Our top 3 strategies this past month:
Alex’s new post describes the process of blending Portfolios (rather than Strategies or ETFs) using the Portfolio Builder.
Bouncing into 2019
Three fundamental trends to watch as 2019 unfolds:
The first trend includes the reversal of QE in the U.S, the end of the asset purchase program of the ECB and the decrease of liquidity of most other major central banks. Less money is being pumped into world markets as policy makers keep an eye on employment numbers and economic growth. If the economy continues growing and wages rise, central banks will be ready to raise rates and normalize what has been an extremely low rate environment. From then on they can adjust as usual if and when inflation shows up. On the other hand, if markets show weakness, policy makers can step in and ease expectations of rate increases. This is what happened on January 30th as the Fed stated it would take a “patient” wait-and-see approach to further rate hikes in light of recent market “volatility”. We assume “volatility” refers to the recent SP500 -20% end of year drop.
An implication of this brings us to the second trend: Emerging markets vs the U.S. The Fed was first to tighten policy and raise interest rates. This created an imbalance and money rushed from other risk assets and currencies into dollars. In other words, an institutional investor could sell his foreign currency, stock and bonds, buy U.S. short term debt and get almost 2%, risk free. These flows benefited the U.S. market in 2017 and 2018. This trend may reverse as U.S rates stabilise and foreign rates start moving up from the rock bottom they currently are. This may or may not happen this year but the reversal of flows will have a significant impact. If we do not enter a recession and global economic growth continues, we should be looking for a weakening dollar, rising foreign interest rates and emerging markets bouncing back to out-performance.
The third trend is a political one: Against the trend of globalisation of policies, taxes and culture comes a political trend of nationalism and separatism. This is nowhere more obvious than in the European Union were Britain wants back it’s identity and economy (but can’t seem to get it), France’s middle class is revolting against excess taxes, the ‘South’ (Greece, Italy, Spain) cannot get along with the North (and vice-versa) and even Germans seem to be worse off despite their country’s tremendous surplus. In a similar but distinct vein, the U.S. has sparked trade re-negotiations with both allies and foes, including the E.U., Canada, Mexico and of course China. Such political trends may result in uni-lateral decisions that may continue to cause trade wars, tariffs, currency imbalances and other disruptions to the markets.
Coming back to the actual markets, the year started with a bounce. The SP500 is up 8%, Emerging markets +10.3%, Junk Bonds +5.2%, foreign Bonds (PCY) +4.7% and Gold +2.9%. The U.S. dollar index stayed flat (-0.2%) while Treasuries came in slightly positive at +0.4%. Some world indices brought double digit returns including Brazil, South Africa, Canada and China.
Our strategies were all positive for the month. Top spots were for the Leveraged Universal Investment strategy at +7.5%, our Maximum Yield strategy at +4.3% , the U.S. Sector strategy (free to subscribe) at +3.1%, the Enhanced Permanent Portfolio at +2.9%. The Nasdaq 100 strategy returned a solid +3% for the month, continuing it’s positive path from 2018. Despite this January surge in most assets, our strategies are still in defensive mode placing substantial allocations to safe-heaven assets, via our HEDGE strategy.
We wish you a happy new year and a prosperous 2019, and look forward to a vivid discussion.
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