Eq: Total Market

Return flights.No return policy.

Well, whichever way you look at it, as the first half of the year hits the rearview mirror, you might say  fixed income has a take of its own. according to schwab.com.

The topsy turvy market aside, all signs are up on year to date returns in virtually every sub asset class of the fixed income market, Modest gains were posted by short term investments with low durations. Meantime, a duo of higher starting coupons and yields, which tracked south, boosted intermediate to long term bonds.

All that said, in 18 months, fixed income markets have been feeling their oats. 

That wasn’t the case last year, according to janushenderson.com. After all, that was in light of the central bank’s concerted monetary tightening. With that, yields rose sharply while the prices of bonds retreated. The feeling toward bonds these days? Markedly different.

Global flows into fixed income? Thumb’s up. Year to date, $152 billion entered fixed income funds, reported EPFR Global.

In an article for MarketWatch, Mark Hulbert discusses the collapse of the volatility index (VIX) over the last couple of months, and why it could be a harbinger of a sustained stock market rally according to historical data. 

According to Hulbert when the VIX reaches a fresh, 3-year low, it’s likely to remain low for a couple more months which implies further gains for equities. However, this view is contrary to the consensus expectations on Wall Street which see further erosion in the economic outlook, causing the economy to stumble into a recession. This perspective sees the low Vix as a sign of complacency rather than a ‘continuation’ signal.

Hulbert points to history. Since 1990, the best performing months from a risk and return perspective, have come with low VIX readings. Based on this data, investors should increase equity allocations as the volatility index declines and reduce it as it rises.

Another benefit of this strategy is that it dampens the impact of volatility on the portfolio which increases the odds that investors will stick to their investment plan and not let the market’s twists and turns shake them out of their holdings. 


Finsum: Many on Wall Street see the plunge in the volatility index as a contrarian signal, implying complacency. Mark Hulbert disagrees and sees it as the start of a sustained rally.

 

In an article for Bloomberg, Larry Berman discussed recent improvements in stock market breadth, and what it could mean for volatility. One defining feature of the stock market rally has been the limited participation as the bulk of gains have been driven by the tech sector and a handful of mega cap stocks. 

But, this is now changing as economic data continues to come in better than expected, and more parts of the market are joining the rally. According to Berman, this is an indication that the market rally could be in its early innings which means that recent weakness in volatility is likely to linger. 

Berman labels this as a ‘bullish divergence’. However, he notes that future contracts of volatility are not yet depressed as the front-month contract. This is an indication that the market does expect volatility to pick back up in the second-half of the year which is also consistent with many analysts who see the economy falling into a recession by then. 

He believes that some sort of catalyst is necessary for the bearish scenario to develop which isn’t evident at the moment. This is especially the case as many of the ‘risks’ faced by the market at the start of the year haven’t materialized. 


Finsum: There’s an interesting divergence in the market with front-month volatility depressed, while future contracts remain elevated. However, improving market breadth may signal that future month contracts may also move lower in the coming weeks. 

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