced. Spreads are tight, corporate profit margins are at record peaks with room to fall, and the economy is still fragile. Still that doesn’t mean you should vacate your portfolio of them. It just implies that recent double-digit returns are unlikely to be replicated and that when today’s 5-6% high yield interest rates are adjusted for future defaults and recovery values, that 3-4% realized returns are the likely outcome. Just this past week the Financial Times reported that global corporate default rates are inching higher just as companies with fragile balance sheets sell large amounts of debt. Don’t say Governor Stein didn’t warn you.
But I would step now into the forbidden territory of equity pricing by presenting additional historical correlations compiled by Jim Bianco of Bianco Research – admittedly not a thickly populated academically staffed organization like the Fed, but a well-regarded one nonetheless. He points out in a recent daily release that high yield and corporate bonds are really just low beta equivalents of stocks. It appears that they are. The following charts show a rather commonsensical negative correlation of high yield spreads (and therefore future high yield returns) to stock prices.
The conclusion would be that where high yield prices go, stock markets follow, or vice versa. Narrow yield spreads in high yield credit markets appear to be accompanied by “narrow” equity risk premiums in the market for stocks, which is another way of saying that the course of future equity returns may not resemble its recent exuberant past. 3-4% high yield returns over the next few years? Why shouldn’t that logically lead to a generalized 5-6% return forecast for stocks? Admittedly, returns for both high yield and equity markets have been unduly influenced in the past few years by Quantitative Easing, the writing of trillions of dollars of Federal Reserve checks and the exuberant migration of institutions and households alike to the grassier plains of risk assets dependent on favorable economic outcomes. It is what central banks encourage and to date it has been successful. If and when that support dissipates or if the economy remains anemic, investors should be cautious and temper their enthusiasm.
PIMCO’s and Governor Stein’s “rational temperance,” in contrast to excessive historical bouts of “irrational exuberance,” simply counsels to lower return expectations, not to abandon ship. PIMCO is a global investment manager – not one with a perpetual frown or even an ever-present half empty glass – but one which hopes to provide alpha and above market returns while still standing tall in the aftermath of future irrational bouts of exuberance. We join with Governor Stein and perhaps Alan Greenspan in encouraging not an exit but a reduced expectation. Credit spreads nor interest rates cannot be artificially compressed forever, nor can stock prices rise perpetually on their coattails. Be rational, be optimistic if so inclined, but temper it with a commonsensical conclusion that we have seen something similar to this before, and that previous outcomes seldom matched the exuberance.
IO Speed read:
1) Chairman Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” speech in 1996 posed an excellent question, and history provided the answer.
2) Fed Governor Jeremy Stein asks the same question in 2013 with a uni-dimensional but useful model.
3) Stein’s paper, accompanied by correlations from Bianco Research, suggests caution in today’s high yield market.
4) High yield bonds, stock prices and other risk spreads move in relative tandem.
5) PIMCO cautions “rational temperance”: be bullish if you want, but lower return expectations on all asset classes.
William H. Gross
Copyright © PIMCO
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
This is the way the world ends…
Not with a bang but a whimper.
They say that time is money.* What they don’t say is that money may be running out of time.
There may be a natural evolution to our fractionally reserved credit system which characterizes modern global finance. Much like the universe, which began with a big bang nearly 14 billion years ago, but is expanding so rapidly that scientists predict it will all end in a “big freeze” trillions of years from now, our current monetary system seems to require perpetual expansion to maintain its existence. And too, the advancing entropy in the physical universe may in fact portend a similar decline of “energy” and “heat” within the credit markets. If so, then the legitimate response of creditors, debtors and investors inextricably intertwined within it, should logically be to ask about the economic and investment implications of its ongoing transition.
But before mimicking T.S. Eliot on the way our monetary system might evolve, let me first describe the “big bang” beginning of credit markets, so that you can more closely recognize its transition. The creation of credit in our modern day fractional reserve banking system began with a deposit and the profitable expansion of that deposit via leverage. Banks and other lenders don’t always keep 100% of their deposits in the “vault” at any one time – in fact they keep very little – thus the term “fractional reserves.” That first deposit then, and the explosion outward of 10x and more of levered lending, is modern day finance’s equivalent of the big bang. When it began is actually harder to determine than the birth of the physical universe but it certainly accelerated with the invention of central banking – the U.S. in 1913 – and with it the increased confidence that these newly licensed lenders of last resort would provide support to financial and real economies. Banking and central banks were and remain essential elements of a productive global economy.
But they carried within them an inherent instability that required the perpetual creation of more and more credit to stay alive. Those initial loans from that first deposit? They were made most certainly at yields close to the rate of real growth and creation of real wealth in the economy. Lenders demanded that yield because of their risk, and borrowers were speculating that the profit on their fledgling enterprises would exceed the interest expense on those loans. In many cases, they succeeded. But the economy as a whole could not logically grow faster than the real interest rates required to pay creditors, in combination with the near double-digit returns that equity holders demanded to support the initial leverage – unless – unless – it was supplied with additional credit to pay the tab. In a sense this was a “Sixteen Tons” metaphor: Another day older and deeper in debt, except few within the credit system itself understood the implications.
Economist Hyman Minsky did. With credit now expanding, the sophisticated economic model provided by Minsky was working its way towards what he called Ponzi finance. First, he claimed the system would borrow in low amounts and be relatively self-sustaining – what he termed “Hedge” finance. Then the system would gain courage, lever more into a “Speculative” finance mode which required more credit to pay back previous borrowings at maturity. Finally, the end phase of “Ponzi” finance would appear when additional credit would be required just to cover increasingly burdensome interest payments, with accelerating inflation the end result.
Minsky’s concept, developed nearly a half century ago shortly after the explosive decoupling of the dollar from gold in 1971, was primarily a cyclically contained model which acknowledged recession and then rejuvenation once the system’s leverage had been reduced. That was then. He perhaps could not have imagined the hyperbolic, as opposed to linear, secular rise in U.S. credit creation that has occurred since as shown in Chart 1. (Patterns for other developed economies are similar.) While there has been cyclical delevering, it has always been mild – even during the Volcker era of 1979-81. When Minsky formulated his theory in the early 70s, credit outstanding in the U.S. totaled $3 trillion.† Today, at $56 trillion and counting, it is a monster that requires perpetually increasing amounts of fuel, a supernova star that expands and expands, yet, in the process begins to consume itself. Each additional dollar of credit seems to create less and less heat. In the 1980s, it took four dollars of new credit to generate $1 of real GDP. Over the last decade, it has taken $10, and since 2006, $20 to produce the same result. Minsky’s Ponzi finance at the 2013 stage goes more and more to creditors and market speculators and less and less to the real economy. This “Credit New Normal” is entropic much like the physical universe and the “heat” or real growth that new credit now generates becomes less and less each year: 2% real growth now instead of an historical 3.5% over the past 50 years; likely even less as the future unfolds.
Not only is more and more anemic credit created by lenders as its “sixteen tons” becomes “thirty-two,” then “sixty-four,” but in the process, today’s near zero bound interest rates cripple savers and business models previously constructed on the basis of positive real yields and wider margins for loans. Net interest margins at banks compress; liabilities at insurance companies threaten their levered equity; and underfunded pension plans require greater contributions from their corporate funders unless regulatory agencies intervene. What has followed has been a gradual erosion of real growth as layoffs, bank branch closings and business consolidations create less of a need for labor and physical plant expansion. In effect, the initial magic of credit creation turns less magical, in some cases even destructive and begins to consume credit markets at the margin as well as portions of the real economy it has created. For readers demanding a more model-driven, historical example of the negative impact of zero based interest rates, they have only to witness the modern day example of Japan. With interest rates close to zero for the last decade or more, a sharply declining rate of investment in productive plants and equipment, shown in Chart 2, is the best evidence. A Japanese credit market supernova, exploding and then contracting onto itself. Money and credit may be losing heat and running out of time in other developed economies as well, including the U.S.
If so then the legitimate question is: how much time does money/credit have left and what are the investment consequences between now and then? Well, first I will admit that my supernova metaphor is more instructive than literal. The end of the global monetary system is not nigh. But the entropic characterization is most illustrative. Credit is now funneled increasingly into market speculation as opposed to productive innovation. Asset price appreciation as opposed to simple yield or “carry” is now critical to maintain the system’s momentum and longevity. Investment banking, which only a decade ago promoted small business development and transition to public markets, now is dominated by leveraged speculation and the Ponzi finance Minsky once warned against.
So our credit-based financial markets and the economy it supports are levered, fragile and increasingly entropic – it is running out of energy and time. When does money run out of time? The countdown begins when investable assets pose too much risk for too little return; when lenders desert credit markets for other alternatives such as cash or real assets.
REPEAT: THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS WHEN INVESTABLE ASSETS POSE TOO MUCH RISK FOR TOO LITTLE RETURN.
Visible first signs for creditors would logically be 1) long-term bond yields too low relative to duration risk, 2) credit spreads too tight relative to default risk and 3) PE ratios too high relative to growth risks. Not immediately, but over time, credit is exchanged figuratively or sometimes literally for cash in a mattress or conversely for real assets (gold, diamonds) in a vault. It also may move to other credit markets denominated in alternative currencies. As it does, domestic systems delever as credit and its supernova heat is abandoned for alternative assets. Unless central banks and credit extending private banks can generate real or at second best, nominal growth with their trillions of dollars, euros, and yen, then the risk of credit market entropy will increase.
The element of time is critical because investors and speculators that support the system may not necessarily fully participate in it for perpetuity. We ask ourselves frequently at PIMCO, what else could we do, what else could we invest in to avoid the consequences of financial repression and negative real interest rates approaching minus 2%? The choices are varied: cash to help protect against an inflationary expansion or just the opposite – long Treasuries to take advantage of a deflationary bust; real assets; emerging market equities, etc. One of our Investment Committee members swears he would buy land in New Zealand and set sail. Most of us can’t do that, nor can you. The fact is that PIMCO and almost all professional investors are in many cases index constrained, and thus duration and risk constrained. We operate in a world that is primarily credit based and as credit loses energy we and our clients should acknowledge its entropy, which means accepting lower returns on bonds, stocks, real estate and derivative strategies that likely will produce less than double-digit returns.
Still, investors cannot simply surrender to their entropic destiny. Time may be running out, but time is still money as the original saying goes. How can you make some?
(1) Position for eventual inflation: the end stage of a supernova credit explosion is likely to produce more inflation than growth, and more chances of inflation as opposed to deflation. In bonds, buy inflation protection via TIPS; shorten maturities and durations; don’t fight central banks – anticipate them by buying what they buy first; look as well for offshore sovereign bonds with positive real interest rates (Mexico, Italy, Brazil, for example).
(2) Get used to slower real growth: QEs and zero-based interest rates have negative consequences. Move money to currencies and asset markets in countries with less debt and less hyperbolic credit systems. Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada are candidates.
(3) Invest in global equities with stable cash flows that should provide historically lower but relatively attractive returns.
(4) Transition from financial to real assets if possible at the margin: buy something you can sink your teeth into – gold, other commodities, anything that can’t be reproduced as fast as credit. Think of PIMCO in this transition. We hope to be “Your Global Investment Authority.” We have a product menu to assist.
(5) Be cognizant of property rights and confiscatory policies in all governments.
(6) Appreciate the supernova characterization of our current credit system. At some point it will transition to something else.
We may be running out of time, but time will always be money.
Speed Read for Credit Supernova
1) Why is our credit market running out of heat or fuel?
a) As it expands at a rate of trillions per year, real growth in the economy has failed to respond. More credit goes to pay interest than future investment.
b) Zero-based interest rates, which are the result of QE and credit creation, have negative as well as positive effects. Historic business models may be negatively affected and investment spending may be dampened.
c) Look to the Japanese historical example.
2) What options should an investor consider?
a) Seek inflation protection in credit market assets/ shorten durations.
b) Increase real assets/commodities/stable cash flow equities at the margin.
c) Accept lower future returns in portfolio planning.
William H. Gross
* The terms “money” and “credit” are used interchangeably in this IO. Purists would dispute the usage and I would agree with them, arguing for the usage for simplicity’s sake and the evolving homogeneity of the two.
† Outstanding credit includes all government debt as well as corporate, household and personal debt. Does not include “shadow” debt estimated at $20-30 trillion.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investing in the bond market is subject to certain risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit and inflation risk. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic and industry conditions. Investing in foreign-denominated and/or -domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. Currency rates may fluctuate significantly over short periods of time and may reduce the returns of a portfolio. Sovereign securities are generally backed by the issuing government. Obligations of U.S. government agencies and authorities are supported by varying degrees, but are generally not backed by the full faith of the U.S. government; portfolios that invest in such securities are not guaranteed and will fluctuate in value. Inflation-linked bonds (ILBs) issued by a government are fixed income securities whose principal value is periodically adjusted according to the rate of inflation; ILBs decline in value when real interest rates rise. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are ILBs issued by the U.S. government. Commodities contain heightened risk including market, political, regulatory and natural conditions, and may not be suitable for all investors.
The views and strategies described herein are for illustrative purposes only and may not be suitable for all investors. The information is not based on any particularized financial situation, or need, and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation for any specific PIMCO or other strategy, product or service. Investors should consult their financial advisor prior to making an investment decision. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market.
This material contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material is distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO and YOUR GLOBAL INVESTMENT AUTHORITY are trademarks or registered trademarks of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. and Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, respectively, in the United States and throughout the world. ©2013, PIMCO.
Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
by William Smead, Smead Capital Management
Art has a tendency to express culture. One of today’s catchiest songs does a great job of explaining the relationship between institutional/individual investors and US common stock picking. In Gotye’s, “Somebody I Used to Know”, the lyric writer expresses the pain of a love affair gone awry and the feelings coming out of the former couple in words. To us at Smead Capital Management (SCM), the song captures what has happened since the summer of 1999, when Warren Buffett warned investors about forward stock market returns because of a love affair that institutional and individual investors were having with US large cap stocks. It takes us into today as Bill Gross from Pimco, David Rosenberg from Gluskin, Scheff and others encourage investors to underestimate the benefit of US large cap common stock ownership. At the same time, these purveyors of rational despair are driving investors away from stock picking when it is most likely to be advantageous to both institutions and individuals.
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember
Let me take you back to 1999, when investors and US large cap stock picking “were together” and investors loved their stocks until they “ached”. Buffett explained at the Allen and Co. gathering in Sun Valley, Idaho that the Fortune 500 index of common stocks was trading at 30 times earnings and was dooming US large caps to 17 years of sub-par performance. Stocks had performed spectacularly from August of 1982 to that summer day in Sun Valley. After 17 years of only occasional and mostly mild market corrections and years of prosperity, common stock investors in US large cap were “so happy they could die”. Their love for stock picking and stock pickers covered the pages of major media.
As Buffett shared, investors told themselves that common stocks “were right for them”. He quoted a UBS/Gallup poll which showed that the clients of UBS/Paine Webber expected 20% compounded returns over the next five years in US large cap common stocks. Picking common stocks and holding them for a long time was the national pastime. As I remember at that time, the over-pricing of US large cap growth/tech stocks made both Buffett and me feel “so lonely in your company”. No Bill Gross or David Rosenberg or any of today’s well known negative nabobs around to tell us where we’d be now beside the Oracle of Omaha.
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know
People massively over did their affection for common stocks in 1999 and laid the groundwork for 12 years of extremely poor historical returns. Today both institutional and individual investors can only “think of all the times that you (US large cap stocks and stock pickers) screwed me over”. The times were the 2000-2002 and 2007-2009 bear markets. Two 40%-plus bear market declines in an eight-year stretch. It caused investors “believing it was always something” they had done. Ultimately, they decided “they didn’t want to live that way, reading into every word (Stocks for the Long Run) you say”. Investors decided common stocks “could be let go” and the stock pickers and US large cap companies were “somebody they used to know”.
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
Unfortunately, the rear-view mirror never creates a good vision of the future. Investors for the most part have dramatically “cut off” their allocation of US large cap equity ownership. Worst of all, they “make like” the good years in the history of the stock market “never happened”. Investors have gone to the ends of the earth and to esoteric and illiquid investments to seek investment affection and act like they “don’t even need your love”. Here is how the logic goes. Investors say, “Stocks have performed poorly the last 12 years and haven’t met our return goals. Therefore, we will assume they never will. It will make me feel better if I assume that successful common stock investing was a statistical aberration and a thing of the past.” Isn’t it terrific that numerous self-interested gurus come by to regularly reinforce this rear-view mirror logic (The Cult of Equity is Dead).
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over
On May 31, 2012, Randall Forsyth wrote at barrons.com that all of this has morphed into what he calls “rational despair”. Like the song says, “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.” You look around you and see unsolvable economic problems, poor backward-looking stock market returns, dysfunctional governments around the world and you despair in a very logical way. You resign the US economy and stock market to a bad end and you hoard cash or invest in doomsday categories to justify your hopeless attitude. Gotye wrote, “Like resignation to the end, always the end”. If I had five dollars for every doomsday email I’ve been sent in the last three years, I’d be flush with cash. People look at US large cap stocks and stock pickers and “found that we could not make sense”. Some folks have gravitated to large cap indexes and ETFs because they said, “that we would still be friends”. Despite strong returns since the market lows of March 2009, those who despair rationally “admit that they are glad it was over”. It was their love for stocks and stock pickers that was gone.
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
Cutting yourself or your institution off from owning healthy quantities of US large cap stocks based on the logic we’ve explained is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Women in Northern Europe cut off their nose to look ugly to avoid being raped by conquering armies. In the same way, those who “make out like it (US stocks historically above-average returns among liquid asset classes) never happened” are, in our opinion, dooming themselves to sub-par portfolio performance at a time when above-average returns have never been needed more! Investors treat long duration common stock investing in US large cap stocks “like a stranger and (for stock pickers) that feels so rough”. “You didn’t have to stoop so low” when it comes to your portfolio allocation to US large cap and to active managers in the category.
Today, US large cap stocks are in a more similar position to 1982, than to anything like 1999. In 1982, we had high unemployment, huge budget deficits and loans for home buying or business formation were hard to come by. Stocks had performed poorly for over a decade. Gold, Oil and collectibles were popular among those who saw that era as made up of unsolvable problems and despaired rationally. Fortunately for us, the same guy who warned us in 1999 has laid out the right long-term view for us today. Here is how Warren Buffett puts the current circumstance in excerpts from his annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway called, “The Basic Choices for Investors and the One We Strongly Prefer”:
Investing is often described as the process of laying out money now in the expectation of receiving more money in the future. At Berkshire we take a more demanding approach, defining investing as the transfer to others of purchasing power now with the reasoned expectation of receiving more purchasing power – after taxes have been paid on nominal gains – in the future. More succinctly, investing is forgoing consumption now in order to have the ability to consume more at a later date.
From our definition there flows an important corollary: The riskiness of an investment is not measured by beta (a Wall Street term encompassing volatility and often used in measuring risk) but rather by the probability – the reasoned probability – of that investment causing its owner a loss of purchasing-power over his contemplated holding period. Assets can fluctuate greatly in price and not be risky as long as they are reasonably certain to deliver increased purchasing power over their holding period. And as we will see, a non-fluctuating asset can be laden with risk.
Investment possibilities are both many and varied. There are three major categories, however, and it’s important to understand the characteristics of each. So let’s survey the field.
- Investments that are denominated in a given currency include money-market funds, bonds, mortgages, bank deposits, and other instruments. Most of these currency-based investments are thought of as “safe.” In truth they are among the most dangerous of assets. Their beta may be zero, but their risk is huge.
Over the past century these instruments have destroyed the purchasing power of investors in many countries, even as the holders continued to receive timely payments of interest and principal. This ugly result, moreover, will forever recur. Governments determine the ultimate value of money, and systemic forces will sometimes cause them to gravitate to policies that produce inflation. From time to time such policies spin out of control. Even in the U.S., where the wish for a stable currency is strong, the dollar has fallen a staggering 86% in value since 1965, when I took over management of Berkshire. It takes no less than $7 today to buy what $1 did at that time. Consequently, a tax-free institution would have needed 4.3% interest annually from bond investments over that period to simply maintain its purchasing power. Its managers would have been kidding themselves if they thought of any portion of that interest as “income.”
Under today’s conditions, therefore, I do not like currency-based investments
- The second major category of investments involves assets that will never produce anything, but that are purchased in the buyer’s hope that someone else – who also knows that the assets will be forever unproductive – will pay more for them in the future. Tulips, of all things, briefly became a favorite of such buyers in the 17th century.
This type of investment requires an expanding pool of buyers, who, in turn, are enticed because they believe the buying pool will expand still further. Owners are not inspired by what the asset itself can produce – it will remain lifeless forever – but rather by the belief that others will desire it even more avidly in the future.
The major asset in this category is gold, currently a huge favorite of investors who fear almost all other assets, especially paper money (of whose value, as noted, they are right to be fearful). Gold, however, has two significant shortcomings, being neither of much use nor procreative.
As “bandwagon” investors join any party, they create their own truth – for a while.
Over the past 15 years, both Internet stocks and houses have demonstrated the extraordinary excesses that can be created by combining an initially sensible thesis with well-publicized rising prices. In these bubbles, an army of originally skeptical investors succumbed to the “proof” delivered by the market, and the pool of buyers – for a time – expanded sufficiently to keep the bandwagon rolling. But bubbles blown large enough inevitably pop. And then the old proverb is confirmed once again: “What the wise man does in the beginning, the fool does in the end.”
- Our first two categories enjoy maximum popularity at peaks of fear: Terror over economic collapse drives individuals to currency-based assets, most particularly U.S. obligations, and fear of currency collapse fosters movement to sterile assets such as gold. We heard “cash is king” in late 2008, just when cash should have been deployed rather than held. Similarly, we heard “cash is trash” in the early 1980s just when fixed-dollar investments were at their most attractive level in memory. On those occasions, investors who required a supportive crowd paid dearly for that comfort.
My own preference – and you knew this was coming – is our third category: investment in productive assets, whether businesses, farms, or real estate. Ideally, these assets should have the ability in inflationary times to deliver output that will retain its purchasing-power value while requiring a minimum of new capital investment. Farms, real estate, and many businesses such as Coca-Cola, IBM and our own See’s Candy meet that double-barreled test. Certain other companies – think of our regulated utilities, for example – fail it because inflation places heavy capital requirements on them. To earn more, their owners must invest more. Even so, these investments will remain superior to nonproductive or currency-based assets.
Our country’s businesses will continue to efficiently deliver goods and services wanted by our citizens. Metaphorically, these commercial “cows” will live for centuries and give ever greater quantities of “milk” to boot. Their value will be determined not by the medium of exchange but rather by their capacity to deliver milk. Proceeds from the sale of the milk will compound for the owners of the cows, just as they did during the 20th century when the Dow increased from 66 to 11,497 (and paid loads of dividends as well). Berkshire’s goal will be to increase its ownership of first-class businesses. Our first choice will be to own them in their entirety – but we will also be owners by way of holding sizable amounts of marketable stocks. I believe that over any extended period of time this category of investing will prove to be the runaway winner among the three we’ve examined. More important, it will be by far the safest.
In our opinion, Buffett is the greatest stock picker of all-time and his portfolio is loaded with undervalued US large Cap stocks. Those who suffer from “rational despair” are massively over-weighted in the currency and unproductive assets that Buffett is warning everyone about. They are just like the bitter former lovers in the song who “wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know”. It is so ironic that investors today are having a love affair with the same asset-class allocation as they did in 1982 (Gold and Commodities). We believe the circumstances today scream for a new love affair to start between investors and US large cap stock pickers. Look at the long-term correlation chart below:
Source: The Big Picture, http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/correlation-in-the-markets/
Our advice is to avoid stock pickers when stocks are expensive and correlations are low and milk them for years when correlations are high, like they are now. Correlations were the highest historically in 1982, 1987, 2002-03 and 2008-09. All these instances were around major US stock market low points. It might be time for asset allocators to “collect your records and then change your number” when it comes to US large cap and US large cap stock pickers. In that way you won’t have to look back ten years from now and view US large cap stocks and stock pickers as “just somebody that I used to know”.
The information contained in this missive represents SCM’s opinions, and should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. It should not be assumed that investing in any securities we recommend will or will not be profitable. A list of all recommendations made by Smead Capital Management within the past twelve month period is available upon request.
Copyright © Smead Capital Management
Tags: Allen And Co, Bill Gross, Cap Stock, Cap Stocks, Common Stock, Common Stocks, David Rosenberg, Fortune 500, Individual Investors, Love Affair, Lyric Writer, PIMCO, Scheff, Smead, Stock Investors, Stock Market Returns, Stock Ownership, Stock Pickers, Sun Valley Idaho, Warren Buffett
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Friday, August 3rd, 2012
by Mark Gongloff, Huffington Post
People hate stocks more than at any time in the past quarter century. That could mean it’s a decent time to buy them. Wall Street’s optimism about the stock market is the lowest it has been since at least 1985, according to a research note on Wednesday by Bank of America’s stock strategist Savita Subramanian. The bank measures market agita by tallying how much stock strategists are recommending their clients buy stocks.
In the Bank of America chart at the bottom of this post, you can plainly see that sentiment has absolutely plunged this year. Stock-market strategists are almost always bullish on the stock market, in part because if nobody is buying stocks, then there’s not much point in having stock-market strategists, is there? They’d have to go home and sit on their couches. But today, these same strategists are so spooked by the European debt crisis and the fiscal cliff and whatever else — Obama, or something — that they are recommending clients sell stocks, more than they did even during the financial crisis or the dot-com bubble bursting or after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Typically, you’re going to get some pretty good bargains in stocks when you’ve got so little competition for them, Subramanian writes. She would be one of the dwindling breed of bullish strategists: “Given the contrarian nature of this indicator, we are encouraged by Wall Street’s lack of optimism.” Speaking of contrarian indicators, on Tuesday Pimco founder Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond mutual fund, declared, “The cult of equity is dying.” He warned that carnival barkers promising you annual returns of 6 percent to 7 percent every year in stocks were lying to you, that you should get those people out of your lives immediately. This is the same Bill Gross that predicted interest rates would soar last year (spoiler: they didn’t) and then put his money where his mouth was, taking a big hit to his fund’s performance and his reputation in the process.
Copyright © Huffington Post
Tags: 9 11 Terrorist Attacks, Agita, Bank Of America, Barkers, Buying Stocks, Couches, Debt Crisis, Decent Time, Financial Crisis, Founder Bill, Good Bargains, Huffington Post, Market Strategists, Obama, Optimism, PIMCO, Quarter Century, Savita Subramanian, Stock Market, Strategist
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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
by Tony Crescenzi, PIMCO
- As the global slowdown progresses, we can expect central banks to deploy more policy tools – without limits – to stem the pace of deleveraging.
- In Europe, quantitative easing using ESM bonds could prove to be another bridge that buys politicians more time, but does not solve the root problem.
- We expect real economic growth in China to be muted. While some stabilization is possible later this year, it is hard to foresee a sustained recovery.
Saddled with debt and mindful of recalcitrant investors, nations in the developed world have lost their ability to solve their economic woes by adding more debt, leading them more than ever to rely upon central bank action. It is fantasy, however, to think that central banks can keep the game going for long. No central bank ever created anything tangible – you won’t find any stories about a Fed chairman discovering electricity or creating the light bulb. What central banks are best at creating is fiat currencies, and these are only as valuable as what they are backed by, whether it be gold, silver or the productive capability of a nation. Create or print too many of these and they will have no value to anyone, save for nerdy numismatists.
All that a central banker can do to add value to society is help foster financial conditions that facilitate the efficient use of capital, but even here central bankers can get it wrong and produce exactly the opposite result. The housing bubbles that preceded the onset of the recent financial crisis are proof; they were in fact at the heart of the crisis.
Central bankers today are striving valiantly to help smooth the deleveraging process by promoting conditions aimed at reflating the value of financial and real assets that would otherwise almost certainly fall in price. This isn’t easy to do because the world is striving just as valiantly to reduce its debt, taking actions that result in persistent downward pressure on asset values.
Central bank liquidity can’t turn the lights on in Italy
The orderly liquidation of debt requires economic growth. By boosting asset prices, central bankers have sought to promote economic growth and buy time for the fiscal authorities of the developed world to formulate and implement growth-oriented policies. Global investors have been patient, but the repeated failure of policymakers has their patience running thin.
No amount of central bank liquidity by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank (ECB) or any other central bank can possibly fix what ails the developed economies. The ECB, for example, can’t fix the fact that Italy ranks 109th out of 183 countries in providing electricity. Nor can it fix the fact that Spain ranks 133rd in the ease of opening a business. How about Greece?
Can the ECB reduce the size of government, improve tax collection or reduce the number of occupations Greece considers so hazardous that hairdressers, pastry chefs and clarinet players can retire in their early 50s? In the U.S., can the Fed reduce the outsized growth rate of the entitlement system? Central bankers can do nothing about these competitiveness issues, but the restoration of growth and competitiveness is essential to improving the ability to repay debt.
To use football vernacular – and here I mean American-style football – central bankers have taken the ball about as far down the gridiron as they can. To be sure, they can still do more; the Fed could implement another round of asset purchases, cap Treasury rates, cut the interest rate it pays banks on excess reserves, extend further its conditional promise to keep rates low, or perhaps consider some form of credit easing. If the Fed did any of these it would mark another courageous effort by The Decider, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, but it will never get the ball into the end zone.
To cross the goal line, to restore growth and competitiveness, the fiscal authority – not the monetary authority – must move the ball. This isn’t easy because the citizens of the world are voicing their objection to the changes necessary to do so. Try all you might, central banker, but at the 99th yard you will find the longest yard!
Unlimited global monetary policy – Ben Emons
In recent media debates, some commentators have pointed out that quantitative easing (QE) programs may have seen their effectiveness diminish. However, monetary policymakers in both developed and emerging markets continue to pursue easing measures. Different kinds of policies emerged, such as the Bank of England’s direct lending scheme, known as “credit easing.” The European Central Bank and the Danish central bank went another direction, cutting their deposit rates to zero or even negative. The lower zero bound is often viewed as a constraint, a limit in using conventional tools. The ECB and Danish central bank decisions to cut deposit rates showed how conventional policy is not necessarily limited. In fact, all central banks could cut deposit rates or rates on excess reserves in order to “force” out large cash balances held at the central bank to stimulate lending.
There could be “practical limits,” where QE or deposit rate cuts cause nominal and real interest rates to turn negative, affecting future income streams on savings accounts, pension funds and money market portfolios. The central banks’ growing market share in longer-term Treasury bonds and their low yields has added to the challenge. These practical limits are not necessarily seen as a barrier, evident by the recent string of actions by emerging and developed market central banks. Milton Friedman argued in his 1968 paper, “The Role of Monetary Policy,” how monetary policy should be based on limits. His view was that policy should not “peg” interest rates for a prolonged period of time or it may lead to structural inflation. Friedman pointed out that rapid monetary base growth was generally associated with high nominal rates, a sign in his view of easy policy, e.g., Brazil in the 1960s. Low interest rates were related to slow money growth, like the U.S. during the 1930s, which Friedman viewed as tighter monetary policy. Friedman saw the setting of rates connected to the amount of money growth the central bank would conduct to influence price expectations. When interest rates are pegged in an environment of seemingly stable inflation expectations, Friedman noted a risk of disconnect where the monetary base could become uncontrollable and lead to higher inflation.
In today’s environment of low interest rates, monetary base growth and stable inflation expectations, such disconnect is not seen as a risk, as debt deleveraging has been overwhelming. Since most major central banks see deflation as a bigger risk at this point, practical limits or those limits that Friedman spoke of do not seem to be tempering the willingness of global central banks to go further. In fact, as the global slowdown materializes further, we can expect more policy tools will be deployed to stem the pace of deleveraging, and without any limits.
The ECB can only provide a bridge – Andrew Bosomworth
The ECB can only provide a bridge for the European monetary union’s problems, not a solution. Its decision to cut all policy rates by 25 basis points (bps) earlier this month signaled the bank’s ongoing willingness to provide that bridge by creating time for political and fiscal agents to implement durable solutions. Judging by the gyrations in yields on southern European bonds since the ECB’s meeting, however, markets were evidently disappointed the ECB did not announce further unconventional measures to shore up Europe’s dysfunctional bond markets. Even after ECB president Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” statement on 26 July, we still have not seen yields on outer peripherals drop to sustainable levels.
Market expectations for unconventional measures derive from at least two sources. First, since the ECB crossed the Rubicon in 2010 by buying Greek government bonds, markets now believe the bank will do whatever it possibly can to prevent the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) from breaking up; the costs of not doing so would be too great. Indeed, the ECB currently holds €211 billion in securities from previous forays into the bond market. Second, some market participants, policymakers and influential figures, like Italy’s prime minister and the head of the IMF, are lobbying the ECB to buy even more in order to drive southern European bond yields lower.
Such proposals are shortsighted and address the symptoms rather than cause of the EMU’s problem. Buying bonds without fixing the design faults in the EMU’s governance structure is a near-term fix whose beneficial effects, like painkillers, will soon wear off. Were the ECB to follow lobbyists’ calls and resume the Securities Market Program (under which it bought government debt in 2010 and 2011), it will not solve the governance structure problem. However, buying bonds to ward off deflation once conventional monetary policy has reached the zero lower bound is likely warranted.
The ECB usually refers to Article 123 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits it from financing governments’ budget deficits. The ECB’s reasoning is not entirely clear, given the same European law (part of the Lisbon Treaty) governs both the ECB and Bank of England (BoE) yet the latter buys government bonds as part of its quantitative easing. We think the explanation lies in differences between the ECB and BoE’s perceived risk of deflation, the degree of trust between the monetary and fiscal authorities and the fragmentation of the EMU government bond market relative to the singularity of the United Kingdom’s government bond market owing to its centralized fiscal policy.
As credit to the EMU’s private sector declines – the natural consequence of deleveraging after a credit boom – the risk of deflation in Europe is likely to rise. We think deflationary forces will intensify, making a further reduction in the main refinancing rate to 0.5% likely and perhaps necessitating quantitative easing. Which government bonds might the ECB buy in those circumstances?
The ECB’s capital key (which reflects each member country’s proportional contribution to total capital) suggests about one-quarter and the largest allocation of purchases would be in German Bunds. But capital flight to Bunds has already driven their yields abnormally low, suggesting quantitative easing would achieve little. And the ECB would send mixed signals if it concentrated purchases in Italian and Spanish government bonds. Would the ECB do this to offset eurozone-wide deflation risks or to compensate for member states’ reluctance to centralize fiscal policy?
Purchasing the bonds of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could circumvent this dilemma. Unlike the ECB, the ESM is designed to provide member states with financial assistance subject to conditionality. While it lacks the same degree of democratic legitimacy as Europe’s parliaments, at least the ESM is a child born of the democracy. However, like its predecessor, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the ESM’s main weakness is that it is unfunded. We think the ESM will find it equally difficult to raise sufficient funds from the capital market at low enough yields to perform the job it is designed for. And even if it finds buyers, the ESM will likely crowd out demand for other government bonds from Italy, Belgium, France and Austria, thereby raising their borrowing costs. Quantitative easing using ESM bonds could thus prove to be yet another bridge that buys politicians more time but does not solve the root problem. When it comes to Europe there is only one thing we can say with certainty: This crisis is not yet over.
People’s Bank of China moves to counter weakening growth – Isaac Meng
Policymakers in China face different limitations today than those in the U.S. and Europe, but they too have had to respond to the strain in the global economy, especially as slowing global demand exerts downward pressure on China’s export-investment-driven growth model. In a surprise move, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) cut its benchmark rate by 25 bps twice within a month. The PBOC also deregulated deposit rates, allowing a 10% float above the benchmark, which largely offsets the cut’s effect on deposit and lending rates.
Though one to two months earlier than the market expected, the latest rate cut is not surprising in light of weakening growth and a slowing inflation outlook. Second quarter growth at 7.6% is barely above target, and inflation risk is easing fast with CPI likely stay below 2.5% over the next two to three quarters versus the PBOC’s target of 4%. Even though rates were cut by 50 bps, China’s real rates are still rising because CPI is heading down toward 2%. If the PBOC targets positive real deposit rates as a floor in the medium term, then there is still room to cut another 25 bps to 50 bps. The 8% to 9% average lending rates remain too high for borrowers struggling to deleverage amid a deepening industrial slowdown.
With the Chinese yuan’s outlook and foreign flows turning to a more balanced stance, the PBOC needs to further unwind past foreign exchange sterilizations, most likely by cutting the Reserve Requirement Ratio by 50 bps per quarter to maintain money market rates in the range of 2.5%–3.0%.
Despite room for monetary easing, the PBOC still seems behind the curve in easing financial conditions. Chinese banks remain tight in credit and slow to cut their lending rates. Domestic Chinese borrowers have excess capacity to deleverage, and the yuan’s nominal effective exchange rate is rising amid a rigid foreign exchange rate regime. Thus, we expect real economic growth in China to be muted and slow, and while some stabilization is possible in late 2012, it is hard to see a sustained recovery.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. This material contains the opinions of the authors but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission.
Copyright © 2012, PIMCO.
Tags: Asset Values, Central Banks, Downward Pressure, Economic Growth In China, Economic Woes, Efficient Use, Fed Chairman, Fiat Currencies, Financial Crisis, Global Slowdown, Gold Silver, Light Bulb, Longest Yard, Numismatists, PIMCO, Policy Tools, Productive Capability, Real Assets, Root Problem, Tony Crescenzi
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Monday, July 30th, 2012
by Andrew Pyne, PIMCO
- Equity valuations appear reasonable, but volatility is likely to remain elevated amid slowing global economic growth and macroeconomic risks.
- As macro events drive markets, the probability of fundamental mispricing increases, providing opportunity for active managers to add value.
- Investors should consider increasing exposure to emerging markets, deploying downside-risk and volatility-mitigation, emphasizing dividends and focusing on active share.
PIMCO’s secular outlook calls for slowing global economic growth, a world that is still multi-speed, and unresolved macroeconomic risks that are likely to result in continued heightened volatility. While our view on the economy is a cautious one, overall equity valuations appear reasonable, and corporate fundamentals, as measured by earnings, margins and balance sheets, are relatively attractive. The outlook for equities, then, can be expressed as a tug of war between these macro headwinds and micro fundamentals.
What does this mean for equities, which are still the dominant risk in investor portfolios? Overall, we believe that continued policy confusion and economic fundamentals that are trending in a negative direction will create headwinds. As the developed world continues to delever, we expect global equities to experience a modest-return environment.
Challenges and solutions
The clear implication is that this creates a challenge for investors. Most investors historically have relied on equities to help achieve their target portfolio returns. In this environment, though, beta is unlikely to deliver the returns required. We believe that investors should consider the following:
- Increase exposure to faster-growing economies. Many portfolios should be more global with higher allocations to emerging markets.
- Incorporate downside-risk and volatility-mitigation to address the higher probabilities of negative macro events.
- Emphasize dividends, which will likely be a more important component of equity total returns.
- Take greater active risk and focus on active share. In a modest-return world, if beta doesn’t get the job done, then alpha may be a significant percentage of an investor’s equity returns.
The key risk to the global economy is Europe, which given significant structural challenges and policy uncertainty is facing prolonged subdued growth and the risk of recession. Why then do we suggest equity portfolios be more global? The answer lies partly in the way equities have traditionally been categorized. Companies are often classified by their country of domicile, but we think they are better defined by their end-markets. Despite significant risks at home, many European multinationals have meaningful exposure to emerging markets. If we find businesses with stable cash flows, high dividend yields, strong end-market growth – and with valuations that discount home-market risks – these can be attractive investment opportunities.
In addition, we believe most investors, particularly those with a home-market bias, would benefit from increased direct exposure to emerging markets. While emerging markets are certainly not immune to the struggles of the developed world, emerging markets and developed markets face very different economic scenarios. We expect emerging markets to continue to gain share of global GDP, but most investors are still underweight the asset class. We expect emerging markets to account for more than 50% of global GDP in purchasing power parity terms over the next three to five years. They already are about a third of global equity market caps. Yet emerging market equities represent only about 7% of the average investor’s portfolio.
Managing macro risks
Our second suggestion is to prioritize downside- and volatility-mitigation in equity portfolios. Correlations among stocks have increased meaningfully over the past few years; they’ve tended to spike around negative macro events and decrease as uncertainty subsides (see Figure 1). This suggests that the “risk-on/risk-off” sentiment that drives stock prices is often governed by macro news flows, not company fundamentals.
There are two takeaways for investors. The first is that macro does impact stock prices, and so while equity investing has traditionally been thought of as a bottom-up endeavor, we believe managers need to consider both bottom-up and top-down views as part of their research process.
The second takeaway is that because there are unresolved macro risks, investors must recognize that, given the way returns compound over time, protecting on the downside could be a critical contributor to long-term returns. Part of the solution may be increasing allocations to active mandates from passive. Although investors could lose more with an active approach, by definition traditional indexes will capture 100% of down-market performance.
We believe protecting on the downside requires a very active approach. Strategies including low-volatility and dividend-focused investing, tail-risk hedging, and flexibility to short stocks or raise cash, may result in improved risk mitigation compared with a passive strategy.
Dividend income, a significant portion of historical equity returns, is likely to be even more important in an environment of slower growth. Of course, if we were expecting broad multiple expansion and strong global growth – as we saw in the ‘80s and ‘90s – then the message simply would be “buy equities and enjoy the ride.” As Figure 2 shows, however, dividends often have been a substantial portion of total equity performance during periods of modest returns. While many investors’ assumptions and expectations for equities were formed by the 20-year bull market of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the ‘40s, ‘60s and ‘70s may be more instructive for the period ahead.
We also believe the opportunity for dividend-paying stocks is more of a global story than a U.S. one. Given demand from U.S. investors for income, traditional dividend-paying sectors in the U.S. – telecom, utilities, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) – are generally quite expensive, whereas select non-U.S. equities, including emerging markets, remain attractive sources of yield.
Two points outlined above – the notion that macroeconomic news flow influences stock prices and the expectation for modest returns – each reinforce the importance of alpha in helping investors achieve their goals. As macro events drive markets, the probability of fundamental mispricing increases, providing opportunity for active managers to add value. The key is to be highly selective, identifying the long-term winners even as the markets are indiscriminate in the short term.
For many investors, the importance of alpha should prompt a reconsideration of the mix of passive and active equity allocations. At the very least, we believe investors should ensure that their active managers are truly active, with high active share a prerequisite for inclusion in their portfolio (please see Equity Investing: From Style Box to Global Unconstrained, May 2012).
Revisiting equity portfolios
In an environment of fatter tails, there is always the possibility of a right-tail event. Enactment of comprehensive and bipartisan policies to address structural problems in developed markets, for example, would be welcome news and would likely lead to broad multiple expansion and higher returns in the equity markets. However, absent such developments, economic fundamentals suggest more modest returns.
Many investor portfolios may not be positioned for a lower-return world, particularly those that were structured during a higher-return equity environment. We believe investors would be well served to take a fresh look at their equity allocations. If beta will not suffice, then investors should work to ensure their portfolios have the characteristics needed to succeed.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic, and industry conditions. Dividends are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination. Investing in foreign denominated and/or domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. REITs are subject to risk, such as poor performance by the manager, adverse changes to tax laws or failure to qualify for tax-free pass-through of income. Entering into short sales includes the potential for loss of more money than the actual cost of the investment, and the risk that the third party to the short sale may fail to honor its contract terms, causing a loss to the portfolio. Tail risk hedging may involve entering into financial derivatives that are expected to increase in value during the occurrence of tail events. Investing in a tail event instrument could lose all or a portion of its value even in a period of severe market stress. A tail event is unpredictable; therefore, investments in instruments tied to the occurrence of a tail event are speculative. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested.
The correlation of various indices or securities against one another or against inflation is based upon data over a certain time period. These correlations may vary substantially in the future or over different time periods that can result in greater volatility.
Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice.
The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged market index generally considered representative of the stock market as a whole. The index focuses on the Large-Cap segment of the U.S. equities market. The S&P 90 (prior to 1957) was a value-weighted index based on 90 stocks. It is not possible to invest directly in an unmanaged index.
This material contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission.
Tags: Active Share, Balance Sheets, Downside Risk, Economic Fundamentals, Emerging Markets, Global Economic Growth, Global Equities, Headwinds, Impo, Mitigation, Negative Direction, PIMCO, Policy Confusion, Portfolio Returns, Pyne, Target, Tug Of War, Valuations, Value Investors, Volatility
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Monday, July 30th, 2012
by William R. Benz, PIMCO
- For investors, the biggest challenge now is moving from a world of normal distributions, with expected occurrences around the mean, to one of bi-modal distributions where more extreme scenarios prevail.
- Key institutions, including governments and central banks, were previously stabilising forces but are now helping to accelerate underlying, destabilising trends in the global economy and financial markets.
- In this environment, investors need to invest for outcomes rather than simply for beta and diversification.
Perhaps the most important tradition at PIMCO is our annual Secular Forum in May. Since I joined 26 years ago and participated in my first forum with 16 other investment professionals, our forums have become much bigger and much more global. More than 300 of us descended on Newport Beach or tuned in via video in our most recent round. But the tradition continues, as does the intensity and excitement, with the output of our forum – our three- to five-year secular outlook – forming the cornerstone of both our longer-term investment strategy and our business positioning.
Mohamed El-Erian, our CEO and co-CIO, in his Secular Outlook commentary “Policy Confusions & Inflection Points,” summarized three themes that we expect to play out over the next few years: continued policy and political confusion, overly incremental public and private sector responses and, therefore, greater potential for inflection points. Mohamed also discussed the key investment implications of our outlook, noting that the strategies and guidelines that may have served investors in the past will likely be challenged in the context of inflection dynamics.
That point is worth revisiting and expanding upon because, in our view, investing is fundamentally changing. Previously, most investors simply aimed to beat their benchmarks and diversify among assets to mitigate risk. But today, as we face unusual uncertainty in the global economy and the financial markets, extreme events are not only possible but increasingly likely, and in this environment, we believe investors need to define their objectives and choose strategies that target specific outcomes.
Investors’ biggest challenge
The world is facing a number of very significant challenges for which there are no easy solutions. The eurozone faces high debt levels, a lack of structural growth and pressure to get the policy mix right to avoid contagion. The U.S. is suffering slow growth, high debt, a looming fiscal cliff and political polarisation. While enjoying higher relative growth, China and the developing world are also slowing and making difficult transitions from export-led to consumer-driven ‘emerged’ economies. And globally, a lack of policy coordination, increased income inequality and the growing use of social networks as communication tools also present long-term challenges.
Uncertainty is one common theme, and another is the potential for more extreme outcomes, good or bad. The eurozone, for instance, has to either find a path toward fiscal union or create a mechanism for orderly exit, with very little room to manoeuvre in between. Likewise, the U.S. needs to find a way to resolve its fiscal issues or face the consequences of a further downgrade and eventual loss of reserve currency status.
For investors, then, the biggest challenge is not continued volatility; that’s almost a given. The challenge is moving from a world of normal distributions, with expected occurrences around the mean, to one of bi-modal distributions where more extreme scenarios prevail.
Key institutions: once stabilisers, now accelerants
In the old normal, key institutions acted as stabilisers: They generally behaved in a counter-cyclical fashion to help enforce reversion to the mean. For example, governments and central banks enacted policies to stimulate growth and prevent deflation during economic downturns and did the opposite in upturns. Regulators tended to de-regulate during tough times and tighten the rules during times of excess, while financial institutions decreased and increased lending as interest rates rose and fell.
Their actions, individually and collectively, helped bring economic growth and the markets back to normal, back to long-term averages, back to the mean. They weren’t necessarily coordinated, but they were generally effective and helped create the Great Moderation of steady growth, strong returns and relatively low volatility that we witnessed from the mid-to-late 1980s until the global financial crisis in 2008.
But today, these institutions are acting as accelerants. Governments in Europe, the U.S. and Japan are under pressure to pursue fiscal austerity rather than stimulate growth, exacerbating the downturn. Central banks are largely going their own way, after a well-coordinated response to the financial crisis, and in some cases, are resisting stimulative measures, which is slowing, if not preventing, the healing process. Regulators, adopting a ‘never again’ mentality, are creating blunt instruments to solve complex problems, leading to unintended consequences, particularly in the banking sector, at a time when more rather than less lending should be the recommended medicine. And banks, especially in the eurozone, have been severely impacted by their holdings of sovereign debt, which, in turn, has led to a vicious cycle of falling share prices, credit rating downgrades, asset sales, reduced lending, slowing local economies, worsening government balance sheets and ultimately, an acceleration of, rather than a counterbalance to, the crisis.
Finally, investors are also acting as accelerants. Individual investors have always been more momentum-driven but had little aggregate impact on markets in the past due to their small size, lack of timely and direct access to information and lack of coordinated activity. But as they’ve grown in size and sophistication, accessing real-time information through their defined contribution plans, global platforms, multi-national distributors, private banks and independent financial advisors, their impact has become much more pronounced. When risk sectors outperform, flows into those sectors tend to increase; when they underperform, flows tend to diminish. In both cases, underlying trends are reinforced.
What’s even more interesting is how the behaviour of institutional investors has changed. This began in 2000-01, after the technology bubble burst. The perfect storm of plunging equity markets and falling interest rates turned corporate and public pension plan surpluses into deficits and created big challenges for foundations, endowments and others seeking income and targeting specific absolute returns. The movement toward solution-based investing was born as investors began to shift toward liability-driven investing (LDI), absolute return, income seeking and other, more specific strategies. The momentum increased following Lehman’s bankruptcy and again in response to recent events in Europe. But with this shift has come a more activist (or re-activist) approach, as investors make larger and more frequent changes to overall strategy, tactical weightings, benchmarks and guidelines. Some still prefer to rebalance around their longer-term, normal policy targets, but as a group – and we see this globally across our client base – institutional investors have indeed become more active.
Governments, central banks, regulators, financial institutions and investors – each group is responding to the challenges they are facing in a logical and well-intentioned fashion. Yet in the current secular environment, we believe their actions are adding to, rather than smoothing, volatility. And instead of acting as stabilising forces, we believe they are actually helping to accelerate the underlying destabilising trends. (See figure below.)
Significant implications for investors
Global challenges combined with these market accelerants have created an environment of unusual uncertainty in which ‘muddle-through’ is a temporary state. We believe this has significant implications for investors, particularly those who are still investing simply for beta and diversification rather than for specific outcomes.
First and foremost, the new normal is here, and investors need to embrace it. We coined the phrase a few years ago to describe a multi-speed world on a bumpy journey of deleveraging, reregulation and eventual reflation. We can argue whether we’re still on the journey or we’ve arrived at the final (though still very bumpy) destination. But what’s clear is that what felt like a ‘new’ normal back then now just feels normal. Gone are the days of the Great Moderation, reversion to the mean and normal-shaped distributions, in our view; instead, continued (high) volatility, acceleration in trends and bi-modal outcomes have become the new norm. In an era when muddle-through is no longer a viable option – for Europe, the U.S. and potentially others – investors need to rethink their overall approach and brace for more extreme economic and market events.
Second, there is no free lunch. There never really was, but investors are facing even more difficult trade-offs today. If the objective is to enhance yield or upside potential through credit, high yield, emerging markets, equities or other risk sectors, the likely trade-offs in a bi-modal world are higher volatility and greater downside. If the goal instead is to own ‘safe haven’ assets for downside risk mitigation, such as U.S. Treasuries, U.K. gilts or German bunds, the trade-off is currently negative real yields. And if the need is to maximise liquidity through cash instruments, the payoff is truly negative real yields (with negative nominal yields on occasion). Even when seeking inflation protection, whether through inflation-linked bonds or hard assets – like gold, real estate and commodities – we believe the trade-offs in terms of real yields, volatility and downside risk are much less attractive in this environment.
Third, investors need to think differently with respect to allocations, benchmarks and guidelines. We’ve highlighted this in the past, but it’s even more important today. In our view, asset allocation should be risk-factor-based as bi-modal distributions and accelerants are not friendly toward traditional mean-variance methodologies, which aim to maximize returns for given levels of risk. Benchmarks should be GDP- rather than market value-weighted, particularly in fixed income space, to reduce exposure to those countries, sectors and issuers with the highest or fastest growing debt. And guidelines should be flexible, with more rather than less discretion, so as to allow managers to play both offence and defence in a bi-modal world.
Fourth, investors should be confident in their managers’ ability to understand and measure risk. Global challenges, market accelerants and unusual uncertainty put a premium on risk management. This includes understanding how the credit sensitivity of fixed income investments can affect their duration – i.e., ‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ duration – and help determine what is considered a ‘safe haven’ and what isn’t. It means performing credit analysis of sovereigns knowing they have more than just interest rate risk. It necessitates analysing the entire spectrum of the capital structure to pinpoint exact needs in terms of collateral, covenants and other forms of defence. Derivatives continue to be useful tools, but being able to identify and control counterparty risk is increasingly important. And leverage, while appropriate in certain circumstances, needs to be well understood. Bottom line: we believe in developing multiple risk measures and stress testing often.
Finally, investors need to develop specific objectives and invest for outcomes rather than simply for beta and diversification. Many investors traditionally started with risk/return targets and used historical mean-variance analysis as a framework to determine asset allocations across multiple asset classes, with benchmarks for each asset class and sub-category, and then found managers that aimed to provide returns above their benchmarks. In the days of normal-shaped distributions and reversion to the mean, this was a widely accepted strategy: Long-term realised returns and volatility came in largely as expected, and further diversification – across asset classes, within asset classes and across different managers and styles – helped to smooth short-term swings. It was a beta-driven strategy, aided by diversification. But the world has changed, and we believe investors need to deepen their understanding of their objectives and invest for outcomes.
Setting objectives and investing for outcomes
Every investor has a unique set of needs and circumstances that should form the basis for setting investment objectives. Yet it’s important to consider the secular context as well, particularly given the challenges and trade-offs we’re likely to face:
- Prolonged period of low real yields on high-quality assets, with negative real yields on traditional ‘safe havens’
- Increased potential for low and even negative real returns
- Continued high volatility with increased likelihood of bi-modal outcomes
- Eventual, though uneven, inflation pressures
Income-oriented investors should consider emphasizing high-quality fixed income spread sectors, such as covered bonds, mortgage- and asset-backed securities, investment grade credit and, depending on risk tolerance, upper-tier emerging market and high yield issues and higher dividend-paying equities.
Investors with specific return objectives should consider focusing more on absolute return strategies, ranging from unlevered LIBOR-plus approaches – essentially seeking to outperform cash – to alternative strategies, depending on their risk/return targets and liquidity needs. Credit, emerging markets, equities and other asset classes can also play roles, individually or grouped into a multi-asset approach, as long as risk factors and exposures are well understood and investors consider ways to potentially limit downside risk under more extreme ‘left tail’ scenarios.
Investors concerned with volatility and ‘fat tail’ events should consider risk-mitigating strategies. If investors want to defend against downside, potential strategies would include positions in hard-duration, ‘safe-haven’ assets, explicit tail-risk hedges or a combination. Investors focused on liabilities may want a liability-matching or LDI program. Alternatively, if the goal is to maximise liquidity, cash and short-term strategies would likely play a significant role.
Lastly, for investors worried about reflation, the suggested focus is on potential inflation hedges, such as inflation-linked bonds, commodities and real estate.
In truth, many investors will likely want to employ more than one approach – income with an inflation-hedging component, absolute return with tail-risk hedges, LDI programs that include a combination of derivative-based overlays with LIBOR-plus strategies on the underlying collateral, or any of these with a cash buffer that can be used for liquidity or to invest tactically if the opportunity arises. And this makes sense. In our view, as long as investors focus on their objectives and their targeted outcomes, rather than fall into the old ‘invest for beta and diversification’ trap, they can navigate a world of secular challenges, accelerants and unusual uncertainty.
Past performance is not a guarantee or a reliable indicator of future results. All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investing in the bond market is subject to certain risks including market, interest-rate, issuer, credit, and inflation risk. Covered bonds are generally affected by changing interest rates and credit spread; there is no guarantee that covered bonds will be free from counterparty default. High-yield, lower-rated, securities involve greater risk than higher-rated securities; portfolios that invest in them may be subject to greater levels of credit and liquidity risk than portfolios that do not. Mortgage and asset-backed securities may be sensitive to changes in interest rates, subject to early repayment risk, and their value may fluctuate in response to the market’s perception of issuer creditworthiness; while generally supported by some form of government or private guarantee there is no assurance that private guarantors will meet their obligations. Absolute return portfolios may not necessarily fully participate in strong (positive) market rallies. Investing in foreign denominated and/or domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. Inflation-linked bonds (ILBs) issued by a government are fixed-income securities whose principal value is periodically adjusted according to the rate of inflation; ILBs decline in value when real interest rates rise. Certain U.S. Government securities are backed by the full faith of the government, obligations of U.S. Government agencies and authorities are supported by varying degrees but are generally not backed by the full faith of the U.S. Government; portfolios that invest in such securities are not guaranteed and will fluctuate in value. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic, and industry conditions. Dividends are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination. The value of real estate and portfolios that invest in real estate may fluctuate due to: losses from casualty or condemnation, changes in local and general economic conditions, supply and demand, interest rates, property tax rates, regulatory limitations on rents, zoning laws, and operating expenses. Commodities contain heightened risk including market, political, regulatory, and natural conditions, and may not be suitable for all investors. Tail risk hedging may involve entering into financial derivatives that are expected to increase in value during the occurrence of tail events. Investing in a tail event instrument could lose all or a portion of its value even in a period of severe market stress. A tail event is unpredictable; therefore, investments in instruments tied to the occurrence of a tail event are speculative. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested. Diversification does not ensure against loss. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are suitable for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market.
LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) is the rate banks charge each other for short-term Eurodollar loans. It is not possible to invest directly in an unmanaged index.
This material contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily those of PIMCO and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission.
Tags: Benchmarks, Central Banks, Confusions, Cornerstone, Diversification, Financial Markets, First Forum, Global Economy, Inflection Points, Investment Implications, Investment Professionals, Investment Strategy, Mohamed, Newport Beach, Normal Distributions, Occurrences, PIMCO, Political Confusion, Private Sector, Term Investment
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