We’ve eclipsed the half way point of 2016; kids are out of school, people are gearing up for vacations, and temperatures are soaring. There are a couple more amazing things of note: 1) It’s July and the Cubs are still in 1st place! 2) Given all the uproar about everything from interest rates to oil to the election and to, most recently, Brexit; investor returns in general are not only positive, but pretty decent.
Think about it: we’ve been bombarded with negative news all year and the second quarter was no different. We had terrorism issues not only abroad, but here on American soil. We had job creation falter with May readings showing the worst month of employment gains since 2010. There’s economic weakness abundant around the globe. To top everything off, on June 23, we had Brexit – the UK referendum that shocked many when results showed more votes to actually LEAVE the European Union than remain! A sell-off in stocks ensued and had some feeling like it was 2008 all over again.
Well, it wasn’t. Markets reversed and many equity benchmarks are actually higher at this time of writing than they were before Brexit. (For more on Brexit, see our last week’s blog by clicking here.) In fact, in the US, the S&P 500 ended the week after Brexit up 3.3%, finishing the quarter with a 2.5% gain. In Europe, the EuroStoxx600 and the FTSE100 finished the week up 3.2% and 9.9%, respectively, in an apparent turnaround of investor confidence.
Investors also flocked to bonds during the quarter and even more so since the Brexit vote, with bond yields setting lows around the world. The Brexit vote actually helped solidify investors’ expectations for global central banks to keep rates down. And since yields move inversely to bond prices, bond investors did very well during this time period.
Let’s look at some numbers:
Fixed Income: The Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index, the most popular bond benchmark, was up 2.2% and now up 5.3% for 2016 – not many would have predicted that at the start of the year. Really almost everything within bond land did well. Corporates, in particular, did great as evidenced by the iBoxx USD Liquid Investment Grade Index registering 4.1% for the quarter & now up 9.0% YTD.
Equities: The MSCI AC World Equity Index registered +1.0% for the quarter and is now up 1.2% on the year. With the Brexit vote, European stocks struggled (MSCI Europe down 2.7% for the quarter & down 5.1% YTD), but emerging markets have done quite well with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index up 0.7% for the quarter and now up 6.4% YTD. In terms of domestic cap style; in general, mid cap has outperformed small cap which has outperformed large cap. And value continues to outperform growth in a big way this year.
Alternatives: The Credit Suisse Liquid Alternative Beta Index aims to replicate the returns of the broad hedge fund universe using liquid securities. It came in -0.7% for 2q16 thus indicating that those type of alternative strategies didn’t fare as well as some of the other alternative strategies we follow. For example, it was another stand-out quarter for gold* (+7%), real estate** (+3%), and MLPs*** (+19%). These alts are all up big YTD as well (24%, 9%, 11%; respectively).
So, a diversified investor with exposure to the three major asset classes may see returns somewhere between 3 and 5% for this first half of 2016 – 6-10% annualized – amongst all this so-called uncertainty. Not bad!
We are also cautiously optimistic about the second half of 2016, however, the negativity and the uncertainty (CNBC’s word of the year so far) will definitely continue:
- Brexit has really only started – this may take over two years to play out and even though Brexit fears have been shrugged off for now, they could come back. Clearly, European GDP and thus global GDP will be affected.
- Central banks could be running out of ammunition if things do indeed get worse. Interest rates are NEGATIVE in Europe and Japan. How low can they go? And how much fire power really remains?
- Here in the US, inflation remains well below the Fed’s 2% preferred target.
- China growth problems and oil price volatility could resurface.
- Profits at companies in S&P500 have fallen for four consecutive quarters and are expected to fall another 5% this quarter. Hard for stock prices to continue to go upward in that type of environment.
So, why be cautiously optimistic? There is some positive economic data out there including:
- US consumer confidence is strong.
- Retail sales continue to escalate steadily.
- The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reported an April rise of 0.5%, with prices increasing on a seasonally adjusted basis in most cities.
- There are pockets of strength to be found here in the US and around-the-world. Lots of exciting opportunities abound that keep hungry investors and companies enthusiastic!
Like we have said before, the key is to stay disciplined to your diversified game plan. Stay invested in accordance to a long-term asset allocation target mix which is in-line with your risk tolerance, and don’t let emotions control you. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to do on your own or if you have improper assistance. On the other hand, if you have an independent, unbiased wealth manager like DWM, they can help you accomplish this by making the appropriate changes when and where necessary to lead you to the higher ground. Let us know if you have any questions on the way.
- *represented by iShares Gold Trust
- **represented by SPDR Dow Jones Global Real Estate
- ***represented by Alerian MLP