Oil prices should remain low, likely in the $30–$40 a barrel range, through summer 2017. Investors seeking greater diversification and yield than offered by traditional asset classes should consider commodities, albeit those not heavily tilted toward oil.
Negative real interest rates invalidate our theory of a risk-free rate as the foundation of long-term investment returns and poses a long-term inflation risk. Investors should diversify into higher-yielding inflation-hedging asset classes to improve the chances of meeting their return targets.
Forecasting the weather or stock prices is a mostly mundane matter, but the unforeseen can exact a heavy toll. For investors, economic data improve the precision of market forecasts.
The discrepancy between official headline inflation and its underlying components is perplexing, and its implications for monetary policy (i.e., accommodative) suggest inflated asset prices and lower forward-looking returns.
Four market conditions now parallel the extremes last experienced in December 1998, setting up 1999 as the first year in a decade of outperformance by inflation-fighting and diversifying assets. Now is the time to rotate into these unloved asset classes.
Recently enacted NIRP in several major developed economies means not only lower current yields but also lower future expected returns—and thus lower accumulated wealth—for investors investing in these markets.
The Fed’s inflation model relies heavily on consumer and market-based expectations, both notoriously poor predictors. We propose an alternative bottom-up approach that analyzes the components of CPI, and arrive at a forecast very close to the Fed’s target rate.
After recovering from the commodity-induced profits recession, aggregate market EPS should advance in the decades ahead much more slowly than the unsustainably rapid rate of the past 25 years.
Complexity can dampen investor understanding, leading to poor investment decision making and ultimately derailing long-term financial goals—yet the bias toward investment complexity persists, reinforced by explanations that are behavioral in nature.
The value of a forecasting model is that it improves on the alternative models available and classifies the forecaster’s knowledge of asset classes into an economically intuitive framework for building portfolios. A yield-based model is simple, but it checks both boxes.
Continued pension reform inaction combined with a falling worker-to-retiree support ratio is leading to an inevitable economic and social clash between employees, employers, and their governments.
The long-term investor is interested in investing, not speculating, and therefore does not rue lower prices or bear markets. We believe investing for the long term entails buying the least popular assets in the global marketplace. Today, those assets include EM equities.
Buybacks over the last few years have swept fast and furiously through the U.S. equity market just like a Saharan sirocco. But have stockholders benefitted? A tally of the new issuance during the period answers the question.
The societal threat posed by a growing pool of dynastic wealth, popularized by French economist Thomas Piketty, is rebutted through an analysis of the Forbes 400. The authors find the top 1% quite skilled at dissipating their wealth, recycling it to society remarkably quickly.
Low-vol investors can gain valuable diversification benefits by adding a buy–write strategy to their portfolios…
Conventional wisdom says a strengthening U.S. dollar threatens emerging market economies. But there’s another way to view the dynamics of interest rate increases, risk appetites, economic growth, and currency returns—one that is supported by facts.
Most of the implementation cost of passive investing is implicit—a real but unobserved reduction in index performance. A simplified model brings to light the price impact of aggregate trading activity due to rebalancing and net investment flows.
Chris Brightman introduces new commentary and updates to our Asset Allocation site.
We revisit the most commonly used equity valuation tools, comparing their respective strengths and weaknesses, and explain our approach to valuation. No matter the measurement, U.S. equity prices are high and long-term expected returns are low.
Maintaining a well-balanced portfolio when one or more of its strategies is underperforming may be—just like getting a preschooler to eat a well-balanced diet—viewed as a most unpalatable option!
Global demand is dragging. Savings far exceeds investment. The combination is a surefire recipe for long-term low to negative growth in the developed markets—and core U.S. asset returns of 1% or lower over the next decade.
Greece will default. She cannot repay her debts. But must Greece leave the eurozone? Of course not! Euro or drachma, Greece now has no choice but to constrain consumption to production, and expenditures to tax collections.
By selling foreign currencies to take advantage of the dollar’s appreciation, U.S. investors are increasing their exposure to the risk of an economic slowdown at home.
It’s the consensus: Interest rates are set to fly. But if, as we expect, savings accelerate and real GDP grows slowly, then interest rates won’t rise very much anytime soon.
Empirical research reveals that performance, client service, and morale tend to suffer at investment management firms with a strong internal culture of blame.
With aging populations, economic growth is slowing in the United States and other developed countries. And the long-term trend in real GDP growth affects the natural real interest rate. These linkages have vital implications for bond investing and public policy.
Greece is seeking to renegotiate rather than repudiate its debt. But the euro crisis has deep roots: Beyond limiting member states’ fiscal flexibility, monetary union intrinsically creates default risk.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan have variously completed, announced, or expanded their QE programs. It’s time to sort out the probable effects on inflation.
With updated return expectations, we estimate that the performance of U.S. stocks and bonds over the next 10 years will be significantly lower than long-term historical averages. Other asset classes may produce moderately better returns.
The media circulate fanciful stories to explain economic growth rates, but national production actually results from physical capital in the hands of industrious, educated workers—and the long-term outlook seems most promising for emerging countries.
Investors in Russian companies are exposed to political and economic risks that raise the odds of default. But Russia needs western capital and is willing to pay up for it. Long-term investments in Russian equities might prove rewarding.
Target-date funds don’t recognize that millennials’ ability to earn a paycheck is like a dividend-paying stock. And boomers typically have claims on bond-like income from social security and pensions. What’s a sensible asset mix?
Research Affiliates’ central philosophy holds that opportunity arises from long-horizon mean reversion. This conclusion rests on three core beliefs about investors’ preferences, asset prices, and the vital importance of conviction.
A corollary to expected return forecasting is estimating prospective risk by asset class. This white paper describes in plain language how Research Affiliates models the asset class volatilities and correlations used in estimating the risk of an asset mix.
Because they are tied to real assets, real estate investment trusts (REITs) should generate total returns that can be expected to keep up with inflation over time. This white paper describes in plain language how Research Affiliates goes about developing return expectations for REITs as an asset class.
The real return on cash can be decomposed into two parts: the real cash rate of return in the local currency, and the change in the real rate of foreign exchange. This white paper explains the methods Research Affiliates uses to forecast these components of expected return.
Research Affiliates’ model for forecasting fixed income returns has five components: yield, roll return, credit loss, changes in interest rates and spreads, and a currency adjustment term. This white paper explains how these components come together in estimating expected returns.
Equity returns can be broken into a set of building blocks comprising income return, earnings growth, and multiple expansion. This white paper presents in plain language the concepts, methods, and calculations underlying Research Affiliates’ return expectations for equities as an asset class.
This white paper, one in a series devoted to asset allocation, explains Research Affiliates’ building-block approach to developing long-term capital market expectations. It also describes in plain language the methods and calculations used in setting expected asset class returns.
For many years, commodities were somewhat controversial, but now many investors consider them a vital part of their portfolios. This white paper sets forth in plain language the methodology Research Affiliates employs in developing return expectations for commodities as an asset class.
"While stocks and bonds are generally good diversifiers to each other, that diversification breaks down when you get into periods of inflation..."
“We also see an expectations gap as perhaps the greatest danger that we face now. Low returns and slow forward-looking growth rates are not inherently awful, they just are what they are...”
Chris Brightman provides an overview of the new asset allocation website released by Research Affiliates. Chris discusses expectation models and the new interactive tools.
With the growing use of target date funds, young workers’ defined contribution (DC) portfolios are increasingly concentrated in stocks. But in a recession many young workers cash out their DC assets to meet living expenses. A potential solution: less risky starter portfolios.
Many investors piled on the equity bandwagon this year, pushing prices up to dizzying heights. With current yields for U.S. equities at record lows, is it time to get off the bandwagon?
The Glidepath Illusion...and Potential Solutions
Classic glidepaths built in target-date strategies are flawed: they neither deliver more end-point wealth nor provide greater certainty for retirement income than alternative strategies.
What would a deserted island investment portfolio look like, managed without the distractions of cable news and short-term benchmark comparisons?
Emerging market debt has evolved into a stand-alone asset class. But which is better--U.S. dollar denominated debt or local currency debt?
The Fed has deferred tapering, but when retrenching starts, some risky assets may be more attractive than others. Jason Hsu explores how tapering will affect financial markets.
Economic growth of the past 60 years enjoyed a demographic tail wind. Now, as the proportion of seniors in the population soars, developed market economies face a "demographic tax."
The traditional 60/40 portfolio of stocks and bonds is unlikely to deliver the returns that investors expect. What can investors do?
GDP data reveals whether the economy is expanding or contracting. The growth cycle shows how the economy is trending, providing an important signal for investors.
What did investors learn from the Naughties? How to improve your portfolio for the future.
Why do retail shoppers love a sale while capital markets flee from falling prices? Investors should consider starting to fill their shopping carts while inflation hedges are cheap.
Demographics provided a tailwind to economic growth during the past 60 years. But those winds are shifting direction.
Boomers will pay the price of government housing policies: a poorer quality of life in retirement, according to Research Affiliates' 2013 Advisory Panel.
Hedge funds use fancy lures to attract investors but often a simpler approach results in improved returns. A more diversified roster of liquid asset classes that are carefully selected and, ideally, tactically managed will do more for portfolios than the illusion of hedge fund alpha.
The definition of asset allocation “alpha” remains a poorly defined concept, given the lack of a standard theoretical framework and benchmark for these multi-asset portfolios. This article provides a new way for understanding the sources of added value for asset allocation portfolios.
Using a large sample of countries and 60 years of data, the authors found a strong and intuitive link between demographic transitions and both GDP growth and capital market returns. Unlike previous researchers, who used ad hoc and restrictive demographic variables, the authors imposed a smooth and parsimonious polynomial curve across all age groups ...
Great hitting in baseball depends in part on waiting for the right pitch. In today’s market, most asset classes—coming off their impressive 2012 record--are “high and outside” the valuations necessary for future big league returns. Patience is the name of the game today.
Quantitative easing enables the government to issue low-cost debt and support undisciplined spending. This spending, in turn, generates inflation, which chokes off private sector growth and transfers wealth from future taxpayers to the current generation, CIO Jason Hsu writes in this commentary.
one’s surprise, the Fed announced that it will replace the expiring “Operation
Twist”—in which it was selling $45 billion of short maturity treasuries and
buying a like amount of long maturity treasuries every month—with continued
purchases of long bonds. The Fed announced in September that it will buy $40
billion per month in mortgage-backed ...
For the second half of the twentieth century, U.S. GDP growth averaged 3.3% per year. This growth was driven by a combination of rising population and employment rates and increased productivity. But all three of these factors are slowing or declining. What does this mean for future growth?
We learn in finance theory that diversification simply means not putting all your eggs in one basket. Simple as the idea is, most investors do not hold portfolios that are even close to being truly diversified. Risk premiums vary over time—especially when markets get bumpy.
Markowitz's  portfolio optimization has long been the theoretical foundation for the traditional strategic asset allocation. However, the difficulties in accurately estimating expected returns, especially given the time-varying nature of asset class risk premiums and their joint covariance, means the MVO approach has been enormously challenging ...
Young adults should buy stocks; mature adults should favor bonds. Or so we’re taught. But the Glidepath—the mechanism within popular target-date funds that shifts asset allocation to bonds from equities as participants age—does not lead to optimal returns.
A traditional asset allocation framework allocates to various asset classes with the goal of matching important risk exposures. In reality, many asset classes share exposures to common risk factors and thus are highly correlated, particularly with equities. This article explains how investors can achieve more intuitive and perhaps more sensible portfolios ...
Value stocks typically enjoy higher dividends than growth stocks. Growth stocks, on the other hand, typically enjoy faster dividend growth. What most investors miss is that a portfolio of value stocks generates faster growth in dividends than a portfolio of growth stocks.
Most people tend to measure wealth in terms of the dollar value of a portfolio. We believe it is better to measure wealth in terms of the real spending the portfolio can sustain over the entire life of the obligations served by the portfolio. We call this approach “sustainable spending.” But focusing on sustainable spending requires real courage.
A new world of lower expected returns signals a major break from “mainstream” investment approaches. Old investing patterns—for example, tracking error to the ubiquitous 60/40 blend of mainstream stocks and bonds, reliance on “first-world” developed markets, and conventional cap-weighted indexing—may not fit with our new investment priorities.
Much has been said lately about the profound changes that aging baby boomers will have on the U.S. economy and financial markets. This is not merely a U.S. phenomenon, however. We believe that demographic trends will have an impact on most countries around the world.
With U.S. government debt equal to 100% of GDP, should investors be concerned? What specifically makes high government debt-to-GDP bad? How much is “too much”? Does it matter whether the debtholders are domestic buyers or foreign buyers?
Ten years ago, after two decades of 14-percent annual returns for the traditional 60-percent equity/40-percent bond portfolio, many investors revised their return expectations upwards. Some observers warned at the time that, with a dividend yield of less than 2 percent, the equity market was priced to provide lower rather than higher returns.
Balanced fund management has largely become a benchmark-hugging exercise, with asset allocations confined within a tight band. But there are things that can be done to improve the added value investors can obtain from balanced fund investments. First item on the list: look at the benchmark.
In the long run, the combination of rising debts and deficits and aging demographics will create a 3-D hurricane affecting capital markets. Creating a "third pillar" to existing developed world equity and bond allocations should produce more meaningful real returns over a market cycle.
After reviewing the methodologies behind the more popular quantitative investment strategies offered to investors as passive equity indices, the authors devised an integrated evaluation framework.
Despite the market turmoil of the past two years, U.S. equity valuations continue to resist gravity. So far, they have resisted efforts to fall below historical norms. Yet the potential consequences of understated inflation and too-low real interest rates, combined with an accommodative Fed policy, are too real too ignore.
In this article, the authors conduct a horse race between representative risk parity portfolios and other asset allocation strategies, including equal weighting, minimum variance, mean–variance optimization, and the classic 60/40 equity/ bond portfolio.
Gross Domestic Product is used to measure a country’s economic growth and standard of living. It measures neither. Unfortunately, the finance community and global centers of power are wedded to a measure that bears little relation to reality because it confuses prosperity with debt-fueled spending.
Target-date funds offer a pre-diversified, “one-stop shop” that adjusts asset allocation over time as retirement draws nearer. But they miss the boat in one key area—they fail to adjust to changing market conditions. This issue offers two straightforward solutions through which investors can better manage their risks.
Classical performance attribution methods do not explicitly assess managers' dynamic allocation skill in the factor domain. The authors propose a generalized framework for performance attribution that decomposes the allocation effect into value added from both static and dynamic factor exposures and thus yields additional insight into sources of manager ...
How can investors meet their return targets in a world of low stock and bond yields? The solution requires abandoning the classic 60/40 blend of stocks and bonds and adopting an asset mix different from one’s peers. Taking these steps is not comfortable, but comfort is rarely rewarded.
Using a “building blocks” of return approach, we find that the classic 60/40 blend of stocks and bonds would generate a return well short of the 7-8% range assumed by many investors. The only way to meet these target returns is through remarkable good luck. We need a better strategy.
For the past 30 years, a disinflationary growth cycle provided a tremendous tailwind for capital market returns. Unfortunately for 401(k) investors, the future is likely to be less benign, offering lower yields and reflation. Don’t plan for the future by fighting the battle of the past 30 years.
Much ink has been spilled on the perils of allowing some companies to become “too big to fail.” The flip side of this view receives scant attention: companies can become “too big to succeed.” Our research shows the leader in any sector underperforms the average stock in its own sector by 3.3% per year for the next decade.
The outlook for the ubiquitous 60/40 blend of stocks and bonds remains bleak. The key to better returns hinges on shifting risk exposures: We choose to take long-term risk when risk-bearing is likely to be rewarded, and a conservative, well-diversified posture when it is not.
The naughts were the worst decade ever for U.S. equity investors, even after an astounding rebound in the past 10 months of 2009. The picture grows far worse when we incorporate typical pension liabilities and 401(k) plan target returns. But did the picture have to be so bleak?
For several decades, the notion of a normal portfolio has been central to institutional portfolio management. The classic 60/40 portfolio—60 percent in mainstream stocks and 40 percent in mainstream bonds—has been an unsatisfying norm that still anchors much of the thinking in the investing business.
The U.S. deficit and national debt relative to GDP is vastly understated. Add in the long-term influence of an aging population and the outlook is bleaker still. Rising deficits, soaring deficits and changing demographics have drastic implications for inflation, stocks and bonds around the world.
The Take No Prisoners market of 2008 and early 2009 was followed by the Mother of All Recoveries. Too often, investors lock in losses and fail to take advantage of tremendous buying opportunities. A buy-and-hold “Rip Van Winkle” investment strategy has interesting lessons for asset allocation, risk premiums, and diversification.
Did avoiding overconcentration of stocks in the portfolio, periodic rebalancing and not chasing winners help avoid negative alpha in the Global Fiscal Crisis and its aftermath? ? In each case, the answer is yes. Investors can take simple steps to avoid these drags on returns.
After the pounding that risk assets took in Autumn of 2008, many have come bouncing back. An analysis of asset class valuations reveals that many asset classes may have come too far, too fast in this recent rally. Now is likely a time to take profits and to resume a vigilant stance.
Many investors are very vulnerable if inflation rears its ugly head. Some institutions are adding dedicated “real return” assets but not in a diversified way or with enough scale to matter. Investors need a broader toolkit of asset classes that is used opportunistically and tactically.
For four decades, from time to time, we hear this question: Why bother with bonds at all? Bond skeptics generally point out that stocks have beaten bonds by 5 percentage points a year for many decades, and that stock returns mean-revert, so that the true long-term investor enjoys that higher return with little additional risks in 20-year and longer ...
If there was ever a slogan that scares the heck out of seasoned investors, this is it. As Mark Twain observed, “history may not repeat, but it sure rhymes.” The phrase has been uttered to support bubbles to justify crashes, in the face of vast evidence that extremes don’t persist.
In standard finance applications, asset class volatilities are usually assumed to be constant over time for simplicity. For example, Markowitz's mean-variance optimization requires that asset class volatilities are known and constant over the holding horizon.
Managing risk successfully requires a detailed understanding of the distributions from which random shocks to asset prices are drawn. However, there is uncertainty in both the actual distribution of returns and the parameters characterizing the distribution.
In 2008, the S&P 500 Index posted its worst year since 1931 and virtually all risky asset classes produced breathtaking losses. But this dramatic decline in valuations will reveal a host of opportunities for both GTAA and Fundamental Index® strategies.
When the 2000 bubble burst, many of us characterized it as a “perfect storm” for pensions: the falling yields boosted the mark-to-market value of the pension liabilities hugely, while falling stocks crushed asset values. This left us with sharp erosion in funded ratios. The question is: What can be done?
In a volatile market, two approaches provide insurance against price reversals—a disciplined, relative-value approach to asset allocation in the broad capital markets and an indexing approach that anchors on metrics of fundamental size rather than capitalization. Both are critical in the face of an uncertain and unsettling investment environment.
Global tactical asset allocation involves seeking to bear risk when risk is likely to be rewarded but moving to a conservative, diversified posture when it is not. Today, despite a sharp sell-off in many risky assets during the past year, the pendulum in the market remains on the risk side, not on the return side.
Hedge funds have gone mainstream. But they typically come with hefty fees which eat up much of their return. There is a different way, however, to generate absolute returns: A diversified basket of liquid assets would have generated a superior return with a modest risk over a 10-plus year period.
Over long periods of time, equities have provided returns that beat inflation, but they have done so with higher levels of risk than safer assets like bonds and cash. Creating a Four Asset Portfolio comprising equal weights of REITs, commodities, stocks and bonds generates equivalent returns with 45% less volatility than an all-stock portfolio.
Empirical research demonstrates that the Fundamental Index portfolio can be a sensible core solution for both passive and active investors with an international equity allocation.
As long as there is some likelihood that a market might be inefficient, complementing a cap-weighted portfolio with a Fundamental Index™ portfolio is a sound hedging strategy.
Rebalancing, sticking with a strategy, and breaking the link between stock prices and portfolio weights help eliminate the portion of negative alpha that is under the investor’s control.
Price-indifferent indexes do not attempt to identify underpriced securities; they eliminate the structural flaw in cap-weighting that reduces the portfolio’s positions in stocks as their prices decline.
The Fundamental Index™ strategy’s value and size exposures automatically vary over time, positioning the portfolio to benefit when markets revert to their long-term averages.
Equally weighted and fundamentally weighted indexes both outperform because they break the link between prices and weights. But equal weighting has significant disadvantages.
Fundamentally weighted indices might help pension sponsors earn superior returns and more closely match their liabilities.
Contrary to some critics’ allegations, an actual example demonstrates that fundamental weighting is not merely a repackaged version of value and small cap investing.
In the March/April issue, I pointed out some of the "forests" in portfolio management issues that we often ignore as we concentrate on the "trees" of asset selection. In this column, I want to address another unhealthy prop—the typical long-term, static policy portfolio—and why we need to rethink it.
To achieve "success" for our clients, we often focus, with their full assent, on the trees of asset selection‑the little decisions‑and ignore the forests‑the big decisions. Sometimes, this focus leads to costly errors.
Part of the mission of the Financial Analysts Journal is to stimulate creative thinking about financial analysis, including (to name a few) investment valuation, risk management, fiduciary issues, and asset allocation. Broadly, our mission is to serve the fiduciary needs of the investment community.
By 2010, longevity in the United States will have increased by nearly 15 years since 1940 but the retirement age for full Social Security and Medicare benefits will have increased by only a single year. As those of us in the Baby Boom approach "normal" retirement age, the population will contain nearly twice as many elderly people (over 65) ...
The goal of this article is an estimate of the objective forward-looking U.S. equity risk premium relative to bonds through history—specifically, since 1802.
Market efficiency depends upon rational, profit-motivated investors. Two of the largest communities of currency traders have no profit motive. Central banks trade to dampen volatility. Corporations seek to hedge the currency exposure in their book of business.
One common misperception about global markets is that there is something fundamentally "wrong" with one market trading at several times the price/earnings multiple of another. But there is nothing in equilibrium theory to suggust that P/E differences between markets represent investment opportunities.
Do even carefully crafted portfolios run themselves? They do not. Investment managers are not architects, who erect an edifice then leave its denizens to their own devices. Instead, they abide with the client, making revisions when circumstances demand it.
The pension community now confronts powerful forces driving it toward conservatism. Although few in the industry yet realize the magnitude of the pressures for such a shift, they will become more aware as some plans make the awkward transition from fully funded to underfunded.
Responses to a questionnaire asking pension plan sponsors their views on aspects of pension fund management reveal much diversity of opinion. The most intriguing finding is that equity and bond management absorb the greatest proportion of sponsor expenses, yet are viewed as only modest avenues for adding value.
Asset allocation is a difficult process if only because the most effective way to add value to a balanced portfolio may be to focus on the least comfortable asset class.
Traditional stocks and bonds are the largest allocations in most investor portfolios. In fact, the 60% stock/40% bond policy portfolio is often considered the “benchmark” for asset allocation decisions. Investors do two things that hamper their long-term portfolio performance. First, they tend to let their asset allocation drift based on the performance of the underlying assets—or even worse—chase performance by allocating to the latest best-performing asset class. Second, their portfolios tend to be traditionally dominated by domestic stocks and bonds, often tracking capitalization-weighted indices. This is an inefficient way to manage a portfolio.
All Asset is a strategy that increases investments in asset classes with the highest potential for appreciation and reduces allocations to asset classes with greater potential for loss. Expected returns for different asset classes vary over time and greatly depend on starting valuations. By investing in unpopular assets, All Asset displays a contrarian bent. All Asset uses the constantly changing expectations and emotions of the market to invest in attractively priced assets.
Traditional stocks and bonds are just the two most prominent asset classes. There are a host of other asset classes, such as international equities, emerging market debt, real estate, commodities, TIPs, various credits, real return strategies, that provide far greater diversification than a standard 60% stock / 40% bond portfolio. Investors should employ a full toolkit in building their portfolios.
Robert Arnott and Research Affiliates are well recognized in the investment management industry for their expertise in asset allocation. The firm is the sub-advisor to the first mutual fund of mutual funds to apply All Asset to alternative asset classes, investing in an array of underlying mutual funds.
Why should investors use an All Asset strategy? The answer is simple: Valuations of assets vary all the time. Equities may be cheap today and expensive tomorrow. Conversely, bonds may be expensive today but more affordable in the future. Return expectations shift constantly; sometimes, taking risk is rewarded, sometimes it is not. Buying what is unpopular and selling securities that are in vogue is hard to do. Unfortunately, most investors do a poor job of deciding when to make shifts in their portfolio.
Our All Asset strategies complement traditional stock and bond portfolios. They provide an absolute-return oriented approach to investing, and are designed to provide protection against inflation—the main enemy to building and retaining wealth.
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