Topic: Investment

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

This weeks blog has come courtesy of our Investment Consultant Tim Hale from Albion Consulting.

There is always a temptation to fiddle around with a portfolio’s structure to try to position it ready for potential short-term global events, such as Brexit. Investors would do well to remind themselves that the core tenets of good investing hold true through all market conditions.  It is also worth remembering that the efficacy of a portfolio’s strategy should be judged not on the post-event outcome, but in terms of the quality, validity and prudence of its construction discipline in the face of future market uncertainty.  Portfolios are well-structured around inalienable investment truths, particularly the value of deep diversification.

Irrespective of what might happen in the future – including any of the potential permutations of Brexit – as investors we can rely on a number of truths:  markets work pretty well and are hard to beat, so capturing the market return on offer using lower-cost, well-structured products makes good sense; spreading our assets broadly to ensure the risks we face are well-diversified will always sit at the core of a successful long-term strategy; balancing out the risks of equities by owning high quality bonds provides a good insurance policy; being patient (living through the short-term dips) and being disciplined (maintaining your philosophy and strategy over time) are fundamental to achieving the returns you need to fulfil your financial goals.  At this point – given the short-term uncertainty, and possible anxiety, over Brexit – let’s focus in on diversification.

There are many ways in which an investor can be diversified, from individual securities to sectors, countries, investment styles and assets classes.  Owning a portfolio that includes many thousands of companies, all market sectors, spread across developed and emerging economies, reduces the risk of being caught out by material negative impacts in specific markets, such as the UK.  In the UK a few names dominate;  the top 10 stocks represent more than 35% of the total UK market and the largest – HSBC – weighs in at 5.3% of the broad UK market.

A market-capitalisation weight to stocks across all developed and emerging markets shows a very different, well-diversified picture.  The largest listed company in the world is Microsoft at 2.2% of the market.  It is worth noting that Microsoft’s market capitalisation is over US$1 trillion, compared to HSBC’s US$150 billion.  In a global market capitalisation weighted portfolio, HSBC’s weighting is greatly reduced to under 0.5%.  Astute investors’ portfolios hold material allocations to non-UK equities and the majority of companies that this represents.

Sector diversification also makes good sense.  Owning a material allocation to global stocks ensure that sector exposures are diversified.  The UK has some large sector allocation differences compared to the world as a whole; in particular it has no major technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, despite technology stocks representing around 15% of global equity markets.  UK exposure to technology stocks is less than 3%. The UK also has material overweights to the energy and basic material sectors. 

Portfolios are well-positioned to weather Brexit uncertainty

Brexit and the political chaos that we see before us, combined with the polarisation of politics between quasi-Marxist policies on the left and populist rhetoric on the right is unsettling for all.  We are where we are, unfortunately, whatever one’s Brexit views or political persuasion.  Yet there are commonalities in all client portfolios such as broad diversification, excellently managed, lower cost products and high quality bonds, that we can all rely on to see us through this mess.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Portfolios are as well positioned as they can be for whatever lies ahead.  Please try not to worry too much about your portfolio.  It is in good shape.

Other notes and risk warnings

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed. 

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

Errors and omissions excepted.

Timing isn’t everything

During the year’s social events it’s not unusual for the stock market to be a topic of conversation.

A neighbour or relative might ask about which investments are good at the moment. The lure of getting in at the right time or avoiding the next downturn may tempt even disciplined, long-term investors. The reality of successfully timing markets, however, isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

OUTGUESSING THE MARKET IS DIFFICULT

Attempting to buy individual stocks or make tactical asset allocation changes at exactly the “right” time presents investors with substantial challenges. First and foremost, markets are fiercely competitive and adept at processing information. During 2018, a daily average of $462.8 billion in equity trading took place around the world.[1] The combined effect of all this buying and selling is that available information, from economic data to investor preferences and so on, is quickly incorporated into market prices. Trying to time the market based on an article from this morning’s newspaper or a segment from financial television? It’s likely that information is already reflected in prices by the time an investor can react to it.

Dimensional recently studied the performance of actively managed US-domiciled mutual funds and found that even professional investors have difficulty beating the market: over the last 20 years, 77% of equity funds and 92% of fixed income funds failed to survive and outperform their benchmarks after costs.[2]

Further complicating matters, for investors to have a shot at successfully timing the market, they must make the call to buy or sell stocks correctly not just once, but twice. Professor Robert Merton, a Nobel laureate, said it well in a recent interview with Dimensional:

“Timing markets is the dream of everybody. Suppose I could verify that I’m a .700 hitter in calling market turns. That’s pretty good; you’d hire me right away. But to be a good market timer, you’ve got to do it twice. What if the chances of me getting it right were independent each time? They’re not. But if they were, that’s 0.7 times 0.7. That’s less than 50-50. So, market timing is horribly difficult to do.”

TIME AND THE MARKET

Let’s take the example of US equities. The S&P 500 Index has logged an incredible decade. Should this result impact investors’ allocations to equities? Exhibit 1 suggests that new market highs have not been a harbinger of negative returns to come. The S&P 500 went on to provide positive average annualised returns over one, three, and five years following new market highs.

Exhibit 1.        Average Annualised Returns After New Market Highs
S&P 500, January 1926–December 2018

CONCLUSION

Outguessing markets is more difficult than many investors might think. While favorable timing is theoretically possible, there isn’t much evidence that it can be done reliably, even by professional investors. The positive news is that investors don’t need to be able to time markets to have a good investment experience. Over time, capital markets have rewarded investors who have taken a long-term perspective and remained disciplined in the face of short-term noise. By focusing on the things they can control (like having an appropriate asset allocation, diversification, and managing expenses, turnover, and taxes) investors can better position themselves to make the most of what capital markets have to offer.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

In US dollars. New market highs are defined as months ending with the market above all previous levels for the sample period. Annualised compound returns are computed for the relevant time periods subsequent to new market highs and averaged across all new market high observations. There were 1,115 observation months in the sample. January 1990–present: S&P 500 Total Returns Index. S&P data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. January 1926–December 1989; S&P 500 Total Return Index, Stocks, Bonds, Bills and Inflation Yearbook™, Ibbotson Associates, Chicago. For illustrative purposes only. Index is not available for direct investment; therefore, its performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. There is always a risk that an investor may lose money.

Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors Ltd. or Source: Dimensional Ireland Limited.

Warnings

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Dimensional Fund Advisors Ltd. (DFAL) or Dimensional Ireland Limited (DIL). The Issuing Entity accepts no liability over the content or arising from use of this material. The information in this material is provided for background information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services or products for sale and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

Investments involve risks. The investment return and principal value of an investment may fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original value. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee strategies will be successful.

References

1]. In US dollars. Source: Dimensional, using data from Bloomberg LP. Includes primary and secondary exchange trading volume globally for equities. ETFs and funds are excluded. Daily averages were computed by calculating the trading volume of each stock daily as the closing price multiplied by shares traded that day. All such trading volume is summed up and divided by 252 as an approximate number of annual trading days.

[2]. Mutual Fund Landscape 2019.

The “ABCDE” Method to Avoiding Knee-Jerk Reactions to Negative Financial Events

As part of the Financial Planning process, we talk to clients about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for both themselves and their family during turbulent times.

But we also understand that even those who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.

Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ‘ABCDE’ method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.

Let’s run through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.

A. Activating Event

Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.  So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.

Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”

Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.

B. Belief

Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried beliefs like, “This game is fixed!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.

Working through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 financial crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.

Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.

C. Consequences

Panicked investors who can’t shake negative beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative consequences, like further losses.

Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious consequences in the long run.

So how can you stay focused on the big picture?

D. Disputation

Start by using what you know to counter what you believe.

For example, we’ve discussed in both client meetings and our blog that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the FT 100 index are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The FT was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.

We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why our portfolios are diversified, balanced, and strategically re-balanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.

E. Energised

 It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.

But, we understand that market volatility can be complicated; and a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.

 

Warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes only and must not be considered to be advice.   Errors and omissions excepted. 

Brexit – The potential impact on your investments

As we fast approach the date of the UK’s impending withdrawal from the EU and due to the continued uncertainty around the terms of this withdrawal, we have been contacted by several of our clients asking us about the possible impact on their investments.

Therefore, this week I thought it might be useful to share with you the basis of those discussions.

What effect could Brexit have on my investments?

The actual impact will be dependent on the terms under which the UK leaves the EU. But it is important to remember that all investments can go up and down in value over time and returns are not guaranteed.

Most investments are designed to be held over the medium to long term and we would caution against making any decisions on whether to encash or retain particular investments based on the potential impacts of Brexit alone or any short-term fluctuations in the value of your investments.

In short, no-one can accurately predict how investment markets will be affected by Brexit or what the precise implications will be.

What about investments that I hold that are provided by non-UK companies?

If you hold money in funds/investments that are provided by a non-UK company that is based within the European Economic Area (EEA) then you should still be able to continue holding these investments even in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. This is because the Government and the Financial Conduct Authority (which is responsible for regulating the conduct of all UK authorised financial services firms) have put in place special measures that will enable these companies to continue offering services to you.

Will Brexit affect the consumer protection I receive on my investments?

There will be no changes to consumer protection for most individuals.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will remain available to UK consumers post Brexit. It is designed to deal with claims from (and in the event of a successful claim, provide compensation to) consumers who have previously dealt with a UK financial services firm that has since gone out of business. The compensation limits are per person, per institution and currently set at £85,000 (deposit accounts), £50,000 (investments) and 100% of a claim with no upper limit (pensions and life assurance.)

EEA based firms doing business in the UK are not typically covered by the FSCS and instead the compensation scheme in their country of origin will usually deal with any claims against the firm. Brexit could result in a loss of access to these EEA compensation schemes if no deal is reached. This loss of access is dependent on the terms of withdrawal and at this stage, is far from certain.

In the event of an issue with the provider, or advisory business the Financial Ombudsman Service settles disputes between consumers and UK financial services firms where these arise. This service will continue to be available post Brexit, meaning that if you have a dispute with a UK based financial services firm that is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, you will continue to be able to refer a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if a dispute arises. It is also proposed that you will be covered by the FOS for the activities of EEA based firms that provide services into the UK.

Will product providers with whom I hold investments be updating me in relation to any potential impacts Brexit may have?

You may also receive communications from providers updating you with regards to the impacts of Brexit, although again given that the position is still unclear, they may not be able to provide definitive information. We are more than happy to discuss any questions you may have received from correspondence with any providers and to assist where we can.

What next?

For our existing clients, we will, of course, be happy to discuss the performance of your investments with you during your next ongoing review with us and we can also discuss any concerns you may have on issues that could affect your investments, such as the impact of Brexit. Where necessary, we will of course adjust your portfolio, based on your circumstances, preferences and risk appetite.  Of course, if you want to speak to us beforehand, please do give us a call.

Whilst we are always happy to chat to you, we should stress that at this stage, we cannot accurately predict nor give you any definitive answers in terms of what the impact of Brexit will be, or even if Brexit will happen; but then, if we could …….

notes and risk warnings

Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.
Errors and omissions excepted.

 

 

Déjà vu all over again!

Investment fads come and go. Letting short-term trends influence your approach may be counterproductive to pursuing your financial goals.

Investment fads are nothing new. When selecting strategies for their portfolios, investors are often tempted to seek out the latest and greatest investment opportunities. Over the years, these approaches have sought to capitalise on developments such as the perceived relative strength of particular geographic regions, technological changes in the economy, or the popularity of different natural resources. But long-term investors should be aware that letting short-term trends influence their investment approach may be counterproductive. As Nobel laureate Eugene Fama said, “There’s one robust new idea in finance that has investment implications maybe every 10 or 15 years, but there’s a marketing idea every week.”

What’s Hot Becomes What’s Not

Looking back at some investment fads over recent decades can illustrate how often trendy investment themes come and go. In the early 1990s, attention turned to the rising “Asian Tigers” of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. A decade later, much was written about the emergence of the “BRIC” countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China and their new place in global markets. Similarly, funds targeting hot industries or trends have come into and fallen out of vogue. In the 1950s, the “Nifty Fifty” were all the rage. In the 1960s, “go-go” stocks and funds piqued investor interest. Later in the 20th century, growing belief in the emergence of a “new economy” led to the creation of funds poised to make the most of the rising importance of information technology and telecommunication services. During the 2000s, 130/30 funds, which used leverage to sell short certain stocks while going long others, became increasingly popular. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, “Black Swan” funds, “tail-risk-hedging” strategies, and “liquid alternatives” abounded. As investors reached for yield in a low interest-rate environment in the following years, other funds sprang up that claimed to offer increased income generation, and new strategies like unconstrained bond funds proliferated. More recently, strategies focused on peer-to-peer lending, cryptocurrencies, and even cannabis cultivation and private space exploration have become more fashionable. In this environment, so-called “FAANG” stocks and concentrated exchange-traded funds with catchy ticker symbols have also garnered attention among investors.

The Fund Graveyard

Unsurprisingly, however, numerous funds across the investment landscape were launched over the years only to subsequently close and fade from investor memory. While economic, demographic, technological, and environmental trends shape the world we live in, public markets aggregate a vast amount of dispersed information and drive it into security prices. Any individual trying to outguess the market by constantly trading in and out of what’s hot is competing against the extraordinary collective wisdom of millions of buyers and sellers around the world.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to point out the fortune one could have amassed by making the right call on a specific industry, region, or individual security over a specific period. While these anecdotes can be entertaining, there is a wealth of compelling evidence that highlights the futility of attempting to identify mispricing in advance and profit from it.

It is important to remember that many investing fads, and indeed, most mutual funds, do not stand the test of time. A large proportion of funds fail to survive over the longer term. Of the 1,622 fixed income mutual funds in existence at the beginning of 2004, only 55% still existed at the end of 2018. Similarly, among equity mutual funds, only 51% of the 2,786 funds available to US-based investors at the beginning of 2004 endured.

What Am I Really Getting?

When confronted with choices about whether to add additional types of assets or strategies to a portfolio, it may be helpful to ask the following questions:

  1. What is this strategy claiming to provide that is not already in my portfolio?
  2. If it is not in my portfolio, can I reasonably expect that including it or focusing on it will increase expected returns, reduce expected volatility, or help me achieve my investment goal?
  3. Am I comfortable with the range of potential outcomes?

If investors are left with doubts after asking any of these questions, it may be wise to use caution before proceeding. Within equities, for example, a market portfolio offers the benefit of exposure to thousands of companies doing business around the world and broad diversification across industries, sectors, and countries. While there can be good reasons to deviate from a market portfolio, investors should understand the potential benefits and risks of doing so.

In addition, there is no shortage of things investors can do to help contribute to a better investment experience. Working closely with a financial advisor can help individual investors create a plan that fits their needs and risk tolerance. Pursuing a globally diversified approach; managing expenses, turnover, and taxes; and staying disciplined through market volatility can help improve investors’ chances of achieving their long-term financial goals.

Conclusion Fashionable investment approaches will come and go, but investors should remember that a long-term, disciplined investment approach based on robust research and implementation may be the most reliable path to success in the global capital markets.

 

notes and risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes only and must not be considered to be investment advice.  Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that any stated results will be replicated. The value of investments can go down as well as up.

Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.
Errors and omissions excepted.

 

Markets fell in 2018 – but keep this in perspective

This latest blog is brought to you by our Investment Consultant – Tim Hale of Albion Consulting.

2018 may have been a disappointing year for equities, but this shouldn’t have been a surprise.

December 2018 dished up a rather distasteful present for the holiday period.  Many lines were written in the broadsheets about the global equity market falls, but were they really anything out of the ordinary?

‘Stock market slide in 2018 leaves investors bruised and wary’ The Financial Times’ (31st December 2018)

Since 2009 (the bottom of the market during the Credit Crisis) global markets have delivered positive returns in eight out of the ten calendar years. The last negative year for equities was back in 2011, when the markets were down around 7%. Over the history we have available to us – on average – one in three years deliver negative returns. Investors have, of late, been extremely lucky.
Since 2008, in every single year, investors have suffered a fall from a previous market high and many of these falls were larger than 10%. However, even investing at the start of 2008 and suffering the 35% peak-to-trough fall in 2008, an equity investor would have turned £100 into £230, i.e. 8% compounded over 11 years, if they had been disciplined and patient (two known areas of human weakness!).

As humans, we tend to have a strange view of what invested wealth represents and how we feel about it at any point in time. We tend to be happy as wealth – at least on paper – goes up to some value at a specific point in time and unhappy when we reach that value again, if it is achieved after a market correction.

Remember, the true meaning of wealth is having the appropriate level of assets that you require, when you require them, to meet your financial and lifestyle goals. In the interim, movements in value are noise, somewhat meaningless and part and parcel of investing. When you invest in equities, you should try to avoid mentally banking the money you (appear to) make on the undulating, and sometimes precipitous, road you are on. Remember too that the headline equity market numbers are unlikely to be your portfolio outcome, as most investors own some sort of a balance between bonds and equities.

Keeping things in perspective

Investing in equities is always going to be a game of two steps forward and one step back. What equities deliver from one year to another is of little consequence to the long-term investor, who does not need all of their money back today.

As far as 2019 is concerned, no one who is honest knows what will happen in the markets. The global economy is still set to grow by 3.5% above inflation this year, according to the IMF, which is not that bad. Today market prices reflect the aggregate view of all investors based on the information to hand. If new information comes out tomorrow, prices will adjust to reflect the impact this has on company valuations. As the release of new information is – by definition – random, so too must price movements be random, at least in the short-term. Over the longer-term they reflect the real growth in earnings that companies deliver through their hard work, executing the delivery of their business strategies. In the longer-term, investing in the stock market is a game worth playing, at least with part of your portfolio.

As Benjamin Graham – a legendary investor in the early 20th Century once said:

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine”
We could not agree more.

notes and risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes only and must not be considered to be investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. The reference to any products is made only to make educational points and must, in no circumstances, be deemed to be any form of product recommendation.

This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.
Errors and omissions excepted.

 

Looking at the big retirement picture

Considering making pension contributions ahead of the tax year end?

Investing for the future is vital if you want to enjoy a financially secure retirement, and it requires you to look at the big picture. Although pensions can be complicated, we will help you get to grips with the rules if you are considering making contributions ahead of the tax year end. Here are our top pension tax tips.

Annual and lifetime limits

Getting tax relief on pensions means some of your money that would have gone to the Government as tax goes into your pension instead. You can put as much as you want into your pension, but there are annual and lifetime limits on how much tax relief you receive on your pension contributions. Please note that if you are a Scottish taxpayer, the tax relief you will be entitled to will be at the Scottish Rate of Income Tax, which may differ from the rest of the UK.

Provided that you stay within your pension allowances, all pensions give you tax relief at the rate that you have paid on your contributions. For personal pensions, you receive tax relief at the basic rate of 20% inside the pension. That means for every £800 you pay in, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will top it up to £1,000. If you’re a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you can claim back up to an additional 20% or 25% on top of the 20% basic rate tax relief through your self-assessment tax return.

Benefit from tax relief

For workplace pensions, your employer normally takes your pension contribution direct from your salary before Income Tax so that the contribution is not taxed at source like the rest of your employment income, and therefore the full benefit is received inside your pension immediately. If your employer does not handle your contributions before tax, then these would benefit from tax relief in the same way as for a personal pension contribution.

You’re still entitled to receive basic rate tax relief on pension contributions even if you don’t pay tax. The maximum you can pay into your pension as a non-taxpayer is £2,880 a year, which is equivalent to a £3,600 contribution once you factor in tax relief.

Total amount of contributions

The annual allowance is a limit to the total amount of contributions that can be paid in to defined contribution pension schemes and the total amount of benefits that you can build up in a defined

Brexit and your Portfolio

This week I thought I’d hand over the floor to a guest writer. So, if like me you are becoming a bit of a BOB (Bored of Brexit), here are some words of wisdom from our Investment Analyst – Tim Hale of Albion Consulting.

Whichever way one voted, it is hard not to be dismayed by the shambles that is Brexit, concocted by all sides. In the event that the current deal agreed gets voted down in Parliament, or there is no deal, there is a material chance that the government could fall. One or both of these events would come with great uncertainty.

We set out three key investment risks relating to Brexit and how sensible portfolio structures can mitigate them.

Risk 1: Greater volatility in the UK and possibly other equity markets
In the event of a poorly received deal or no deal, it is certainly possible that the UK equity market could suffer a market fall as it tries to come to terms with what this means for the UK economy and the impact on the wider global economy. A collapse of the Conservative government and a Labour victory would add further uncertainty.

Risk 2: A fall in Sterling against other currencies
In 2016, after the referendum, Sterling fell against the major currencies including the US dollar and the Euro. There is certainly a risk that Sterling could fall further in the event of a poor/no deal.

Risk 3: A rise in UK bond yields (and thus a fall in bond prices)
The economic impact of a poor/no deal and/or a high-spending socialist government could put pressure on the cost of borrowing, with investors in bonds issued by the UK Government (and UK corporations) demanding higher yields on these bonds in compensation for the greater perceived risks. Bond yield rises mean bond price falls, which will take time to recoup through the higher yields.

Mitigant 1: Global diversification of equity exposure
Although it is the World’s sixth largest economy (depending on how you measure it), the UK produces only 3% to 4% of global GDP, and its equity market is around 6% of global market capitalisation. Well-structured portfolios hold diversified exposure to many markets and companies. Changing your mix between bonds and equities would be ill-advised. Timing when to get in and out of markets is notoriously difficult. Provided you do not need the money today, you should hold your nerve and stick with your strategy.

Mitigant 2: Owning non-Sterling currencies in the growth assets
In the event that Sterling is hit hard, it is worth remembering that the overseas equities that you own come with the currency exposure linked to those assets. Remember too that a fall in Sterling has a positive effect on non-UK assets that are unhedged. The bond element of your portfolio should generally be hedged to avoid mixing the higher volatility of currency movements with the lower volatility of shorter-dated bonds.

Mitigant 3: Owning short-dated, high quality and globally diversified bonds
Any bonds you own should be predominantly high quality to act as a strong defensive position against falls in equity markets. Avoiding over-exposure to lower quality (e.g. high yield, sub-investment grade) bonds makes sense as they tend to act more like equities at times of economic and equity market crisis.

Some thoughts to leave you with ..

Even if you cannot avoid watching, hearing or reading the news, it is important to keep things in perspective. The UK is a strong economy with a strong democracy. It will survive Brexit, whatever the short-term consequences that we will have to bear, and so will your portfolio. Keeping faith with both global capitalism and the structure of your portfolio and holding your nerve, accompanied by periodic rebalancing is key. Lean on your adviser if you need support.

‘This too shall pass’ as the investment legend Jack Bogle likes to say.

If you would like to chat to us further about Tim’s words of wisdom or indeed our model portfolio’s, please do contact us.

Warnings – This article is distributed for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be investment advice.  The article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the firm and does not represent a recommendation of any security, strategy or investment product.  Past performance is not indicative of future results.  The value of investment can fall or rise.  

Corrections and the Nature of the Markets

Currently, markets around the globe are ‘selling off’ due to worries ranging from trade policies and tariffs to rising U.S. interest rates to geopolitical concerns. Rather than be alarmed, however, we should consider whether this is merely a return to more “normal” conditions and not necessarily a sign of worse to come.

Why do we say a return to more “normal” conditions?

First, let’s think about the nature of investing and the relationship between risk and return. Also, remember that risk and uncertainty are related: the latter brings about the former, and with more uncertainty, the potential for future payoff may also be greater.

We have all been vulnerable to forgetting the nature of risk and uncertainty in the markets; the Central Banks interventions into the markets has pushed the stock market seemingly straight up since March 2009, with just a couple of corrections in between.  With higher expected returns, we should expect volatility, as that is the mechanism through which investments ultimately find their true value. When discussing corrections, we should consider three basic issues:

Why they exist,
Why they are natural, and
Why they are necessary.

Corrections (when they occur) exist because facts become more widely known and understood, or alternatively, they change altogether. News flows are constant and are almost always unpredictable. Random events confound even the most carefully-made forecasts, which then must be discarded. Conventional wisdom is re-examined, and new data provides investors with deeper ways of thinking about an investment, or even the markets as a whole. Armed with fresh knowledge, investors may change their minds. And that may mean responding with “sell” instead of “buy.”

Market movements are natural because the data does change and people, in turn, change their minds in response. In a static world, there would be no corrections – nor would there be many opportunities, either. In that world, all investments would always be priced at their “fair value” and would never deviate in a way to provide an entry point to buy a new opportunity. Investors constantly research, analyse, and evaluate investment opportunities. Information on those opportunities is constantly being released and thus is constantly changing.
Being early to capitalize on that changing information means some investors are quick to act – and when they all act at once, then the market may either surge higher or plunge lower. It is a natural course of action for market participants, upon realising the same new information, to act quickly to buy or sell.

Corrections are necessary because it is through this mechanism that risk is fairly priced. What do we mean by this? Quite simply, stocks, bonds and other investments are determined by what investors are willing to pay for them; this depends in turn on what people expect will happen in the world. The more uncertainty there is, the lower the price one is willing to pay for an investment, because there are more ways that the investment can be pushed off course. In this situation, most investors want a greater degree of protection when buying a stock – and that means a lower price. A correction, thus, is a way in which a sign that says “Special! Sale Now On!” is hung over the market, perhaps signalling buying opportunities. Indeed, it’s often the time when many investors go shopping for things they might not otherwise have bought when they were more expensive. It’s simply how the market works, much as in a department store.

In fact, it’s completely abnormal not to have corrections. We’re quite overdue, in fact. We’ve become complacent, forgotten how they feel or even what they look like. Having one, or even more of them would be a return to normal. In this case, “normal” means an environment with more volatility; that is, the very thing which investors undertake in order to receive the returns they expect. It’s a natural, expected, and customary trade-off.

What do we do about Bonds…

 

‘You don’t need bonds, until you need them!’

Anon

Challenging times

I sat in our Investment Committee meeting for most of yesterday morning and amongst many things we discussed the current thoughts on Bonds (these include Government Gilts and Corporate bonds). You may feel I am a glutton for punishment on a Monday morning but really …. it was quite interesting!

In response to the very low yield on fixed interest investments (bonds), some investors have been tempted to chase higher yielding bonds, in an attempt to squeeze some return out of what feels like an unproductive portfolio allocation.  This is, unfortunately, an accident waiting to happen.  The phrase ‘picking up pennies in front of a steamroller’ comes to mind.

Others are asking whether they should be holding cash as bond yields are ‘inevitably’ going to rise, denting bond returns, at least in the short term.  Neither, approach according to the research conducted by Albion Consulting who provide the research which helps build our investment portfolios for clients, makes much sense.

We should be looking forward to yield rises

At some point in the future, yields (income) are likely to rise back to higher levels.  The problem is that no-one knows when, how quickly and with what magnitude it will happen.  Investors should be looking forward to yield rises, because in the future their bonds will be delivering them with a higher income, hopefully above the rate of inflation.

When income yields do rise, bond prices will fall, creating temporary losses.  At that point bonds now earn an investor more than they did before the rate rise and they reach a breakeven point where the new higher yield has fully compensated them for the temporary capital losses suffered.  The time to break even is equivalent to the duration (similar to maturity) of an investor’s bond holdings.  Short-dated bonds with a three year duration will breakeven after three years.  Below is a hypothetical example.  Follow it through.

Table 1‑1: The impact of a 2% rise in yields on a 3 year duration bond portfolio

Year end Today Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Yield-to-maturity 1.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Immediate yield rise % 2.0%
Capital loss* -6.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Yield during year 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Total return for the year -2.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Cumulative total return -2.5% 0.9% 4.4% 8.1% 11.9%
Annualised total return -2.5% 0.5% 1.5% 2.0% 2.3%

Note: * We have assumed that the capital loss is approximated by the rise in yields times the duration.  In reality due to convexity – capital losses would not be quite so great.

The bonds within our portfolios are generally within a 3-5 year duration period.

 Holding cash deposits is not the solution

Imagine that an investor felt that rate rises were likely to occur, with a detrimental – albeit temporary – impact on bond returns in the near future.   They decide to place a deposit for three years, receiving interest of 1.5% p.a., comparable to the current yield on three-year bonds.  In three years’ time when their deposit matures, they end up with the same return as the bond portfolio (green-coloured cell in the table above).  Why bother?

Our view is that long-term investors should stick with their bond holdings.  At some point they will need them to protect against turmoil in the equity markets and that is what they are there for. Remember ‘You don’t need bonds until you need them!’.

Warning – The above information is based upon the views  of Carpenter Rees Limited.  It is not intended as a personal recommendation and should not be relied upon as such.  The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you can get back less than you originally invested.