Displaying items by tag: inflation

Saturday, 08 June 2024 12:08

Worries of a Crisis in Commercial Real Estate

There are increasing concerns that a crisis is brewing in commercial real estate (CRE), as over the next couple of years, $2 trillion in CRE loans will need to be refinanced. Previously, there were hopes that macro conditions would soften, leading to lower rates and a more favorable lending environment. Instead, inflation has proven to be more resilient than expected, and expectations of Fed dovishness have been dialed back.

In addition to high rates, major challenges include decreasing demand for offices and rising vacancies, a stricter lending environment, and balance sheet woes at regional banks, which traditionally account for a large share of CRE lending. However, there is significant variance within the CRE market. Areas like data centers, hotels, and industrial buildings continue to show strength, while retail and multifamily exhibit more mixed performance.

If conditions worsen, there is a risk of spillover effects on the broader economy, including decreased lending activity due to losses at banks, lower tax revenue for local governments due to more vacancies and lower property values, and subsequent declines in hiring. However, the consensus continues to be that there won’t be a full-blown crisis as the sector is sufficiently diversified and continues to have strong credit performance despite adverse conditions.


Finsum: Investors should pay attention to the CRE market given the refinancing cliff and challenges posed by higher rates and a stricter lending environment. 

Published in Alternatives

The first five months of 2024 have featured above-average volatility for fixed income due to inflation continuing to run hot and increased uncertainty about the Fed’s next move. Despite these headwinds, institutional investors have been increasing their allocations to long-duration Treasuries and high-quality, corporate bonds.

One factor is that there is increasing confidence that inflation and the economy will cool in the second half of the year, following a string of soft data. As a result, allocators seem comfortable adding long-duration bonds to lock in yields at these levels. Many seem intent on front-running the rally in fixed income that would be triggered by the prospect of Fed dovishness. According to Gershon Distenfeld of AllianceBernstein, “History shows pretty consistently that yields rally hard starting three to four months before the Fed actually starts cutting.” 

For investors who believe in this thesis, Vanguard has three long-duration bond ETFs. The Vanguard Long-Term Bond ETF is composed of US government, investment-grade corporate, and investment-grade international bonds with maturities greater than 10 years. For those who prefer sticking solely to bonds, the Vanguard Long-Term Treasury ETF tracks the Bloomberg US Long Treasury Bond Index, which is composed of bonds with maturities greater than 10 years old. 

Many allocators are adding duration exposure via high-quality corporates given higher yields vs. Treasuries. These borrowers would also benefit from rate cuts, which would reduce financing costs and boost margins. The Vanguard Long-Term Corporate Bond ETF tracks the Bloomberg US 10+ Year Corporate Bond Index, which is comprised of US investment-grade, fixed-rate debt issued by industrial, financial, and utilities with maturities greater than 10 years. 


Finsum: Interest is starting to pick up in long-duration bonds following softer than expected economic and inflation data, which is leading to more optimism that the Fed will cut rates later this year.

Published in Bonds: Total Market

Traditionally, fixed income is where financial advisors look to reduce portfolio risk. This is no longer the case in the post-pandemic period, as the bond market has experienced major volatility, which is becoming the norm in a high-rate, high-inflation regime.

Given these conditions, investors may be better off with fixed index annuities (FIAs). Like bonds, FIAs produce income; however, a key difference is that FIAs guarantee an income stream for life as opposed to a fixed period. Another advantage of FIAs is that they have higher earnings potential than bonds, given that many are designed to earn interest based on the performance of an external index like the S&P 500. In contrast, fixed income has significantly underperformed over the last 5 years and failed to beat inflation.

Over long periods of time, costs matter when it comes to long-term investing. Most bond investments have fees that range between 0.5% and 2%. In contrast, FIAs tend to have much lower fees, on average. 

In terms of risk, FIA offers full protection of the principal investment. This means that it can be more effective than fixed income to hedge equities, especially in the current environment. Overall, FIAs can be more effective than fixed income, especially for investors who are in or nearing retirement. 


Finsum: Advisors should consider fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) as an alternative to fixed income, especially in the current environment. FIAs offer lower costs, more downside protection, and greater potential for appreciation.

Published in Alternatives

Entering 2024, the consensus was that the Federal Reserve would be cutting rates in the back half of the year in response to falling inflation and a slowing economy. This has major implications for private real estate, given that trillions of dollars in loans are maturing over the next couple of years. 

Yet, economic data and inflation have been more resilient than expected. Now, rate cut odds have narrowed, while there is some chatter that the Fed may have to tighten further. Currently, the Fed continues to signal that its next move is to cut rates, albeit later and to a lesser extent than previously thought. 

Still, this is likely to be uncomfortable for many borrowers, as many are holding onto properties based on the belief that rates will be lower, leading to more favorable selling or refinancing conditions. This is especially the case for those exposed to floating-rate debt. 

According to Richard Mack, the CEO and co-founder of Mack Real Estate Group, “People are paying to hold assets, but unless rents rise quickly, eventually asset prices will have to adjust to rates instead of hoping and anticipating rate decreases. In essence, you have to pay to wait and see what kind of recovery transpires, which is different from past cycles where interim cash flow paid you to wait for appreciation.” 


Finsum: Many were confident that conditions for real estate would improve as the Fed eased policy in the second half of the year. Now, many borrowers are likely to face increased stress as rate-cut expectations have been scaled back.

Published in Alternatives
Saturday, 18 May 2024 12:55

Is the 4% Rule Still Relevant?

The 4% rule has become conventional wisdom when it comes to managing finances during retirement. As millions of people enter retirement over the next decade, it may be time to revise this rule, given higher inflation and longer lifespans.

Social Security benefits are typically equivalent to 40% of a retiree’s income. According to TIAA, retirees should consider pairing the 4% rule with an annuity to generate higher levels of income during retirement. This means that a retiree would convert some portion of their savings into an annuity.

In the first year, this is likely to boost income by up to 32% compared to just using the 4% rule. It also leads to more predictable income and shields retirees from market risk. More predictability can also help with more effective financial planning, leading to a more enjoyable retirement. 

Treasury Inflation Protection Securities (TIPS) are another method to increase guaranteed income, especially with a ladder across different maturities. It also protects retirees against inflation. 

Overall, the 4% rule should be reconsidered, especially in this era. It leads to less spending flexibility and should be augmented with other sources of income. It also doesn’t account for retirees’ individual circumstances, such as tax rates, risk profiles, and cash flow needs. 


Finsum: TIAA believes that the 4% rule should be reconsidered, especially for those retiring now. Retirees may need more income and should consider annuities or TIPS.

Published in Alternatives
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