When you listen to financial news commentators, it can feel as though financial markets and investment decisions are capricious and arbitrary. Over the short term, that might actually be accurate. However, over the long term, there are universal investment principles which will ultimately govern your success and which guide all of our wealth management and investment decisions.
Adhering to principles like balance, consistency and courage, help keep us on course and provide a wonderful buffer from the constant drone of crisis and fear promoted by the majority of news and media outlets.
One of the most powerful principles is consistency; yet ironically, in today's society it is the most "consistently" violated.
- Yo-yo dieting?
- A hit-or-miss exercise regimen?
- Inconsistent prospecting?
- A reactive investment strategy?
All of these examples have one thing in common: they each violate the principle of consistency. We work closely with our clients to establish an overarching and highly personalized wealth management and investment strategy. We then exercise the principles of discipline and consistency in their long-term application, knowing that this gives us the best opportunity to achieve long-term success for our clientele.
The #1 threat to your investment portfolio is unbridled emotion. More money is lost due to fear and greed (how we respond) than all of the financial, economic and geopolitical events combined. It's not the events themselves but our response to the events that can cause the greatest harm.
- How harmful? The average investor doesn't come close to beating the S&P 500 Index and barely outpaces the rate of inflation.
Source: Bloomberg, 12/31/15. Average asset allocation investor return is based on an analysis by DALBAR, Inc., which utilizes the net of aggregate mutual fund sales, redemptions and exchanges each month as a measure of investor behavior. Indices shown are as follows: REITs are represented by the FTSE NAREIT Equity REIT Index, U.S. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500 Index, International Equities are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index, Government-Related Bonds are represented by the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, Homes are represented by U.S. existing home sales median price, Gold is represented by the U.S. dollar spot price of one troy ounce, Inflation is represented by the Consumer Price Index. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be purchased directly by investors. Index performance is shown for illustrative purposes only and does not predict or depict the performance of any investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Why does it seem like the market always has the upper hand?
We attribute it to behavioral patterns which investors are susceptible to. Given two choices, between a sure outcome and a probable one with equal expected future values, investors will consistently pick differently for gains and losses.
Gains will be hedged at a sure, smaller number, while losses are gambled upon, at a larger number.
Future returns aren't always guaranteed and the risks aren't always symmetrical, but you can see how investors tend to treat the two scenarios differently and based on history, improperly.
Be wary of the herd mentality. From the tech boom to the so-called fear trade, investors often position themselves poorly at the most inopportune times.
Here's an analogy that illustrates the single greatest challenge people face when dealing with the stock market:
How do people respond when there's a significant markdown in prices at their favorite department store? They run into the store searching for bargains.
How do they respond when there is a significant markdown in prices in the stock market? They often run out of the "store" and don't return until prices get back to "full retail."
Now before we get started let's agree that no one has a crystal ball.
I don't have one, you don't have one, and none of the pundits have one either. And worse than not having a crystal ball is acting as though you do.
The most dramatic example of the folly of market timing is the chart on the left. Missing the 10 best days over that 20-year span of time drops your investment return by almost half!
These best and worst days tend to appear together, making them incredibly hard to time well. Eight of the top 20 price return days for U.S. stocks since 1928 were in the heart of the Great Recession, the last four months of 2008.
Markets form patterns because there are humans in the driver's seat. Even trading models are built by people. Investors try to squeeze insights out of data and shape it into a story, often without causation. This causes patterns to either persist or break, often without reason. Investors tend to enjoy a good slogan as well; the "January Effect" and "Sell in May and Go Away" are two of them. While both have proven successful at forecasting market patterns, the hook is that they aren't actionable. Putting actual money to work behind these patterns is a fool's errand that can cost millions.
Is the stock market like a Vegas casino? Actually, no.
- Notice that the odds of winning any of the most popular games in Vegas never reach 50%; for comparison's sake, over rolling monthly one-year holding periods the stock market has been up 75.4% of the time.
- Over rolling monthly 15-year periods (i.e., January 1926 to December 1940, February 1926 to January 1941, all the way up to January 2000 to December 2015), stocks are up 99.8% with the only two down periods coming during the Great Depression.
- Ironically, the longer you sit at a table in Vegas the worse your odds get, because as we know "the house always wins."
Americans spent more money on lottery tickets in 2014, $70 billion, than on sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets and music combined, $63 billion. If viewed as a form of leisure, the winner of America’s favorite pastime is by far the lottery. However, most think of the lottery as a way to fiscal freedom, rather than a game. An unfortunate reality is that more people buy lottery tickets than own equities, investment vehicles that provide a path to growth rather than insurmountable odds. At average sales of $300 an American adult per year, one could have saved a large nest egg since the beginning of the lottery in 1964.
*Real returns. **Lottery became legal in the U.S. in 1964.
Source: North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, FactSet, 2016. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
We often hear that equity returns are being manufactured by policymakers.
Stocks reflect partial ownership in real companies, with real products and services, and real earnings. The performance of those stocks simply reflect the performance of those companies over the long term.
- Over the short term, those stocks can reflect all kinds of external circumstances, but from 1935 to 2015 there is 0.95 correlation between the S&P 500 Index and S&P 500 Index earnings.
There are two ways to go through life, faith or fear. We choose faith: faith in the long-term viability of a free people, under the rule of law, with private property ownership, to always improve their society. We have only been right for 6,000 years of recorded history.
And while this historical perspective informs and guides all of our investment decisions, maintaining that disciplined perspective often requires that we exercise the principle of courage during times of uncertainty and fear.
Each generation faces challenges that often appear both unique and overwhelming, but when viewed through the sobering lens of history we find they are neither.
Today we face any number of challenges which while significant, are no more daunting than:
- A global depression
- Two world wars
- The Cold War
- The assassination of one President and the resignation of another
And yet the market continues its inexorable climb. Why? Because in spite of our shortcomings, the human race is remarkably resilient, as well as masterful inventors and innovators, always striving to make a better place for themselves, their families and their societies.
The most concise description of this iconic mountain chart was captured by the venerable Nick Murray, "all the downs are temporary, all the ups are permanent."
Market corrections happen fairly often and even in the good years, including fairly significant intra-year declines in recent strong-return years like 2010 and 2012.
- From 1982 to 2016, the S&P 500 Index has experienced at least a 5% intra-year decline (i.e., loss) in every year but one. The average intra- year decline over the past 35 years has actually been 13.9%.
- But notice, equities have still posted positive returns in 30 of those last 35 years with annualized total returns over that period of over 12%.
So let's take a page from Warren Buffet, when asked by a CNBC personality in 2009 how it felt to have "lost" 40% of his lifetime accumulation of capital, he said it felt about the same as it had the previous three times it had happened.
The bottom line is, market corrections do not equal a financial loss... unless you sell.
- Stocks have outperformed most asset classes, outperforming bonds over rolling monthly 15-year periods from 1926-2016 (i.e., January 1926 to December 1940, February 1926 to January 1941, all the way up to January 2001 to December 2016) 83% of the time.
- For investors with a growth objective, there are few (if any) better alternatives to stocks.
At the top of every mountain is a summit. A recent high in the market is often referred to as a peak. What isn't defined though in markets is the mountain range, and if there are any taller mountains after the current one. History shows us that there have been many previous peaks and even after gaps of many years, taller ones have appeared.
An old adage says to buy when there is blood in the streets. This is often easier said than done and of course does not have a perfect track record. Still, a key tenet in the principle of courage is to be greedy when others are fearful.
As the charts show, investing in markets when there is blood in the streets (figuratively in these high profile financial crises but more literally in other cases) has often proved to be sage investment practice.
Being attacked by an actual bear or a metaphorical one is a scary proposition; and while a bear market in stocks may not threaten your actual life, it can definitely threaten your financial life. Or can it? The vast majority of stock market bears, like most actual bear encounters, may be a shock to the system but are not actually life threatening. Whether minor corrections or major selloffs, bear markets only represent 27% of your long-term experience in the stock market since 1872 (and this includes the Great Depression, of course). And even with those bear markets included, your average annual return over that period has been 10.4%.
Even if you look at our more recent history since 1945, there have been over 850 months, of which only 90 have given us a 20% downturn or greater (around 20% of the time), all of which inevitably recovered and went to new highs.
The most insightful definition of courage I have ever read came from Mark Twain who said, “courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it."
Facing the bears of life with courage and conviction is the best long-term strategy.
Sources: FactSet, Robert Shiller, 2016.
Albert Einstein said, "The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest." Notice the commonality between these two charts:
- Bond prices remain relatively steady over time, in spite of the inevitable crises that periodically hit the financial system. (As the old saying goes, "the difference between bonds and men...is that bonds ultimately mature.")
- The return from both categories of bonds comes from the income, not from price appreciation.
Balance is a universal principle that works wherever it is applied. For example, a balanced nutritional program is better than an unbalanced one; a balanced exercise program is better than an unbalanced one; and a balanced life is better than an unbalanced life.
This same principle of balance has historically worked in portfolio management. Adding diversity of style, geography and asset class has historically muted volatility, and made it easier for our clients to remain "buckled in."
Diversification across asset classes prevents investors from chasing last year's performance.
As the chart illustrates, what worked last year doesn't necessarily work in the subsequent years. Oftentimes, last year's outperformer falls to the bottom of the pack and vice versa.
Source: FactSet, 12/31/16. High Yield is represented by the JPMorgan Domestic High Yield Index. U.S. Aggregate is represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index. REITs are represented by the FTSE NAREIT Equity REITs Index. MLPs are represented by the Alerian MLP Index. International Stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. EM is represented by the MSCI EM Index. Commodities are represented by the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Small-Cap Stocks are represented by the total return for the Russell 2000 Index. Large-Cap Stocks are represented by the Russell 1000 Index. Diversification does not guarantee profit or protect against loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Geographical diversity provides both relatively consistent returns while also potentially muting volatility.
Over the past 100 years, the annualized return by decade of a global equity benchmark has provided a smoother ride when compared to the market returns of selected individual countries.
- Japanese market returns, for example, have either landed near the top or the bottom of the grouping (but never in the middle) and significantly underperformed the global benchmark in the decades of the 1990s and 2000s.
- U.S. markets have underperformed the global benchmark in five of the last six decades.
Maintaining a home bias (as investors so often do), whether you're Japanese, European, American or other, limits your opportunity set and will often offer more volatile return profiles.
Although our lives have become increasingly globalized, our approach to investing has not. Investors still have nearly 76% of their equity portfolios in U.S.-domiciled companies, despite the fact that the U.S. now represents less than half of the world’s market capitalization.*
U.S.-centric investors are missing out on a much larger opportunity set. Of the 7,784 actively traded companies with a market capitalization of over $1 billion, over 76% (39% in the developed world, 37% in the emerging world) are headquartered outside of the U.S.
* Sources: Morningstar and MSCI, 12/31/16.
Sources: Morningstar, Bloomberg, 12/31/16. Does not include target date funds or funds of funds. Global funds are classified as international. Chart is for illustrative purposes only.
Another imbalance in investors' portfolios is the amount of money sitting in cash and cash equivalents ($13.2 trillion) and government-related bond funds ($2.9 trillion).
Having money in cash today is akin to growing poor slowly given the negative real after-tax returns.
Fixed income mutual fund investors may be doing somewhat better from an income perspective but not significantly better. Government-related bonds are highly interest-rate sensitive.
- The chart on the right shows that if interest rates do nothing over the next 12 months, investors in Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index-like investments will simply earn the coupon. But if rates move higher by even 1%, returns will have turned negative.
All investments and portfolios float in the ocean of history and are affected by the winds of economics, politics and human nature. In a culture that doesn't study history or really understand economics, these insights can provide a much-needed long-term perspective in a world of \"breaking news,\" dire predictions and market volatility.
- What history shows us over and over again is the extraordinary resilience, creativity, invention and innovation of mankind down through the ages.
- Optimism is ultimately the only realism. Pessimism is quite literally counterintuitive because it rests on the concept of insoluble crises, which simply doesn't square with the facts. If humanity has shown one aptitude, it is the capacity to adapt and to learn (compare our response to the financial crisis of 2008 to our response in 1929).
- Pessimism is often framed around an exponential problem addressed by a linear solution. Human ingenuity, technological innovation and the inherent limits of long-term forecasting are never factored into the debate.
The great underreported story of the last half-century is the dramatic improvement of the human condition around the globe. Even a cursory glance at the evening news would give you the opposite impression, that the world is "coming apart at the seams" as they say.
This is based on two factors:
- Fear sells! Neuropsychology has demonstrated that human beings respond quickly and virtually unconsciously to fear; and the news media, along with advertisers and politicians, have been exploiting this response throughout recorded history.
- The explosion of news outlets with the advent of cable and the Internet has exacerbated this problem geometrically as they ratcheted up the fear to capture an increasingly fragmented market.
This section is designed to balance the scales and demonstrate the extraordinary achievements we've made as a society both here and abroad that you will likely never hear about on the nightly news.
It is much easier to imagine a world in which everyone loses their jobs because of automation, than a future where we're just doing something that is new, different and has yet to have been dreamed up.
Jobs are now less labor intensive, require fewer resources and are more lucrative than they were just a few decades ago. The migration from farm to office isn't new and isn't stopping. While it is more mature in the U.S., it is just getting started in the emerging world.
Global GDP has exploded from $1.3 trillion in the 1960s to over $70 trillion today with the U.S. making up a smaller share of the world's economic activity. The 48x more economic activity is being produced by only 2.4x the number of people.* As a result, the world has gotten significantly wealthier in a very short period of time.
There has been a dramatic reduction in mass poverty (people living on less than $2/day) over the past 20 years alone.
- To put this in perspective, consider the number of years taken for select economies to raise real per capita GDP from $1,000 to $2,000— a wealth level that is often viewed as being above general poverty levels. While this process took over 100 years in the United States and 455 years in Italy, the citizens of countries like Vietnam, India, China, and Indonesia have accomplished it in less than 20 years!**
*Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. Census Bureau, 2013.
**Sources: OECD (Maddison, 2006), Goldman Sachs Research, 2013.
One of the great untold stories of the last two centuries is the virtual elimination of extreme poverty around the globe. In 1820 virtually 95% of the world lived in extreme poverty, while today we have almost flipped those numbers on their head. The link between economic freedom (the ability to control and own your intellectual, personal and business property) and structural/technological innovation (thank you Walmart and Apple to mention a couple) has given ordinary people access to a lifestyle only dreamed about less than a century ago (when the majority of governments had an iron grip on the economic levers within their societies). This is no small feat when you consider the previous 6,000 years of recorded history barely making a dent in these statistics.
Sources: Ourworldindata.org, World Bank. Extreme poverty is defined as living at consumption (or income) level below 1.90 "international $" per day. International dollars are adjusted for price differences between countries and inflation.
The extraordinary achievements of the past 50 years were marked by a dramatic expansion in global literacy and a significant rise in the number of people around the world enjoying a middle-class lifestyle. It is estimated that by 2025, half of the world's population will be in the ranks of the middle class.
Isn't the world more violent than it has ever been before? Let's look at this through the broad lens of history.
A smarter, more educated world is becoming more peaceful in several statistically significant ways:
- The number of people killed in battle has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Battles once killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.*
It is easy to forget how dangerous life used to be.
- During the times of Genghis Khan, over 11% of the Earth's population was killed in battle. Imagine 792 million people (11% of the world's population) dying in battle today. By comparison, less than 0.01% of the world's population has perished in the conflicts of the 21st century. One life is one too many but the numbers simply pale in comparison to the violent world of the past.
* Source: Steven Pinker, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined."
Source: Statistics on Violent Conflict, 2013.
The world has never been a better place to live in than it is today, and if history is any guide, it will keep getting better.
Compared with the "golden" days of the 1950s, the average American not only lives longer, but better! People are more highly educated, earn more money and work less for it, operate in safer conditions, are far healthier and enjoy a much more luxurious lifestyle than their brethren in the 1950s could possibly have imagined.
Sources: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Statistical Abstract of the United States, International Labor Organization, United Nations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 12/31/13. "Its Getting Better All The Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years," Stephen Moore & Julian L. Simon.
But didn't the world just live through its version of the Great Depression? Comparing the 2008 financial crisis to the Great Depression is the height of hyperbolic rhetoric.
Contrary to the popular press, the American dream is alive and well!
- Of the nation's millionaires, more than 80% did not inherit 10% or more of their wealth.
- We all know people who were born on third base but act like they hit a triple. But how common is that? Of the Forbes 400 list, "only" 28% inherited wealth in excess of $50M, i.e., woke up on third base or home plate!
- The remaining nearly 70% were either born "on deck" from a lower- to middle-class background, on first base inheriting less than $1M, or on second base inheriting more than $1M or substantial start-up capital from a family member. And turning any of those numbers into over $1 billion is still one heck of an achievement!
Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth may help, but it is not the only path to financial success.
Sources: United for a Fair Economy, 2011 and thomasjstanley.com.
* 3% of the on deck individuals are undetermined.
Many of us can remember when gasoline was $0.50 a gallon and going to see a movie was a buck; however, we tend to look at these prices relative to our incomes today. When you look at overall expenses relative to income between 1900 and today, you will see something remarkable.
- In 1900, living expenses actually exceeded income. By 1950, expenses were only 90% of income, and today those expenses are only 80% of income
- An even more remarkable change has been the dramatic increase in discretionary income. In 1900, 80% of the average budget went to the basic necessities (food, shelter and clothing). Today, over 50% of our income is discretionary and thus available for things of much higher purpose, comfort and/or fun.
Speaker NotesWhile hating the American government has become a cottage industry, it is a really poor investment strategy.
But isn't a Republican president better for the market than a president from the Democratic party? Not necessarily. There are far more important factors impacting both the economy and the stock market than which political party happens to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Investors considering waiting until the man or woman from their preferred political party occupies the White House should recognize how that would have worked out in the past:
- A $10,000 investment held in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1897 to 2014 would now be worth $4.3 million.
- Incorporating a strategy where you own stocks whenever your party is in the White House and sell whenever the other party is in the White House would be worth roughly $4 million less!
But wouldn't we all be better off if the political parties were more cooperative and compromising and could get more accomplished? Again, not necessarily. Historically the markets tend to do very well when there is gridlock.
Source: Bloomberg, 12/31/16. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Today many potential investors use "politics" as a rationale for staying on the sidelines. They claim they will invest when their favorite politician or party gets elected or when the latest policy-induced crisis is averted (like the fiscal cliff or the government shutdown). So what do the facts show?
- Since the Kennedy administration, the sitting president has been viewed unfavorably by more than half of the country 45% of the time.
- Congress's approval rating has been even worse, historically often approaching the favorability ratings of head lice and meth labs. That's actually true, you can look it up.
- The reality is that over the past 55 years, the markets have performed best when the president's approval rating polled somewhere between 35%-50%.
In short, hating the government should not inform an investment strategy.
Source: Gallup, 12/31/16. The Presidential Approval Ratings were introduced to gauge public support for the President of the United States during the term. For illustrative purposes only and not intended as investment advice. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
We are often told that our politics have never been so dysfunctional and the political discourse has never been filled with such vitriol. Is this true?
- On July 11, 1804, a sitting (sitting!) vice president, Aaron Burr shot and killed a former Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Today, political attack ads can get pretty intense but none ended with any duels on the White House lawn.
- Four years earlier, President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson—the two highest elected officials in the land and founding fathers of the country—squared off in a race for the White House. Old-style civility did not prevail.
For many investors, one of their biggest concerns has been the size of the annual deficits and the run-up in the national debt.
Here are the facts:
- Across a wide array of administrations, the U.S. federal government has spent more money each year than revenue it collects.
- The government pays for:
- Everything else (over $1.2 trillion)
- Defense (almost $600 billion)
- Entitlements (over $1.7 trillion)
- And collects:
- Income tax (over $1.3 trillion)
- Social insurance tax (over $1 trillion)
- Corporate tax (over $350 billion)
- Other (over $250 billion)
The U.S. makes up the difference by borrowing the money primarily from itself but also foreign countries like China and Japan as well as individual investors, mutual fund companies and pension funds.
Source: Congressional Budget Office, 2013.
Source: Congressional Budget Office, 2016.
Over the next 75 years, the federal government has promised benefits to Social Security recipients in excess of anticipated payroll tax revenues equal to $8 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Social Security shortfall will be equal to 0.6% of GDP.
Social Security is something to be paid in the future which allows us to make adjustments in the present.
Potential options include:
A. Changing the taxation of earnings
B. Changing the benefit formula
C. Raising the retirement age
D. Reducing cost-of-living adjustments
Or, for example, the government could eradicate the shortfall today by simply eliminating the taxable maximum.
Source: Congressional Budget Office Social Security Policy Options, July 2010.
Technology down through the ages has been the catalyst for virtually all human progress; but with that blessing comes the challenge of disruption, disintermediation or as Joseph Schumpeter coined "creative destruction" in the short term. This section is designed to help you as both an investor and as a participant in a rapidly evolving economy; helping you anticipate trends and prepare for the inevitable disruptions. While these might appear to be recent societal challenge, this is far from the case. Previous generations have had to adapt as the economy shifted from:
- An agricultural, to a handcrafted industrial focus,
- To the human assembly-line model of Henry Ford,
- To the more automated assembly line model first perfected in Japan in the 1970s and 80s,
- To an increasingly service-oriented economy beginning in the late 50s and early 60s, and
- To the more sophisticated service/technology economy we see today.
Each evolution required the development of a whole new set of skills and an increasingly higher level of education to remain relevant and prosper.
However, if you distill all technological advancement to its essence it does one or more of four things: compress time, expand knowledge, personalize experience and/or reduce costs. These are all extraordinarily positive developments for society as a whole.
When you look at technology through an historical lens, it has one or more of the following four impacts: it compresses time, expands knowledge, personalizes experience and/or reduces costs, all of which have a positive impact on society as a whole.
- Compress Time For example, travel time between New York and Chicago went from almost six weeks via wagon train to just around two hours today. Consider the remarkable impact on human productivity this compression of time has!
- Expand Knowledge For most of human history, knowledge was passed verbally or individually in written form using parchment. With the advent of the Gutenberg press and later libraries, the average person had much greater access, but still had to travel some distance and burn a fair amount of time to find what they were looking for. Today you can sit in the privacy of your home and access information and knowledge that would appear miraculous just a few years ago.
- Personalize Experience Throughout most of history whatever you wanted was in limited supply and on someone else's timetable; whether going down to the local store and hoping they had what you wanted, to turning on the radio or television and listening to what they wanted to broadcast, when they wanted to broadcast it. Today you can find whatever you need whenever you want it, this is revolutionary!
- Reduce Cost And finally, the cost of goods and services today is infinitesimal compared to years past and almost goes without saying.
The technology we take for granted today would've been unimaginable 20 years ago and been considered some form of magic at the turn-of-the- century. Consider that your smartphone today has more computational power than all of NASA did back in 1969 and that a $300 PlayStation video game console has the power of a military supercomputer in 1997 (which by the way had a little higher price tag than the PlayStation). We are rapidly approaching what Ray Kurzweil's coined "the singularity," where computers' computational power begins to approach that of the human brain.
The impact this will have on our ability to fight disease, expand agricultural output, solve the world's freshwater crisis, address the world's energy needs, to name but a very few, borders on the world of science fiction.
Source: Singularity.com, Wikipedia, 2015.
You will notice four things about this chart:
1. That the average unemployment rate since 1870 has averaged 6.5%;
2. That the fluctuations in the annual unemployment rate can be volatile but are uncorrelated to any major innovation or technology;
3. And finally the two most important pieces are the dramatic rise in per capita GDP (more productive and wealthier societies);
4. Which of course spurs the dramatic rise in personal income and much lower cost of average goods (which fosters a much higher standard of living).
Throughout recorded time, economies that prosper are in a constant state of evolution and innovation, practicing a concept codified and popularized by the brilliant Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, "creative destruction." This process "revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old with the new." While this process can be disruptive situationally over the short term, it is far outweighed by the extraordinary benefits to society as a whole over the long term.
Sources: FRED, International Historical Statistics, 2016. Company logos are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended as investment advice. The mention of specific companies does not constitute a recommendation on behalf of any fund or OppenheimerFunds, Inc.
1. Source: BLS, Measuring Worth. (2010 Dollars.)
There are five megatrends (to quote the famous John Nesbitt) that have always been part of the story of technology down through the ages but have accelerated dramatically in our lifetime:
- Democratization Technology has made access to high quality goods and services far more pervasive than at any time in human history. The lower and middle class today live far better than the middle class and wealthy less than a century ago, sometimes I think we forget what a remarkable journey this has been.
- Dematerialization The synthesis of many items into one has made life much more convenient and efficient.
- Deflation Technology makes goods and services progressively less expensive.
- Big Data We know there's an answer to virtually every question we have, the challenge is finding it. Big data allows us to connect and collect vast stores of human intelligence and search for solutions within that data on a scale that is truly mind-boggling.
- Disruption What might've taken decades and sometimes centuries to unfold in the past now takes a few years. The good news is that solutions to our challenges come much more rapidly than at any time in human history, but it also means individuals and companies must be extremely nimble and constantly evolving to remain relevant.
The deflationary impact and dematerialization of multiple purchases into a single item allows for many more people to enjoy a whole range of products and services that previously they could not afford to purchase separately. Here are a couple examples:
- To have access to a broad range of knowledge, it used to cost thousands of dollars to have an encyclopedia set in your home or required the time and energy to run down to your local library. Now with Wikipedia everyone has access to this knowledge on demand and at no cost.
- If I wanted to get around any large city in the United States, I either had to find a bus or subway schedule, try to hail a taxi or if I lived there, purchase an expensive car, insure that car and pay the exorbitant garage and/or paid parking rates to actually use that car. Today I can request my own private chauffeur, on my schedule, utilizing Uber.
And the speed with which these new technologies are becoming available to the average citizen is truly breathtaking.
- It took over 90 years before 80% of U.S. households had a telephone.
- It took nearly 66 years before 80% of U.S. households had an automobile.
- It took nearly 45 years for 80% of us to get a television (I used to joke with my father that when he finally got around to getting one we would put the country over the top).
- However, it only took 20 years for 80% of us to get the Internet.
- And amazingly, we are at 68% penetration of smartphones after only nine years!
The impact that democratization of ideas, knowledge, products and services will have on our society will be truly profound.
*Smartphones has not reached 80% yet.
Sources: The Atlantic, U.S. Census, EIA.
As technology continues to track Moore's law by getting smaller, faster and denser, more and more functional capability can reside in smaller and smaller spaces. This has the effect, to quote Peter Diamandis, of "Dematerializing" entire suites of products, services and ultimately companies and professions. A couple of easy examples are:
- The Garmin GPS system that used to come in cars is now in my phone.
- My entire record collection is also now on my phone.
- I no longer lug a camera much less a large video recorder around Disney World!
- When I need a flashlight I don't have to hunt through 15 drawers to find one.
- And if I want to catch up on the news, I don't have to go buy a newspaper. This has a number of major impacts on society and productivity by:
- Much more seamless and rapid access to tools and services on demand.
- The capacity to get much more done in much less time.
- Reducing the number of products clogging our landfills around the country.
- The ability to redeploy human intelligence and assets more productively.
For illustrative purposes only and not intended as investment advice.
Throughout the supply chain, technology dramatically reduces the costs of goods and services to the end-user. This allows labor and capital to be redeployed for greater impact and purpose. You can see this demonstrably in three popular individual items: computers, cell phones and television sets.
- The cost and computational power of Steve Jobs' Macintosh Computer compared to an Apple desktop today is breathtaking.
- The phone used by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street has gone from clunky and expensive to elegant, sophisticated and cheap.
- The early big-screen TVs have also gone from clunky and expensive to elegant, high resolution and dirt cheap.
Throughout most of human history, cooperation and collaboration between businesses, organizations and professions in general and people in particular was based on proximity. This meant a limited pool of knowledge, expertise and insights to solve the challenges facing people both domestically and globally. With the rise of the Internet, mobile technologies and cloud-based storage, we can now connect the best minds around the globe virtually, on-demand and then store and analyze massive amounts of data to find the best solutions for our global and/or localized challenges.
- Mapping the human genome to find better targeted solutions to what ails us.
- Creating a logistical infrastructure for real-time delivery of goods and services.
- Monitoring and filtering real-time feedback necessary to create driverless cars.
The impact of big data to help mankind make better decisions will be truly revolutionary.
Technology and/or major innovations invariably cause short-term disruptions within industries in general and companies in particular (and one day who knows it might actually have an impact on the efficiency of the federal government, one can only hope). The difference between our generation and previous ones is the speed with which these changes occur. Previous generations often had decades to anticipate and adapt to these changes:
- General Motors installed the first robotic arm in 1961 but it took decades before machines did the majority of the "heavy lifting" (pun intended).
- Walmart was founded in 1962 but it took decades to destroy Montgomery Wards and Kmart and to mortally wound Sears.
Today these disruptions happen at hyper speed:
- The venerable Encyclopedia Britannica founded in 1768 was preeminent until 2001, which of course is the year Wikipedia was started. Within less than a decade the last published set of Encyclopedia Britannicas went to market.
- Blockbuster entered the saturated video rental market in 1985 and rapidly became the preeminent player in that space. Turning down an opportunity to purchase the fledgling Netflix in the year 2000, it filed for bankruptcy 13 years later.
- iTunes obliterated the local record store, and of course Amazon has picked off all of the major bookstores except Barnes & Noble, which of course is on life support.
To make a long story short, companies and people must adapt or find themselves "disrupted." This has always been the case in a free market and upwardly mobile economy, the big difference is the window of change closes much more rapidly today than it did in the past. We must be much more nimble, curious and on a cycle of constant improvement and refinement if we hope to remain economically relevant in the years ahead.
Company logos are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended as investment advice. The mention of specific companies does not constitute a recommendation on behalf of any fund or OppenheimerFunds, Inc.
In 1798, the famed Thomas Malthus made his legendary prediction: "The power of population is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man."
As recently as 1968, best-selling author Paul Ehrlich predicted: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death."
In 1977, Jimmy Carter stated, "We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the world by the end of the next decade."
All of these doom-and-gloom forecasters always fail to factor in mankind's remarkable intellect and ingenuity.
Thomas Malthus, the godfather of all demographic and economic pessimists, stated in 1798, "all the children born, beyond what would be required to keep the population level, must necessarily perish." That's pretty harsh.
- Here's a reality check: You could place the entire population of the globe, all 7.2 billion people, in the state of Texas and it would have the population density of New York City! Maybe a little cramped, but not exactly uninhabitable!
Paul Ehrlich predicted that "by the year 2000 the United Kingdom will simply be a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people."
- Whether or not we're big fans of kippers and Yorkshire pudding, we can all agree that the people of London are doing just fine.
- As a result of innovation, world grain production since 1950 has outpaced world population growth by over 70%.
All of these pessimists see geometric problems and linear solutions; when history demonstrates the majority of problems are in fact linear.
Source: Compiled by Earth Policy Institute from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Production, Supply, & Distribution, electronic database, at www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline, updated Dec 31 2016; with data for 1950-59 from Worldwatch Institute, Signposts 2002, CD-ROM (Washington, DC: 2002).
There is a common misperception, illustrated by the images on the left, that the size of the population at or near retirement age (59 and over) dwarf their younger brethren and when they all hit retirement, could wreak financial havoc on the economy.
- The reality is far more encouraging. The two younger generations are larger individually and significantly larger collectively than the vaunted Baby Boomers.
- In fact, 42.9 million* of the 73 million Baby Boomers are actually between the ages of 50 (people like Michelle Obama and Michael Jordan) and 59 (people like Bill Gates and Eddie Van Halen). These are hardly the faces of a graying population.
- Oh and by the way, a June 2014 study from Merrill Lynch finds that 72% of pre-retirees over the age of 50 say their ideal retirement will include working—often in new, more flexible and fulfilling ways.
* Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015.
How does the U.S. stack up globally?
What do you think the median age is in the U.S. today?
- 37 years old. That means the average American is closer to Peyton Manning than those that actually watched the first season of Peyton Place (1964-1969).
Yeah, but the U.S. population is aging right? What about in the future?
- It is estimated that by 2050, there will be over 400 million* Americans and the median age will be 39 years old!
- Not only will the U.S. have the fourth youngest population of the G20, but the third largest population of the world behind just India and China.
For the U.S., demographics remain a tailwind, as it is for many of the countries of the emerging world. The same can't necessarily be said for Japan, China, Germany and Russia.
*Sources: Ned Davis Research and U.S. Census Bureau, 2013.
You often hear in the popular press that student loans are skyrocketing and that the average student is suffocating under a mountain of debt. While this makes good headlines, it's a grossly incomplete picture of what's actually going on.
- According to a recent Brookings Institution study, since 1998 the average debt for a bachelor's degree graduate has been basically flat; going from only approximately $12,000 to $16,000 over almost 20 years. Not exactly the hundreds of thousands of dollars that you would believe if you read the popular press.
- The real increase has occurred at the graduate school level, rising from roughly $30,000 to $40,000 from 2007 to 2010.
- Are the degrees worth it? Absolutely! With each additional degree, the average unemployment rate goes down and average annual earnings go up.
The majority of young Americans are not going to end up being unemployed and living in their parents' basements crippled by mountainous student loan payments.
The concept of "peak oil" was first popularized by Marion Hubbert in 1956. Like so many pessimists, Hubbert failed to account for human ingenuity and extraordinary technological innovations, that in this case allow oil exploration companies to drill deeper and to uncover oil in less conventional places.
- As a result, technological innovations have allowed land-drilling depth to go from 3,600 feet in 1952 to 8,000 feet today. Ocean drilling is even more dramatic, going from less than 1,000 feet pre-1975 to 10,000 feet today, a 10-fold increase.
Combine this with the revolutionary technique of fracking and we've gone from lines at the gas station in the 1970s to a virtual oil glut today.
The long and short of it is that the world has more than enough energy resources to fuel the global economy for quite some time.
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2015.
A decade ago it seemed almost impossible to imagine that America might break its dependence on Middle East oil imports.
The U.S. now has states or regions that produce as much oil as some well-known oil producing countries. And total U.S. annual production in the 50 states now stands only behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.*
- U.S. net imports of crude oil and petroleum products have plunged by 45% since 2003.
- The revolution in the U.S. has caused natural gas prices to fall sharply there, even as they have risen in Europe, China and Japan because gas, unlike oil, cannot be easily transported around the world.
*Source: BP, 2014.
2. Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 12/31/16.
3. Source: FactSet, 12/31/16.
At some point our inefficient ways will catch up to us, right? After all, the gluttonous United States uses 18.0% of the world's energy with only 4.4% of the world's population! Not so fast. People don't consume energy, economic activity consumes energy. The more a country produces, the more energy it consumes.
- The U.S. accounts for 22.4% of the world's economic activity but only consumes 18.0% of the world's energy. Seen from this lens, the U.S. is actually very efficient.
- And getting better every year: between 1992 and today, U.S. energy use per dollar of GDP has declined an average of 2% per year.
Within these pages you'll find our macroeconomic and investment strategy views and a breakdown of our outlook, not by traditional asset class categories, but by investment objectives—growth, income, real returns and diversification—an acknowledgment that people invest not simply to beat benchmarks but to achieve specific investment goals.
This section is designed to identify the current state of the global economy and to assess how global policy decisions and macro trends will shape the outlook for world economic growth.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. has been the standard bearer for the modestly expanding global economy. While Europe dealt with the devastating results of disastrous fiscal austerity policies at the national level and tighter monetary policy, and emerging markets ultimately succumbed to a cyclical downturn, the U.S. grew at a stable, if unspectacular, rate. Modest growth was enough to propel U.S. equity outperformance. The tide may now be turning. For the first time in nearly a decade, the risk to the global economy is now centralized in the U.S. as President Trump’s pro growth agenda appears stalled while tighter monetary policy looms.
In Europe, a credit growth and earnings cycle is underway. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when policymakers shift their focus from austerity and tighter monetary conditions and toward deploying counter-cyclical measures to support growth (sarcasm off). Seen through the lens of the credit market, we believe this European economic cycle has a long way to run.
At the same time, most emerging markets are recovering from their 2015-2016 slowdowns and recessions. Weak currencies provide a nice tailwind while high real yields attract capital. Although Chinese growth is likely to slow in the months ahead, we believe stronger global demand for exports and a rapidly expanding consumer base, driven in part by pro-growth housing reforms, will prevent a hard landing in the Middle Kingdom.
Source: Bloomberg, 6/30/17. The United States, European Union, and Emerging Market returns are represented respectively by the net returns of the S&P 500 Index, MSCI Europe Index, and MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
To conclude, it is said that bull markets are born in pessimism, grow in skepticism, and die in euphoria. The current bull market is technically "old" when measured in duration and magnitude. Yet investors are anything but euphoric. Since 2009, $763 billion has come out of equity funds and ETFs while $1.5 trillion has gone into bonds.
- Fears of secular stagnation have no doubt propagated investors' wariness toward equities. Despite it all, global growth in 2017 is likely to be only modestly below its long-term average.
- Valuations may weigh on investors' minds and it is true that equity valuations are elevated compared to their historical averages. But there is little near-term information in that. Valuations can stay elevated and continue to climb far longer than investors realize (see 1996-1999). In order for the cycle to end, there needs to be a catalyst, either a major policy mistake somewhere in the world or a significant economic disruption in one of the major economies of the world.
- Political events such as the fiscal cliff, Brexit or the U.S. elections may create volatility but typically do not end business cycles.
We've laid out the risks on the preceding pages. As the business and credit cycles age, the risk of the next recession looms. There is little in the data to suggest that we are there yet. Global equities are likely to continue to be the asset class of choice.
Source: Strategas, 6/30/17. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Comparing the current economic cycle to recessions of the past, we find little evidence to suggest the cycle is coming to an end. The classic signs of excess are not evident.
- The Great Depression was a multi-faceted event that cannot be adequately accounted for by any single explanation but in many ways it was a credit boom gone wrong. Today, credit creation remains modest as the U.S. economy emerges from the deleveraging environment of the post-financial crisis period.
- The recession of the early 1980s was characterized by a prolonged period of weak growth and high inflation. Today, inflationary pressures remain muted.
- The tech bubble was characterized by excessive equity valuations. Today, valuations are generally in line with long-term averages.
- The 2008 financial crisis was highlighted by a sharp rise in household debt as a percentage of personal income. Today, household balance sheets appear much healthier.
- The ratio of S&P 500 Index to its trailing 12-month earnings per share (the P/E ratio) is elevated from a historical perspective.
- While absolute equity valuations are above their long-term average, the value of stocks relative to bonds is attractive compared to historical norms.
- The S&P 500 earnings yield (the inverse of the P/E ratio) is about 3% above the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield.
- If a selloff occurs, the downside is cushioned by compelling value relative to bonds, which is a global phenomenon.
The growth vs. value debate can often be better understood by observing the shape of the yield curve. A steepening yield curve generally is supportive of a value market while a flattening yield curve is supportive of a growth market.
In reality, the answer is more nuanced than that. Growth stocks have typically outperformed value stocks when the yield curve is between 80 basis points (20th percentile) wide and climbing or 230 basis points (60th percentile) wide and falling. Otherwise, value typically outperforms. The difference in 10-Year Treasury yields versus 3-Month Treasury yields is roughly 120 basis points wide, and likely to flatten further in the medium term. This should bode well for growth equities.
In a world where growth is relatively scarce, investors will pay a premium for growth. Value requires a catalyst (i.e., fiscal stimulus) that we do not believe is imminent.
Source: FactSet, 6/30/17. Forward returns are from 12/31/83–6/30/17 and are determined by looking at the average difference between the Russell 1000 Growth and Russell 1000 Value one-year forward returns during various periods of yield curve steepness and Russell 3000 Growth and Value Index for the same analysis. The 20th Percentile has a steepness of 84 basis points and the 60th has a steepness of 235 basis points. A basis point is one hundredth of a percent. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
We believe equities remain the asset class of choice. U.S. stock valuations, although elevated from a historical perspective, are still cheap relative to bonds. Emerging market equities continue to represent the most attractive valuations. Developed market equities ex-U.S. are likely to appear more attractively valued as the earnings cycle in Europe and Japan further materializes.
The risk in U.S. credit (high-yield bonds, investment-grade corporate bonds) is higher than it is in U.S. equities. Spreads are already tight as flows into U.S. credit have been robust. Corporate bonds will be the first to roll over when the U.S. cycle ultimately concludes. For now, U.S. credit should be viewed as an income-generating investment. Further price appreciation is unlikely.
Sources: Bloomberg, FactSet, Credit Suisse and Barclays, 6/30/17. Asset classes are represented by the following indices (in the order they appear on the chart): Credit Suisse High Yield Bond Index current spread over Treasuries difference from its long-term average, Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index current option-adjusted spread difference from its long-term average, Developed ex-U.S. premia is calculated by taking the earnings yield of the MSCI World ex. US Index and the S&P 500 Index earnings yield and then comparing its current difference to its long-term average. S&P 500 Index vs. U.S. Treasuries is calculated as the S&P 500 Index earnings yield and the current yield on U.S. Treasuries relative to their long-term average. Emerging Markets premia is calculated by taking the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and subtracting its earnings yield from the MSCI World Index to determine the current risk premia. All long-term measures are since index inception or 20-years. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
2017 was said to be a “make-or-break” year for the Eurozone and the common currency as a series of elections were to be a referendum on the European project. Thus far voters have overwhelmingly favored pro-Europe candidates over Eurosceptic contenders. The German federal elections in September 2017 are likely to continue the trend and produce market-friendly results. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union is maintaining strong leads in polls and demonstrating strength in regional elections. Make no mistake, the European project and all its trappings—a single market, free labor mobility across most of the continent, and decades of peace and stability—will persist well into the future.
Investors paying too much attention to European politics may be underappreciating the sound economic and earnings recovery taking place across the continent. Euro-area GDP rose by an annualized rate of 2% in the first quarter of 2017, stronger than the U.S. growth rate over the
same period. Credit growth only recently turned positive in Europe (U.S. credit growth turned positive as early as 2009) and growth and corporate earnings have been following in kind. A significantly weakened but now relatively stable Euro has provided a nice tailwind to the profitability of Europe’s many multinational businesses. Markets have been following in kind.
Sources: INSA poll, 5/22/17. Bloomberg, 6/30/17. MSCI Euro. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
The current macro backdrop—low unemployment, reasonable wage growth, a stable-to-weak U.S. dollar—is providing the Fed the cover it needs to continue to raise interest rates. Tighter monetary policy, barring an unlikely sizeable fiscal expansion, will slow the economy and the yield curve will continue to flatten.
The Fed is unlikely to invert the yield curve in 2018 as policymakers will turn their attention away from interest rate hikes and towards the prolonged unwinding of the Fed’s balance sheet.
The Fed will likely be able to successfully navigate the slow and prolonged process of allowing securities on its balance sheet to mature without reinvesting the proceeds. This is, however, unchartered territory for the central bank. There is no historical precedent to guide the nation’s central bankers and that represents a tail risk to the global economy and the financial markets. At a minimum, U.S. savings rates will have to rise to offset the lack of Fed participation in the bond and mortgage markets.
Nonetheless, our base case remains that the cycle in the U.S. will persist but a tighter monetary stance does not represent the best environment for risk taking in U.S. assets.
Sources: Haver, 6/30/17. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. System Open Market Account (SOMA) as of 5/17/17. SOMA portfolio projections are based on the maturity of each federal debt or mortgage-backed security in the SOMA portfolio. The SOMA portfolio displayed above does not include federal agency debt, gold stock, special drawing rights, and other items on the Federal Reserve balance sheet. The maturity timeline is based on the maturities of the individual securities held by the Federal Reserve, and the amounts are based on the par value of each security. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Chinese parallels to the U.S. on the eve of the Great Depression are not hard to find including explosive growth in the use of borrowed money to buy equities and other assets.
Contrary to popular myth, however, the U.S. did not suffer through a prolonged depression because of a collapse in stock prices in 1929 but instead because of policy blunders, including but not limited to, a failure to stem a run on the banks and the decision to adhere rigidly to the gold standard.
The real question now is whether or not the Chinese political establishment will implement the right economic and reform policies. We believe the net outcome will be that policymakers in China, unwilling to follow the mistakes of their predecessors in the U.S. in the 1930s, will at some point, de-peg their currency and put on full quantitative easing programs, ideally in conjunction with other economic reforms.
As for whether it is the 1920s in China today, the answer in many ways is yes, but not in the sense that a depression is looming. Rather, Chinese urbanization levels and GDP per capita are at levels last seen in the U.S. over eight decades ago. A great Chinese growth story is likely still ahead of us but an appropriate policy mix will be of prime importance.
Emerging market growth continues to exceed expectations since bottoming out in 2016. Massive policy support from Chinese economic policymakers helped boost internal and external demand. China’s recovery boosted demand globally for commodities, providing a tailwind and a path out of recession for Russia and Brazil. India’s economy has also bottomed following the decline in activity resulting from the Demonetization and Bill Replacement plan. Along with Brazil, Russia, India and China, many other emerging economies, including South Africa and Indonesia, have experienced significant improvements in current account balances over the past three years.
Leading indicators, as represented by the Purchasing Managers’ Index, continue to point higher, providing a potential tailwind for the financial markets.
Sources: Bloomberg, Haver, 6/30/17. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Seeking income in a low rate world has remained one of the biggest challenges for investors since the end of the financial crisis. 2017 is likely to see a continuation of the current low rate environment as many of the secular forces contributing to low rates persist, even with the U.S. Federal Reserve modestly raising benchmark rates. In the following sections you will read about some of the opportunities still available to investors for generating real income above the rate of inflation.
Interest rates tend to track nominal GDP growth rates. Over the past 50 years, this relationship has served as a guide as to why rates are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future. Truth be told, 10-year U.S. Treasuries still appear overbought when compared to a smoothed nominal GDP growth rate of 3.5% to 4.0%. But for U.S. yields to move substantially higher, one must forecast either a meaningful pickup in real economic activity (unlikely, given slowing population growth and weakening productivity trends in the U.S. and much of the developed world) or a wage-price spiral (also unlikely, given the output gaps of many of the world's developed economies). Yields across much of the developed world have already adjusted to a new, slower-growth world, and low yields in Europe and Japan will help to keep a lid on U.S. yields.
Source: Bloomberg, 6/30/17. Nominal GDP is smoothed over 10 years. Forecasts may not be achieved. GDP (gross domestic product) is the total value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year . Correlation expresses the strength of relationship between distribution of returns of two sets of data. The correlation coefficient is always between +1 (perfect positive correlation) and –1 (perfect negative correlation). A perfect correlation occurs when the two series being compared behave in exactly the same manner. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
U.S. rates remain low by historical standards with yields on traditional fixed income categories not far above core inflation. We used core inflation because we believe that the low headline inflation figure resulting from the sharp decline in oil prices is not reflective of the true inflation rate.
- Credit: Volatility may persist in the credit markets but we expect default probabilities to remain low as debt coverage ratios remain generally high and the number of companies facing maturities in 2017 and 2018 is low.
- MLPs: Yields became increasingly attractive during the 2015 selloff. We believe that there is a significant disconnect between the market perception of midstream MLPs and the volume of crude oil and natural gas that drives revenues in midstream assets.
- Municipal Bonds: While there are a few credit issuers worth watching, such as Puerto Rico, Chicago and Illinois, we don't expect widespread contagion throughout the municipal market if one of these large issuers missteps. 2016 saw the sixth consecutive year of negative net supply of municipals and a shrinking marketplace.
*Taxable equivalent yield (TEY) is based on the standardized yield and the combined effective federal and state tax rate of 43.4% for 2016 and assumes that alternative minimum tax (AMT) does not apply. Source: Bloomberg, 6/30/17. Asset classes are represented by the following indices (in the order they appear on the chart): Treasuries Index, Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate: Agencies Index, Commercial Mortgage‑Backed Securities Index, Aggregate Bond Index, Corporate Investment Grade Bond Index, FTSE NAREIT Equity REIT Index, Merrill Lynch BBB Municipal Bond Index, Credit Suisse Leveraged Loan Index, Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond Index, JPMorgan GBI-EM Global Diversified Composite Index and Alerian MLP Index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
With valuations extended in U.S. credit markets, emerging market local sovereign bonds and credit offer the most attractive value in fixed income.
- Inflation has been generally falling across emerging markets. The relatively benign inflation backdrop provides central bankers in most emerging market countries with the flexibility to provide monetary policy support to the promising economic recoveries.
- Importantly, as inflationary pressures have moderated, average real yields in emerging markets have approached near cyclical highs. Given the attractive real yields in emerging markets, the potential for another “taper tantrum” (i.e., capital flight out of the emerging markets as the Fed raises interest rates in the U.S.) is unlikely.
- Many emerging economies are now trading at deep discounts versus the U.S. dollar on a purchasing power parity basis.
Sources: Bloomberg and Ned Davis Research, 6/30/17. Countries included in the average real yield calculations are India, Russia, China, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil. Real yields are the nominal yield of a country’s sovereign bond minus the year-over-year change in their respective consumer price index. Currencies featured on the right chart are based on the purchasing power parity (PPP) basis valuation relative to the U.S. dollar. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
In an environment of slow economic growth worldwide, we do not think the opportunity set for equities will be driven by the traditional dynamics of economies, such as employment levels, interest rates or other macroeconomic factors. But we do think stocks can benefit from demographic trends, regulatory policies and innovations within industries that are poised to unlock transformational business growth. The next section covers some pronounced themes we have been focusing on as potential drivers for equity growth.
- Big Data
- Millennials moving into adulthood
- The "electronicification" of automobiles
- The U.S. for its economic diversity
- European Union due to its valuations and earnings momentum
- Japan because of its accommodative monetary policy
- Emerging Markets with its larger universe of companies
The oldest Baby Boomers, who once trusted no one over 30, are turning 65 this year at a rate of 8,000 people per day. What some view as a threat to the country, we view as a great investable opportunity.
Compared with prior generations, Baby Boomers are healthier, wealthier, more active, and are expected to work and live longer. As David Rubenstein, the co-founder of The Carlyle Group stated, "...they will spend whatever it takes...to make themselves live an enjoyable life..."
So now that the kids are out of the house and the first homes have been paid for, how will they spend their money?
- Enhancement of their quality of life through aids for chewing, hearing and seeing.
- Breakthroughs in immunotherapies that are curing once incurable diseases.
- Customizable vacations that provide activities and entertainment for all members of a family have become more popular among this generation.
- Boomers are splurging on the finer things in life.
There are major megatrends in healthcare:
Groundbreaking innovations in immunotherapy have resulted in the use of therapeutic agents for the management of diseases, such as leukemia, breast cancer, asthma and arthritis, to name a few. These developments along with further revolutionary research, have led the way for the next generation of drugs for the treatment of human diseases.
Improving the Quality of Life in Emerging Economies
Basic healthcare is now available to more people than ever before. Treatable ailments like vision impairment are being reduced dramatically by providing corrective glasses or cataracts surgery. It's estimated that 4 billion people need lenses and frames, but only 1.5 billion have them.
In emerging markets, we find that more people have not just one, but several pairs of glasses. Globally, it's estimated that everyone over the age of 75 needs a hearing aid, but only 1/4 have one. This new generation will have access to aids that their parents and grandparents before them never used.
The travel industry is changing to win over its most lucrative market ever: Baby Boomers. As the consulting firm Deloitte estimates, "The affluent, time- rich, and travel-hungry Baby Boomers control 60% of the nation's wealth and account for 40% of its spending." Travel is the top aspirational activity for Boomers with many expecting to take four to five trips next year.
How are they booking it?
Surprisingly, 85% of Boomers are using online booking services instead of the traditional travel agencies, figures which look identical to those of the technologically savvy Gen X. This trend favors companies behind the scenes that license their technology to the booking engines for popular travel search websites.
What trips are being taken?
More Boomers than ever before are taking cruises, customized for their needs. The reasons for this reside in the way cruises are structuring their trips, unique experiences that have something for everyone. They're providing multigenerational activities, depart locally, and due to their construction, prevent the need to walk excessively or climb stairs.
Why are they traveling?
The generation that challenged establishment, led a cultural awakening and went on to generate the greatest wealth in the country's history is now enjoying the fruits of their labor. Deloitte claims that 37% of all luxury purchases globally are made by tourists as a way to remember a trip or as a status symbol for their wealth.
Data deluge, a phrase coined by The Economist, describes the dramatic rise in the amount of data being generated, transmitted, downloaded and stored around the world. Cisco predicts the annual global Internet traffic of information will surpass a 2.3 zettabyte of data, equal to over 500 billion DVDs, by 2020.
How can investors benefit?
Consider that it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 100 million users and only seven years for the web to reach that milestone, more recently, the popular commuter game Candy Crush did it in 15 months. The rise in data generation is exponential. Recently, there has been a dramatic rise in big data software companies looking to gain insights from the flood of data.
There are many developed countries that have yet to pass infrastructure spending bills to underserved areas within their borders. Those laying wiring or building towers and satellites to transmit data worldwide may benefit dramatically from changes in political budgets.
A diverse group of traditional IT and cross industry companies alike have realized that their own data storage needs can be met through building server farms that provide cloud services and selling their excess real estate on a subscription basis to both smartphone owners and corporations. The margins on these subscriptions have turned out to be both highly profitable and predictable streams of diverse income.
There is a generation fast approaching that will soon be applying for their first mortgages without ever having to meet a mortgage officer, will be exchanging funds with their friends without writing a check, and will be purchasing goods without ever taking out their wallets.
And this will all be done with the phone in their pockets.
- 2 billion smartphones globally...market will still grow.
- Already half are mobile payment users, spending $1T in 2015.
Clear winners in this shift are both the financial services companies who potentially handle a large market of efficient purchasers, as well as those that produce the chips to put in both the phones and storefronts.
Cyberattacks are on the rise, and government agencies, law enforcement, and private corporations are all taking steps to stop them. Every year a billion digital records are lost or stolen and 96% of all data remains unsecured; free for any hacker to exploit.
The U.S. Government is catching on to the need to prevent another social security leak by increasing their yearly budget allocation to IT security from <$1bn in 2000 to $14bn in 2016. The overall market size currently sits at $106bn and is projected to grow to $170bn by 2020.
Mounting an effective defense against cyberattacks and staying one step ahead of the hackers requires constant innovation by cybersecurity industry leaders. 67% of IT security decision-makers are planning on upgrading their endpoint defenses. The realities of the threat now, and in the future, will create strong growth opportunities for investors' innovative, next-generation cybersecurity companies.
These companies are looking to stop... ... By providing
Web App Attacks... ... Firewalls
Insider Misuse... ... Secure Servers
POS Intrusions... ... Routers
Payment Card Skimmers... ... Antivirus Software
Crimeware... ... IP Routing
Cyber-Espionage... ... Malware Detection Tools
A low-for-long call on interest rates doesn't mean that interest rates won't ever move from these levels. How have asset classes responded during various interest rate environments?
Using the average 10-Year U.S. Treasury rate over the past 20 years (4%), we identify two different rate regimes (below 4% and rising, below 4% and falling). The results show that rising interest rate environments have proven to be favorable to equity and equity-like assets.
This section is designed to help articulate some of your core wealth management capabilities and concepts. Historically we are a left-brain industry talking to a right-brain client; often relying too heavily on charts, graphs, statistics and data rather than providing a broader framework and context, and creating compelling clarity through the use of analogy, metaphor and story. This section has a number of "recurring client conversations" that all advisors have designed to bring together left-brain structure with right-brain delivery.
Our entire practice has been designed to address the two fundamental questions that every client has of our industry.
Question #1 is, "will I make it?" We have found the majority of people we meet haven't even defined "it."
- First, we take you through an immersive discovery process and help you define everything you're trying to accomplish in your financial life.
- Then we take a look at everything you're doing to determine whether in fact what you hope happens has a chance to occur.
- If those two align we will pat you on the back and say congratulations, you're well on your way.
- If there is a deficiency or shortfall we will surface the issue and give you rational solutions to get back on track.
This brings us to question #2, "Do I have any financial blind spots?"
- Here our team does a 360° look at you from a financial perspective, looking for anything that could do yourself, your family or your business harm. Once again if we uncover something, we will surface the issue and give you rational solutions to close that risk exposure.
So at the end of this exhaustive process you have answered the two fundamental questions that everyone has: "Will I make it and do I have any financial blind spots."
We incorporate the same three-step process used by the medical profession.
- In the diagnostic phase the doctor focuses on three areas: your past medical history, your current symptoms and your future objectives for your long-term well-being.
- The doctor then takes the information and provides a prognosis.
- Only then does the doctor make targeted recommendations designed to take you on your unique medical journey.
We take that same three-step approach in our practice.
- Step one is deep discovery. In this discovery phase we look at your past financial history, your current financial structure and your future financial objectives for your long-term well-being.
- Step two is to take all of that information, data and insight and come back with a written plan of attack.
- Then and only then do we make specific targeted recommendations designed to fulfill that plan and take you on your unique financial journey.
As part of our comprehensive wealth management strategy, we help you protect against three major contingencies that can devastate you, your family and/or your business financially:
- You can die too soon
- You can live too long
- Or you can break down on the journey
We work closely with your attorney to ensure that your estate is structured and funded in a way that mitigates these three contingencies.
Unlike any other investment decision we make, this one is always on the clock. If we decide to invest in a particular stock or portfolio manager, we can do that pretty much at any time in the near future with nominal impact. However, when it comes to contingency planning and the use of insurance products "everyone has a Monday and Tuesday in their lives... on Monday they're insurable, and on Tuesday they're not."
As a matter of principle we always make sure to pack our lifesavers before we take your financial craft out to sea.
When asked by a client or prospect why you formed a team, you're being challenged to explain the rationale, structure and value your team provides.
We formed a team because of one simple word: complexity!
While the human condition has never been better, life has also never been that complex. The complexity is multidimensional and is transforming our industry.
The demographic and financial complexity, geopolitical complexity and extremely interrelated markets create complexities in which, when someone sneezes in China, we get a cold in the United States and Europe. It requires the fully integrated capability of the banking industry, the brokerage industry and the insurance industry. People spend their entire lives in one of these industries, but we now must bring all three to bear on your complex financial challenges. A single person is incapable of knowing all that's necessary to deploy this complex integrated model. This is why we formed a team; to apply the collective insights and capabilities of those three industries to solve the complex financial needs of our clientele. We believe one individual is simply incapable of knowing all that's necessary to address these challenges.
"I believe there are two ways to go through life: faith or fear. I choose faith: faith in the long-term viability of a free people, in an open society, under the rule of law, with private property rights, to improve their condition over the long term. Now this has only been true for 6,000 years of recorded history. However, if it ever ceases to be true, the last thing you and I will be worried about is our portfolio, because we will be too busy trying to find a local library to obtain a book on farming...because we will have reverted to an agrarian society! I believe it is this reasoned faith and historical perspective that informs us and guides our long-term wealth management strategy. We can therefore only work with clients who make their financial and investment decisions with the same philosophical and historical perspective. So Mr. and Mrs. Jones, how do you make your decisions...faith or fear?"
"Now let me speak to the issue of faith for one moment. There is a vast difference between faith and credulity. Let me illustrate. When a pilot gets into the cockpit they go through a preflight checklist to minimize as many knowable risks as possible. Once they complete that checklist their final act is...an act of faith. They start that engine with the knowledge that there are risks that might lay ahead, that could never be captured on that checklist. Another pilot hops into the cockpit, takes the preflight checklist and tosses it into the back seat, then starts the engine and takes off! That is an act of credulity...blind faith...and that is not what we're talking about here.
"Our checklist is composed of your unique risk profile, time horizons, specific financial objectives, current assets and contribution levels. This highly personalized checklist is combined with historical rates of return and a highly diversified portfolio, which is designed to give you the best chance of achieving all of your financial objectives."
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