Eq: Large Cap
One of the most worrying characteristics of the extremely sharp recovery the market experienced over the summer was the heavy bias towards the highest end of large caps-mega caps. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google led the way while many other stocks continued to fall, or rose much less strongly. However, in the last few weeks that has started to shift, with a resurgence of breadth in the market. Gainers have outpaced losers 2-to-1 over the last two weeks, as investors have started to believe in a strong economic recovery. That means previously underperforming large caps are starting to join small caps in rallying into the growing economic recovery.
FINSUM: This is the perfect time for large cap value. The economic recovery is underway and there are plenty of god value large caps that have room to rise because of unreasonable discounting from COVID.
Dividend stocks have gotten a whole lot harder to choose this year. It used to be that you could pick a wide selection of stable decent-yielding stocks and hold them for the long haul. However, COVID has disrupted that in many ways, as it has disproportionately weakened some sectors and disrupted many business models. With that in mind, here are three key lessons to remember when choosing dividend stocks in 2020: expect lower payouts, be wary of financing, don’t chase after yields. The first one is simple—many companies have had to cut dividends and many more will. The second is highly related to the first: be wary when companies have to use debt in order to maintain a dividend. In that sense, simply maintaining the dividend is not necessarily a sign of strength. Finally, and most interestingly, is the lesson about not chasing yields. Because yields are so low, dividend stocks are likely to see gains anyway, so it is more important to focus on the sustainability of dividends than chase yields that might collapse.
FINSUM: All of these lessons make a great deal of sense in the current environment. We particularly like the idea that stocks which don’t have the very highest dividends might actually produce the best combined returns.
High yield stocks have been wounded during the pandemic. The 100 worst performing S&P 500 stocks since the pandemic began have returned minus 39% and yield an average of 3.07%; the top 100 have returned over 35% and yield just 0.85%. However, now might be the time to buy in as there are some exceptional values. The core idea is that many of these wounded names are going to be bid up over the next several months as yield-starved investors try to find some income.
FINSUM: Right now it is very important to be selective about dividend stocks, as their returns are all over the map. For example, the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) has returned 4% this year, while the iShares Select Dividend ETF has returned minus 18%! The reason why is that the latter was weighted towards utilities and financials, which have suffered. Be careful what you choose!
Asset managers, other industry participants, and others on the left have been outraged over the last several weeks about a new DOL proposal that would essentially bar ESG investments from being included in 401(k)s. Multiple large asset managers, including BlackRock and T. Rowe Price have issued statements asserting how out of touch the new DOL policy would be with current wealth management trends. The general attitude of asset managers is that the DOL is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. According to T. Rowe Price, “There is no factual support for the proposition that ESG is being misused currently … Accordingly, the proposed rule’s efforts to impose new requirements on fiduciaries’ consideration of ESG is not necessary”.
FINSUM: We understand the concern about making sure 401ks put economics first, but there just does not seem to be enough evidence of misbehavior to warrant this kind of restrictive policy. Furthermore, ESG funds have been outperforming conventional ones since the start of the pandemic!
Anyone who has been looking at the bond markets is likely to be shocked at the recent moves in the space. Many “high yield” bonds (it is now necessary to use quotes) are yielding what very high quality investment grade bonds were just months ago. A recent sale saw $1 bn of new issuance for a BB+ company at a 3% yield. The huge move downward in bond yields is the result of the Fed’s unprecedented stimulus action, and in particular, their mandate to backstop corporate bonds.
FINSUM: The Fed’s actions have been so warping that they have called into question the very definition of a high yield bond. If every bond is backed by the Fed, then it makes perfect sense that their yields would equalize. In this way the market’s reaction is entirely predictable.
Junk bonds have been on a tear lately. July was the best month for the asset class in nearly nine years, with overall returns near 5%. The average junk bond yield fell from 6.85% to 5.46% over the course of the month on the back on continued monetary and fiscal stimulus. The market has risen so much that many are questioning if they have already missed the opportunity. To this question, one high yield fund manager says “I don’t think so . . . Governments across the world want to make sure credit is working properly”.
FINSUM: As long as sovereign yields stay super low and the Fed and government keep the life lines open, it is easy to imagine yields will keep falling for junk.