“Categorization is not a matter to be taken lightly. There is nothing more basic than categorization to our thought, perception, action, and speech. Every time we see something as a kind of thing… we are categorizing.”
– Linguist George Lakoff
From The Geometry of Wealth by Brian Portnoy
Most investment work is about forming categories. We divide securities into asset classes. We make subcategories within an asset classes. We make industry classifications. We divide risks into different types of premia. There are value classifications. There are categories and classifications based on macro factors like inflation. Investors like to group. All scientists like to make groups and form clusters of similar things to find commonality.
Current views on asset allocation in fixed income and credit are generally negative. The focus should be on holding shorter duration and cash investments.
It does not take much for an investor to have a losing credit trade on long duration bonds. The average duration on a long-term 10-year corporate is around 8 and current OAS spreads for triple-B corporates are 160 over Treasuries up from 120 earlier in the year. Half this move will take investors back to levels seen in 2016 and wipeout all of the spread compensation for a year. This is not an extreme bet if we have any further erosion of equity prices or change in credit risk expectations, (See Corporate debt growth has exploded – The added macro shock sensitivity creates real risks.) Shorter duration corporates will be at less risk given their lower duration but the stocking up of credit for yield reaching can be painful if credit risks increase.
Diversification is usually thought of as a longer-term concept. Don’t worry if it seems like you are not receiving diversification in a given month or quarter. Think about diversification across a longer horizon. Diversification also does not guarantee better returns for a portfolio. Negative diversification does mean that your losers will be offset with winners.
Trend-following and momentum has always been an important part of hedge funds and alternative investing but it would be hard to say that trend-following was mainstream thinking prior to the early 90’s. This was the high water period of the market efficiency, but that thinking started to take a major change with the “Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency”, published in the leading Journal of Finance. There were other papers that discussed similar topics and the behavioral finance paradigm shift had already begun, but this was the one paper that many academics started to quote with increasing frequency about momentum effects.
When markets reprice risk, it is not fun being a trend-follower. Long equity indices were a crowded trade and few made money when the early October reversal hit the markets. Fast traders were able to exploit the move, but a bounce off the lows hurt intermediate traders. Bonds were hit with the cross-currents of flight to safety against the continued threat of growth and Fed action. Currencies were hit with this repricing and not a place of profit able trends.
Simple assumptions to some classic monetary models will produce very different policy views for the direction of Fed action. These significant policy divergences are the reason for the recent pick-up in bond trading. A dispersion of opinions on Fed action will lead to more volatility, trading, and potential rewards in these markets.
WHAT ARE MANAGED FUTURES? The term managed futures describes a diverse subset of active hedge fund strategies that trade liquid, transparent, centrally-cleared exchange-traded products, and deep interbank foreign exchange markets. Managers in this sector are called commodity trading advisors (CTAs) and their strategies are largely focused on financial futures markets with additional allocations to energy, […]
With all of the discussion on news, “fake news”, misinformation, and opinion, it is important to focus on some first principles for investing and narrative as news. The narrative is not the facts from an announcement, but the story surrounding the price move coupled with facts. For any investor, it is important to realize that narrative generally follows prices, and prices do not follow narrative.
Each situation requires a balancing derived from judgment and arising from experience, skills acquired by learning from the past and training for the future.
There are some recurring themes this week in our highlighted charts, debt and leverage will overhang any global economic discussion; however, we see some interesting dislocations that can offer global macro opportunities:
I would not be the first person to engage in the lazy thinking that managed futures are synonymous with trend-following. For many years, there was little wrong with using both terms to mean the same thing. The majority of managed futures are still trend-following.
Equity factor risk premium ranks change through time. The best performing factor premium today may not be the best premium tomorrow even if there are long-term gains across major factors. Most investors would agree with this statement; however, the dispersion of factor performance is more complex.