Next week is going to be a media circus, as the odds of real Trump fireworks look likely to surge. The reason why is that Michael Cohen is going to testify at an open public hearing before the House Oversight Committee next Thursday. The committee, seemingly defending its actions, commented that “Congress has an obligation under the Constitution to conduct independent and robust oversight of the Executive Branch, and this hearing is one step in that process”. The questions Cohen will answer will concern hush money payments, potential Trump conflicts of interest etc, but will not touch on Mueller’s probe into Russian interference.
FINSUM: No matter how you feel about Cohen, or whether you think this is just political theatre, the odds of a media bombshell, true or not, seem high.
There is a big development happening in fund management. That is change is that fundamental and quantitative approaches are merging. Often, funds are no longer purely fundamental or quantitative, but instead merge the two, creating a whole new category which is starting to be referred to as “quantamental”. In its most simple form, quantamental often looks like a multi-factor ETF that also includes some continuous “human” intervention, such as reducing statistical quirks. However, more sophisticated approaches truly blend the two, using human skill to analyze stocks which are sending promising technical signals.
FINSUM: We are pretty fond of the principles which underpin quantamental approaches as they seem to take the best aspects of both philosophies. Time will tell if the approach is a winner in a broad sense.
Quantitative ETFs are growing in popularity. Using rules-based approaches to stock-picking is cost effective and has proven successful in many cases, making quantitative methods a good fit for ETFs. With that in mind, here are seven of the best quantitative ETFs: QuantX Dynamic Beta US Equity ETF (XUSA, 0.59% fee), Hull Tactical US ETF (HTUS, 0.92% fee), Cambria Global Momentum ETF (GMOM, 1.03% fee), U.S. Quantitative Value ETF (QVAL, 0.49% fee), IQ Chaikin U.S. Small Cap ETF (CSML, 0.35% fee), Vesper US Large Cap Short-Term Reversal Strategy ETF (UTRN, 0.75%), and the SPDR MFS Systematic Growth Equity ETF (SYG, 0.61% fee).
FINSUM: CSML was the most interesting of the group for us, as we think there is more alpha to be had in small caps with these sorts of approaches. We also ran this story in case anyone has clients who have been asking for more quant funds.
If history is any indication, the big surge in stocks that has started this year seems likely to continue. Markets have had a great week and the S&P 500 is up 11% on the year. Prices are only 5.3% off their all-time high. That bodes well because stocks tend to track their first two-month performance for the rest of the year. 64% of the time stocks continue to perform throughout the year just like they did in January and February. The last time the S&P 500 climbed more than 10% in January and February (1991), it rose an additional 14% for the year.
FINSUM: Stocks are in a sweet spot right now, with the Fed having backed off and trade fears easing. That seems likely to stay in place for a while, but we wonder if any stresses related to the 2020 election might start to weight on the market later this year.
The yield curve narrowed continuously throughout most of 2018. The spread between 2- and 10-year Treasuries fell to just over 9 basis points in December and sits at 14 now. Where is it headed? The answer is likely towards an inversion. The Fed is releasing its minutes, and once it does, it seems likely the spread will continue to narrow. There are two scenarios that would likely create an inversion. The first is if the Fed minutes show that the central bank may raise rates again soon (sending short term yields higher). The other, and perhaps more likely, scenario is that the Fed expresses some anxiety about a recession (pushing long-term yields lower).
FINSUM: This is interesting because the two most likely scenarios for what the Fed might say/do in the near-term both add up to the same thing—a yield curve inversion.