Long-dated Treasuries' Bad Year Likely a One-off
When stocks are down like they were last year, investors usually look towards treasuries for safety. But last year was unlike any other year. While the S&P 500 fell 18%, the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond index slumped 13%. However, a year like 2022 is unlikely to happen again any time soon. According to analysts, that leaves “room for those bonds to reclaim their role as a core risk-off allocation for asset owners this year.” For example, when SVB Financial Group recently announced hefty losses, the S&P 500 index fell 3.4% between March 8th and March 13th. But investors looking for a safe haven in long-dated Treasuries sent yields plunging, providing bondholders with a gain of more than 4%. Many analysts expect the conditions that led to close correlations between the stock and bond market “to prove ephemeral.” According to Jason Vaillancourt, global macro strategist with Putnam Investments, the biggest risk for those strong correlations is when "The Fed gets really fired up to fight inflation, as with the central bank's 'uh-oh' moment last year — when inflationary pressures it had deemed transitory proved anything but, forcing the central bank to shift aggressively to catch-up mode.” He added, “With the Fed frontloading its fight against inflation last year, the conditions required to maintain correlations at 1 this year are unlikely to persist.”
Finsum:With the Fed front-loading its fight against inflation last year, the conditions that led to a high correlation between the stock and bonds markets, aren’t likely to persist.
How Will ESG Perform in a Recession?
With many economists predicting an economic downturn, investors may wonder how ESG investments will perform in a major recession. To find the answer, Portfolio Adviser asked a cross-section of industry commentators for their views. According to Max Richardson, senior director, of wealth planning at Investec Wealth & Investment, research on ESG performance during recessions is limited, but available studies suggest mixed results. For instance, a study by MSCI found that ESG stocks outperformed traditional ones during the 2008 financial crisis, with a lower decline in stock prices and a faster recovery. However, a study by the London School of Economics found that ESG stocks performed no better or worse than traditional stocks during the 2008 crisis. In fact, the impact of the crisis on ESG stocks was largely dependent on the specific industries and companies, not their ESG status. Amanda Sillars, fund manager and ESG director at Jupiter Merlin believes funds that exclude entire sectors on ESG grounds, which are typically oil, gas, miners, and defense, "run the risk of delivering weak absolute performance if those sectors outperform.” In contrast, “Fund managers who retain a broad investment universe and select companies that generate strong cashflows, minimal debt and are valued cheaply, while keeping company engagement at the heart of their investment strategy, are likely to fare better during a recession.
Finsum:According to a wealth planner, studies on ESG performance during a recession are mixed, but a fund selector believes that managers who focus on engagement and not exclusion will fare better in a recession.
Vanguard Launches Short-Term Tax-Exempt Bond ETF
Vanguard recently expanded its tax-exempt bond ETF lineup with the launch of the Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Bond ETF (VTES), which is built to help investors earn consistent, tax-exempt income. The fund’s objective is to track the performance of the S&P 0-7 Year National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Index using a sampling technique to closely match key benchmark characteristics. The index measures the investment-grade segment of the U.S. municipal bond market with maturities between one month and 7 years. This is Vanguard’s first US-listed ETF launch in nearly two years. The ETF, which is managed by Vanguard Fixed Income Group, has been listed on NYSE Arca with an expense ratio of 0.07%. Sara Devereux, Global Head of Vanguard Fixed Income Group had this to say about the launch, “The Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Bond ETF is built to optimize tax efficiency for investors seeking to allocate to the shorter end of the municipal bond market. The new ETF complements our broad fixed income line-up and provides clients with another avenue to tap our municipal bond team’s talent and capabilities.”
Finsum:Vanguard expanded its tax-exempt bond ETF lineup with the launch of the Vanguard Short-Term Tax-Exempt Bond ETF (VTES), its first US-listed ETF launch in nearly two years.
Financial Planner: Direct Indexing is Not Better than ETFs
Allan Roth, founder of Wealth Logic LLC recently penned an article for etf.com where he provided his opinion on direct indexing vs. ETFs. While direct indexing is forecasted to attract assets at a faster pace than ETFs, according to a recent report by Cerulli Associates, Roth believes that direct indexing is not better than ETFs. While he does mention the benefits of direct indexing such as tax advantages, customization, and low annual costs, he asked, “But is direct indexing better than ETFs?" He added, "Generally they are not, in my view, at least not compared to the best ETFs.” He uses the S&P 500 as an example. Vanguard’s VOO ETF has a 0.03% annual expense ratio, while direct indexing typically has an annual fee of at least 0.40% annually. Roth does say that the 0.37 percentage point differential could be made up from the benefit of tax-loss harvesting in the early years, but he believes it likely won’t continue. That is because the stock market “generally moves up in the long run, so each year there is less and less tax-loss harvesting. Yet the fees continue.” In addition, after a few years, he says that “the tax benefit is minimal, and all that is left are fees and complexities.”
Finsum:Financial planner Allan Roth recently wrote an article for etf.com where he stated that direct indexing is not better than ETFs since direct indexing is more expensive and its tax benefits are minimal after a few years.
Institutional Investors Added $144 billion to Alternatives in 2022
According to the third annual Alternatives Watch (AW) Research Investor Compendium commissioned by Vidrio Financial, there was a strong uptick in the amount of alternative investment mandate activity across some of the largest institutional investors. In 2021, AW's second annual compendium tracked a total of $130 billion in new capital across more than 900 individual institutional investor mandates from 50 of the top alternative allocators. That figure jumped to $144 billion in 2022, an increase of over 10%, across more than 1,000 individual mandates. There was also an increase in investor interest across infrastructure and real asset strategies to $6.9 billion and $4.9 billion, respectively, as those strategies act as inflation hedges. Other key findings include a muted slowdown in private equity assets, while there was a pick-up in activity in hedge funds as large institutional players sought to purchase risk-mitigating assets throughout the year. In addition, total private equity and venture capital mandates accounted for over half the mandates in the compendium and were spread out across the world, as investors embraced life sciences and technology sectors. Mazen Jabban, Chairman and CEO, of Vidrio Financial, stated, "As we saw in this year's Compendium performance data, Vidrio Financial continues to observe alternative asset classes growing in importance for institutional investment teams who work to take advantage of illiquidity premiums in the private markets while also seeking greater transparency into these types of investments."
Finsum:According to the third annual Alternatives Watch Research Investor Compendium, there was a 10% uptick in the amount of alternative investment mandate activity across some of the largest institutional investors.