In the face of record inflation, the Virtus Real Assets Income ETF (VRAI) has done extraordinarily well, up 19% year-to-date, and significantly beating the S&P 500, which is up 14%. On top of this, the ETF generates compelling income of 3%, well above the 10 Year US Treasuries at 1.5%.
Investing in real assets is a winning strategy in an inflationary environment because tangible assets such as real estate, natural resources and infrastructure have intrinsic value. VRAI is the first ETF focused on real assets. Additionally, because of VRAI’s focus on income-generating real assets, VRAI also generates attractive income.
In terms of ETF construction, VRAI is designed to be one-stop solution for real asset exposure. VRAI consists of 90 US-traded companies, equally divided between real assets, natural resources, and infrastructure. Companies are filtered based upon market capitalization and selected based upon dividend yield. All stocks are equally weighted to ensure portfolio diversification.
Finally, in terms of costs, VRAI is very competitively priced at 55 bps (0.55%). This stands stark contrast to most energy and real estate ETFs and mutual funds, which typically cost over 100 bps (or 1%).
For more information on the investment case, check out this research piece produced by Virtus
n.b. This is sponsored content and not FINSUM editorial
Morgan Stanley Warns Inflation is Rising
Why This Selloff May Change Everything
The Fed Might Take a Very Hawkish Turn
One of the most puzzling aspects of markets in 2023 for investors has been the relative weakness in volatility. This is despite a plethora of risks for the economy and markets including rising recession risk, elevated levels of inflation, a hawkish Fed, deep stresses in the banking system, and a looming debt ceiling standoff that seems certain to go till the deadline.
Yet, stocks are at their highest levels in more than a year, while volatility is at its lowest level in a couple of years. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Caitlin McCabe discusses the potential impact of quant funds on volatility, and why it could potentially account for the discrepancy.
Basically, quant funds have been piling into stocks even though most investors remain on the sidelines. Currently, these funds have a net exposure level to stocks that is the highest since December 2021, before the bear market started. In contrast, investors have a relatively low allocation to stocks and have reduced it this year.
Some see risks in the concentrated positions of these quant funds which increase the odds of a market dislocation in the event of bad or unexpected news. Another factor in reduced volatility has been steady inflows from corporate buybacks. Overall, it’s been an exceptionally calm stretch with less than a 1% move for the S&P 500 in 36 out of the last 46 sessions.
Finsum: One mystery for markets in 2023 has been the steady drop in volatility despite growing risks. One potential reason may be quant funds which are aggressive buyers of stocks.
Debt Ceiling Showdown Could Lead to Volatility Spike: Vanguard
Volatility Continues to Baffle Investors
In debt to whom?
Sure tech investors have had their share of ups and downs, but they have been largely insulated from the market’s bigger losses but things could change. The underlying trends in the technology sector are looking as bad as they have in a long time. There is severe weakness in consumer-oriented hardware products. Moreover, as supply chains relax these prices could fall further. Additionally, sub-sectors such as enterprise tech spending are starting to deteriorate. The weakening demand is beginning to show at the company level as earnings season shows signs of weakness in technology. While there have been outliers such as Cisco, the market might not be ready for widespread tech deterioration.
Finsum: The other huge problem is rising interest rates and rampant inflation which lower the value of future earnings and make growth stocks less attractive.
Musk Fires Off at Tesla Shorters
ESG: The Next Wave in Annuities
Musk Bashes ESG
Congress continues to look for ways to fund the $1.85 trillion bill that aims to spend on social and climate policy. While they have already considered objectives that would align the U.S. with the G20’s global minimum tax rate, the current bill will also affect wealthier individuals’ retirement vehicles. Congress will put limits on large accounts for individuals or couples with $10 million dollar retirement balances. The newest Build Back Better bill also eliminates the ‘backdoor’ Roth IRA by minimizing rollovers and conversions. The date for the former rule change isn’t until Dec. 31, 2028 but the backdoor loophole is set to close Dec. 31st of this year in the current bill.
FINSUM: Substantial changes to savings and retirement could be coming in the upcoming legislation, and investors should be aware of how these changes could affect their retirement vehicles.
If Republicans Sweep the Election These Stocks Win
Trump is Weakening in a Key Battleground State
Twitter Starts Undermining Trump
The European Stockxx 600 was up .5% on Friday driven by earning releases in the banking sector. That trend followed around the globe as Asia-Pacific’s Taiex index boosted 2% and Wallstreet’s S&P was up 2%. It was strong financial earnings in U.S., and semiconductors in the East pushing the Taiex. All of this happens as inflations concerns continue in the U.S. as consumer prices rose 5.4% on the year, but the Euro areas are seeing the opposite results as monthly inflation was negative in France. The common price thread is definitely in energy prices as Brent crude hit $84.40 a barrel.
FINSUM: The trickling earning reports have generally exceeded expectations. That trend looks to continue, and global portfolios are not only diverse but are outperforming.
European Central Bank Takes on Climate Change
JP Morgan Says to Bet on International Stocks
Why it is a Great Time for International Stocks
The U.S. had two consecutive quarters of negative growth meeting the technical requirements of a recession, and for the first time in over 40 years that coincided with very high inflation. Tasked with generating high returns in a stagflation environment investors are turning to an odd place, emerging markets. While some EM has suffered as a result of a stronger dollar and Fed tightening, pockets are promising to bring big returns in higher growth environments abroad. Countries relying on exports will have a difficult time, but countries like India, Malaysia, and Indonesia all have fairly robust domestic consumer demand and are quick-growing economies. The last country is an oddball but China has continued to deliver stimulus throughout the pandemic and may put itself in a good position to capture investor attention.
Finsum: Equities abroad are ultra-low, finding the right countries with domestic consumer support could be very profitable.
Big Boost Coming for Emerging Markets
Emerging Markets Looking Bleak
You are Overlooking a Great Value Play
Nope; no precious four baggers here. Instead, ESG recently took something of a hit as the United Nations convened a climate alliance for insurers, according to reuters.com. A minimum of three additional departures – including the chair of the group – took place. What had them heading for the exits? Opposition from U.S. Republicans pols.
As of the time of this report, on May 25, that meant at least seven members of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance had bid the group adieu, with five of the eight founding signatories included. NZIA was founded in 2021.
Over the past year, in terms of reaching decisions evolving around investments, negativity stemming from the contemplation of EGS factors has dominated the landscape, according to weforum.org.
The invasion of Ukraine, inflation and, in some parts of the world, a spike in populism, have aroused criticism surrounding ESG.
The caveat: integral to abetting the swing to a greener, more sustainable future hinges on investing that’s truly sustainable and, consequently, shouldn’t be shucked aside.
Even so, the period of negative scrutiny in so much as arriving at investment decisions generated by ESG factors, has been unprecedented.
Office REITs Faltering
Bank Stock Volatility Draws Scrutiny from Regulators
Adieu to 2022?
Rules. Rules. Okay, right; not on your top 10 list. Understood. But since the, well, ETF rule, hit the scene in 2019, ETFs have, as they say, come a long way, according to etfdb.com.
In fact, those that have proved their mettle are paying dividends by being particularly attractive to investors. Okay, but how do they pull that off? The three year milestone’s one way. During that period, a strategy to put together assets, establish a track record and strut their worth can blossom. Investors – with fixed income engaging a return – could mull the addition of a core fixed income ETF on the verge of hitting its own three year mark.
This year, escalating inflation and interest rates – not to mention the burgeoning risk of a recession – have done a number on the way in which exchange traded funds are performing, according to the globeandmail.com.
“We’re likely going to see a dichotomy of looking for safety while seeking income,” says Danielle LeClair, director of manager research at Morningstar Canada in Toronto.
American execs grooving to the tune of ESGs
High Yield ETF’s Influence on Bond Market Rising
Billions Flooding into Junk Bond ETFs
In an article for ETFStream, Theo Andrew discussed how bond market liquidity has improved in recent years due to increased electronic trading and fixed income ETFs. Bond ETFs have gone from $729 billion in assets under management to $1.7 trillion between 2017 and 2023. By the end of the decade, it’s projected to reach $5 trillion which would equate to 5% of the global bond market.
In some smaller markets, ETFs are accounting for an increasing share of trading volume. Institutions are increasingly getting comfortable with these instruments especially to manage credit risk. Trading in ETFs is also less costly than individual bonds.
Due to increasing liquidity, there is increased price transparency and tighter spreads. It also is enabling more portfolio trading, where asset managers can automate rebalancing and quickly implement changes in the portfolio.
Growth in portfolio trading and fixed income ETFs has been symbiotic as a deeper and richer fixed income ETF market makes portfolio trading more appealing. In turn, more allocations to portfolio trading inevitably boost inflows into fixed income ETFs.
Finsum: Fixed income ETFs are leading to an increase in bond market liquidity. In turn, this is leading to more adoption of portfolio trading.
Easing Investors’ Worst Fears
Black Rock Increasing Focus on Active Funds
End of story. Who doesn’t want to save a buck? Maybe two?
Last year was a terrible year for the markets, even for many hedge funds. According to investment data firm Preqin, hedge fund returns were down 6.5% in 2022, the largest drop since the 13% decline in 2008 during the financial crisis. That’s why global hedge fund managers are preparing for persistent inflation by seeking exposure to commodities and bonds that perform well in inflationary environments. A majority of 10 global asset and hedge fund managers that were surveyed by Reuters said commodities are undervalued and should thrive as global inflation stays elevated this year. In addition, they are also seeking inflation-linked bonds to shield against price rises, and exposure to certain corporate credit, as higher rates restore differentiation in company bond spreads. For instance, London-based hedge fund manager, Crispin Odey is betting inflation will remain high. He told Reuters that "Commodities will start to rise again. They've sold off very heavily and are below operating costs in many instances." Danielle Pizzo, chief strategy officer at Schonfeld Strategic Advisors, told Reuters that her firm “Aims to focus more on investment grade and high-yield bonds this year as well as commodities.”
Finsum:Hedge funds, which saw the largest drop in performance last year since the financial crisis, are concerned about persistent inflation and are seeking exposure to commodities and select bonds.
Gold Bulls See Second Stimulus Package as Tipping Point for Another Run
Gold May Be Ready to Head Higher
Time to Load Up on Gold
The U.S. has an extended history of periods of financial regulation, specifically trust-busting. That period has been in hibernation though for the last 50 years, that is, until now. Many judges in the United States may be getting a slue of cases related to similar topics with mergers and competition as Private Equity has extended its ownership to unprecedented levels. There is more alignment than ever within the administration on the future of competition and private equity when it comes to policy. They are pursuing new readings and interpretations of longer-standing precedents that will be more stringent on PE. This new strain of regulation has long-standing Democratic Economists like Larry Summers voicing concern, calling the new policies ‘populist antitrust’.
Finsum: There have been a large number of papers on the effect of co-ownership and competition that private equity companies are imposing, and that could be reaching its peak.