Displaying items by tag: volatility
With the proliferation of ETFs and model portfolios and the growing amount of assets flowing into them, more and more AUM has been going into low vol and other risk management-oriented strategies. This is doubly true with the big volatility of the last year. However, a small cautionary tale to share today. If you take a look at LVHD, a popular “low volatility high dividend” ETF from Legg Mason, you see a fund that has significantly underperformed the S&P 500 and failed to protect investors from volatility. It is hard to know exactly why because the fund’s proprietary methodology is not transparent. However, even that fact is representative of the space. In their rush to defend against downside, many low vol ETFs and models can inadvertently and drastically underperform and expose investors to very low risk-return profiles.
FINSUM: What you get is not always what is being sold, so when choosing low vol products, make sure to pay significant attention to methodology and track record, especially during periods of volatility.
There has been a lot of speculation over the last month about whether the market is in a bubble. The reason for this are numerous: the huge run up in large cap growth stocks, the meme stock frenzy and beyond. However, the answer to whether the market is in a bubble can be found in a recent study and paper by Harvard. Researchers from the university outlined what bubbles really are, and clearly show that by historical standards there is only one sector of the market currently in a bubble: the S&P 500 Technology Hardware, Storage & Peripherals index, which does include Apple. However, no other sectors, nor the S&P 500 itself could be considered to be in a bubble. In fact, it is quite rare for the market as a whole to be in a bubble. Rather, market bubbles are usually constrained to a small handful of sectors. This could be seen in what is considered to be one of the biggest of all time—the Dotcom bubble. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, tech stocks surged to extraordinary valuations, while many sectors, like value stocks, lagged. When the bubble burst, many sectors actually benefitted (like value stocks).
FINSUM: This history is quite useful for context, but as our readers know, we feel each market cycle is unique and thus historical insight can only take you so far. In this instance, we think it is important to take into consideration that bonds are yielding very little, meaning there is no good alternative to equities. We believe this situation—which is obviously created/supported by the Fed and government—will help continue to lift equities.
Momentum funds often get bad press. While they have obvious utility, a lot of people say they feed bubbles and are subject to very big losses from market corrections. That said, some funds have started to do an excellent job at both hedging and outperforming to the upside. While that might sound impossible, it is not as hard as it sounds. The key is to follow the market’s movement, but not try to predict it. In other words, in strongly upward markets, you position yourself very bullish (e.g. 200% exposure). In downward markets, you take an inverse or short exposure to profit from losses. In a decent market you simply stay at 100% long exposure. By using this approach you can participate it more of the upside and lose less on the downside.
FINSUM: This is a smart strategy and one that some momentum funds are using to outperform the market right now. It can be employed either by buying funds or with an options strategy.
Fixed index annuities are a relative newcomer to the annuities industry. For those unfamiliar, fixed index annuities offer some upside from markets, while also putting in a floor on losses. Their sales have surged lately. While volatility from COVID was a strong tailwind for fixed index annuity sales, the other big factor has to do with interest rates. Diversifying holdings into fixed income yields next to nothing, and does not currently offer the de-risking that investors have long sought it for. Couple that reality with the huge mass of Baby Boomers entering retirement and it is clear why fixed index annuities are so sensible right now.
FINSUM: Fixed income just isn’t offering the traditional risk hedge versus equities that it long has. That makes fixed index annuities—with their loss floors and upside participation—the natural replacement.
Large cap value is a very interesting area at the moment. Over the last few weeks there has been a pickup in breadth, with gainers outpacing losers 2-to-1. Megacap tech stocks are not leading the market like they were early on in the recovery. That means the chances for broad market gains are looking stronger. With that in mind, large cap value looks like an excellent choice. Compared to small and midcaps, large caps are less volatile and more diversified. They do have more international exposure (which could be a positive or a negative), but on the whole they appear as though they have as much or more upside potential with less downside risk.
FINSUM: If you believe in a coming broad-based rally in stocks, then large cap value seems like a good place to be.