Only the most die-hard peak-oil proponents, or other gold-bugs, will fail to acknowledge that the commodity bubble has burst. Is it a positive, or negative, for financial markets?
Looking back over the last 40 years, it is clear that, in the next 20 years, successful asset owners and managers are going to listen to Einstein and stop making things too simple.
The right policies are the opposite of those pursued by the world's major economies. No wonder global growth keeps disappointing. In a sense, we are all Japanese now.
Japan is not going to stop QE next year or the year after or the year after that. This is not Zimbabwe printing money. Japan is important to the global economy - what they do affects everything.
By calling an election now, Abe is betting that a further big fall in the yen - and a consequent further rise in the Nikkei - is no certainty. He may well be right.
The US dollar rally could contribute to the "rebalancing" that has long eluded the world economy. But that is far from guaranteed given the related risks of financial instability.
Ten years ago, hardly anyone talked about low-volatility investing. Now there's growing concern it is becoming an overcrowded trade. There are four arguments against this.
PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Spring Seminar 2014 features three sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar. After the Seminar, it will also contain the presentations for each session.
The world's biggest inaccessible stock market is finally opening to foreigners. Those with strong convictions about the rise of the Chinese consumer may want to take a hard look.
Despite strong returns, it's still hard for investors to think positively about China A shares as an investment. The key is to envisage what the world will look like in 10 to 15 years.
Gridlock may be perfectly acceptable in Washington these days - but Europe, like Japan, now badly needs strong political leadership.
The answer seems obvious. But more complicated forces are at work that have reduced real interest rates far below historic norms and may keep them very low for many years.
The media continues to obsess about IS - but the far more investment-relevant development in the Middle East is the sudden return of Libyan crude to the market.
There are good reasons why central bankers receive so much media. But the bubble around their pronouncements grossly exaggerates their economic significance.
I don't dispute low vol stocks outperform highly vol stocks. But volatility does not explain all of an asset's risk.
The taboo that savers have to be compensated for handing money to a financial institution has been broken, with the ECB's negative rates finally being passed on to retail clients.
It has been my contention for a while that capitalism is returning to its 19th century deflationary roots. Indeed, the evidence has become overwhelming.
The global economy is like a jetliner that needs all of its engines operational to take off. Unfortunately, only one of its four engines is functioning properly.
Last week's volatility surprised many. How should portfolios be positioned? And what does this recent bout of volatility tell us about the economy and financial markets?
Perhaps the most crucial change in our retirement planning language is simply to rename "retirement".
Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty‐First Century" is certainly the economics book of the year. We have been asked numerous times to appraise his ideas.
Most countries face a trio of inequalities - of income, wealth, and opportunity. Beyond the moral, social, and political implications lies a serious economic concern.
The German word for what we saw in markets this week is Torschlusspanik. Literally "gate-shut-panic", it describes the nasty crush when everyone rushes at once for an exit.
China has about five years to lay the groundwork for the transition to a new monetary policy framework with a currency that is sufficiently flexible.
Relying on Fed tightening to predict the next serious sharemarket weakness may be very dangerous. Perhaps this time really IS different.
Earlier this year, volatility across a whole range of key global assets reached major multi-year lows. But, equity volatility, we expect, has passed it's low for this cycle.
In the US, despite moderate growth, we see very attractive valuations while many emerging markets are undervalued. But 7% growth in China is unrealistic.
Today is much less reminiscent of 2007, when global equity prices were at similar levels to today, than of 1987. But it seems too early for investors to panic, or even reduce risk.
An increasingly obvious paradox has emerged in global financial markets this year. While geopolitical risks have multiplied, markets remain buoyant, if not downright bubbly.
This Resources Kit is a deluge of videos, podcasts, and papers for all sessions of the jam-packed Conference 2014 program so you can "attend" even if you weren't part of the 600 plus audience.
EM debt is a relatively new asset class. In any liquid format, it's only been around for about 20 years - and the most attractive part of the EM debt market has yet to re-rate.
Over the next year or two, asset prices will no longer be driven by economic stats and monetary policy. Three major rotations are likely to continue and gather pace.
Speculation is building that the Fed will surprise financial markets with a new framework for forward guidance, perhaps as soon as the FOMC meeting on 16/17 September.
If Scotland does vote for independence, it's hard to come up with a positive scenario for British assets.
A big correction in equities, if it hits in the next year or two, is unlikely to be caused by monetary policy expectations.
Modern central banking has worked wonders to bring down inflation. Today, high inflation seems remote. But inflation is only dormant, it is certainly not dead.
What do Richard Nixon, novel "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", and Bridgewater Associates have to do with risk parity investing and Conference 2014?
This presentation addresses the importance of developing improved and dynamic investment approaches that seek to better understand and manage total portfolio risk as well as identify sources of return.
The empirical relation between risk and return in emerging equity markets is flat, or even negative - including controlling for exposures to the size, value and momentum effects.
Company fundamentals don't change nearly as much as equity market prices - and therein lies an opportunity for investors with a longer-term view.
To achieve absolute return objectives, many risk management techniques remain relevant but their application and focus need to change.
Demographic understanding is now one of the most important elements in the areas of government and - importantly for investors - future drivers in financial market returns.
Bonds are no longer risk free. It's time to accept the idea and move on - to broaden the traditional idea of fixed-income as a form of risk mitigation and view it also as a risk-and-return proposition.
China's taken a tough approach to its periphery. This doesn't necessarily spell doom and gloom for Australia and the region.
If geopolitics is far more important in considering investment markets today, how do we integrate geopolitics into portfolio construction?
With global volatility at multi decade lows, the critical questions become: should we be worried or relaxed? What next? In fact, quiescent markets should be feared, not embraced.
As we sit today with some unprecedented market conditions, it's probably more relevant than ever to understand both sides of the risk and return equation in the fixed income space.
What return premia - if any - are attached to different types of investment risk? And just how reliable those premia are in practice? Can the risks be diversified?
For many Australians, their house is one of their biggest assets, if not the biggest. But a leveraged owner-occupied home is riskier than the sharemarket.
A sustained period of lower global growth, rich valuations from traditional assets and an eerie calm before the storm in asset price volatility require a different approach to asset allocation.
Public equity valuations have disconnected from underlying earnings and there is a distorted link between perceived and actual risk.
The top six stocks in the ASX 300 represent 45% of market cap and 50% of market risk. A 4% TE constrained manager must hold 15%-20% in these six stocks even if they do not like them.
The seismic shift in fixed income after a 30-year bull market for bonds has created significant portfolio construction challenges and opportunities.
To ensure risk is genuinely well diversified takes a forward-looking scenario-analysis process to combine quantitative rigor with qualitative insights of the plausible but unlikely extreme stresses we might face.
When looking to reconnect risk and return in portfolios, what better place to start than with the barometer of equity market risk itself?
The size of the global infrastructure asset universe will expand from $40 trillion earlier this decade to over $110 trillion by 2030, presenting significant opportunities to invest.
Alpha Potential is gaining traction as another important quantitative tool. Its use lies in identifying opportunities for active management of Australian equities amongst other asset classes.
Investing in unconstrained fixed income strategies with more flexibility to change duration and sector exposures can have a positive impact on a portfolio’s overall risk and return profile.
If risk and return are imperfectly linked, there is opportunity to increase average return, without increasing risk - particularly in equity markets where risk is mispriced.
In many cases, fundamental risk and return characteristics have been shown the door as funds have flowed into ever lower yielding income asset classes.
The last decade has seen a distinct disconnect between investment risk and return, versus what we're taught should be the case.
Fixed income has changed, and is very different today versus what it was years ago. It makes sense to evolve your portfolios accordingly.
What are the questions that everyone is asking today? When will interest rates spike? And, what about the increased rate of inflation? One has to accept the changing nature of these two elements.
Belief and philosophy when it comes to investing are not enough. Without culture and rigour, it is highly unlikely an investor will maintain their beliefs in all market conditions and cycles.
There may be rocks ahead. Reconnecting risk and return must be the right focus - but thinking conventional tools will keep us out of trouble may be a mistake.
Alpha Potential is gaining traction as a tool to identify opportunities for active management, enhancing the value proposition afforded to active managers.
The last decade has seen a disconnect between investment risk and return vs what we're taught should be the case. What is the long-term relationship? Can it be beaten?
People often ask me about my outlook for the US housing market. The outlook is improving - and that's constructive for consumer spending, confidence and jobs.
A dynamic risk management approach can protect a portfolio again sequencing risk, providing reliable investment returns over the cycle.
Six stocks make up just under half of the Australian equity market. This research paper examines the impact of this on investors' returns, and whether it is responsible investing.
To ensure risk is genuinely well diversified takes a sophisticated forward-looking scenario-analysis process to combine quantitative rigor with qualitative insights of extreme stresses it might face.
This paper explores the thesis that capturing the traditional relationship of fixed income in the total client portfolio will require more untraditional approaches going forward.
This paper explores a different approach to asset allocation and alternative returns sources to reduce the reliance on traditional asset classes and drive returns.
This paper explores the opportunities within private equity and private debt and examines their role in providing downside protection for investors.
This research paper discusses (in simple terms) how to reconnect the concept of Risk and Return via the practical application of volatility derivatives to portfolios.
Over the past 40 years, the high-yield landscape has grown exponentially. Knowing the key risks and emerging opportunities can help map a path forward.
Uncertainty about the timing of future interest rate rises poses challenges to fixed income investors. This paper identifies options available in managing portfolios in such an environment.
After two decades of elevated earnings and PEs - and two bear markets but also three bull markets - many are questioning whether Shiller CAPE is all that predictive.
Risk assets are grinding higher and volatility is extraordinarily low - and monetary stimulus is still plentiful. What does life after zero (rates) look like?
Since 2010, there has been an almost perfect correlation between the strength of the US economy and stock markets outside the US. But this is set to diminish.
We've come to accept a world where the US drives what happens in the global economy and markets. But that's changing - with significant implications for portfolios.
The escalating conflict in Ukraine has focused attention on a fundamental question: What are the Kremlin's long-term objectives?
Going forward, instead of 5% real, traditional stocks and bonds will offer about 2.5%. But there are many things you can do to bridge the gap.
Investing can and often is intellectually compelling. But it should not be driven by excitement, as it is for many individuals.
Those who warn of grave dangers if speculative price increases are allowed to continue are right, even if they can't prove there is cause for concern.
Are equities at the end of a five-year cyclical bounce or the start of a 15-year structural breakout? History suggests two contradictory answers.
It is not surprising that bond managers have significant difficulty in outperforming a market cap-weighted benchmark.
Do geopolitical events involving potential or actual military conflict really matter in the constructing of investment portfolios?
The recent US supreme court ruling that Argentina's hold-out creditors have the right to be paid in full is a dangerous decision for all countries for two reasons.
Are we at the start of a long-term bond bear market? Here are three factors that I expect to keep bond yields lower for longer, and five important implications for investors.
Symposium NZ 2014 facilitated debate on the three pillars of portfolio construction – markets, strategies and investing - to help delegates build better quality portfolios. This CPD Quiz is for delegates to complete, to receive Structured CPD Hours.
The upcoming US/China 6th Strategic & Economic Dialogue is an opportunity for serious reconsideration of the relationship between the world's two most powerful countries.
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo 100 yrs ago tomorrow lit the fuse to WW1. There are many points of modern relevance in the catastrophe.
Everyone knows bond rates are going up - so why would you buy fixed interest? Actually, there are three really good reasons.
PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Winter Seminar 2014 featured four sessions: Risk, return & relating; Statistics, lies, and investment performance analysis; How safe are safe withdrawal rates in retirement?; and, Communicating and learning with and from clients.
The Islamist surge through central Iraq has the potential to upset the plans of investors who've convinced themselves that volatility is in the past.
What we are witnessing in Iraq is a war within Islam. Will it mutate into a broader regional war thereby threatening oil supplies?
Here are some brief thoughts on four issues that matter a lot, in our view. Two have been poorly discussed in the financial press, and the other two have been ignored completely.
Moving to a twenty-first-century currency system would make it far simpler to move to a twenty-first-century central-banking regime as well.
Investing differently gives no certainty of great results (increasing the odds of being wrong as well as right). But it is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for great performance.
Last week's most important financial event was not US payroll data, the ECB, or the rapprochement with Putin. It was the pricing of Uber, at 60 times rumoured revenues.
Are we any good at estimating the values of our homes? Surprisingly, on average we are, according to a RBA study. It also found a link to weightings of risky assets in portfolios.
Today's backlash against trade and globalisation should be viewed in the context of what, as we know from experience, could come next.
This Resources Kit is a deluge of videos, podcasts, and papers for all sessions of the jam-packed Symposium 2014 program so you can "attend" even if you weren't part of the 200-strong audience.
Markets are pricing in expectations that the ECB will have to be very aggressive next week if it is to turn back the tide of European deceleration. It's reminiscent of October 1987.
Nobody is more outspokenly bearish on Japan than Kyle Bass. He recently reiterated doubts about Japan's chances of averting a debt crisis, and cast doubt on China's economy.
This paper and presentation argue that starting period equity valuations impact not just medium-term equity returns, but medium-term equity volatility and bond-equity correlations also.
This paper and presentation argue against the use of debt-weighted benchmarks for global bond managers, in favour of a better approach to setting an appropriate benchmark.
This paper and presentation argue that understanding what is going on under the bonnet at central banks is key to understanding what will drive markets, and how best to position portfolios.
Recorded at the recent Symposium 2014, this session examined the truth as to whether regulation makes markets more efficient or causes markets to produce lower returns.
In the wake of the GFC, the public's belief in the free market has taken a battering. But for all its flaws, capitalism remains the best way of creating prosperity.
This paper and presentation argue that there are real sign-posts that clearly suggest that the US is off its knees and ready to surprise the world on the upside, with significant implications for markets and portfolios.
This paper and presentation argue that the bond market can offer compensation against rising rates through roll down and active management of forwards.
Central banks must complete the Great Unwind – removing ultra-easy monetary policies. The critical period for markets will come when the Fed lifts short-term rates (probably, but not necessarily, after tapering ends).
The majority of the world will see an improvement in economic growth this year. While equities remain the most attractive asset class, they will need a more nimble approach.
Graham Rich opened Symposium 2014 in his usual thought-provoking (and entertaining) way, highlighting key issues to consider over the jam-packed, marathon program.
While it is well established that equity valuations impact medium-term equity returns. It is less well known that starting period equity valuations also impact medium-term equity volatility and bond-equity correlations.
Faced with the prospect of rising yields, some investors are cutting bond allocations. But the bond market can offer compensation against rising rates.
Understanding what is going on under the bonnet at central banks is key to understanding what will drive markets – and therefore how to best position portfolios.
If you were lending somebody money, would you lend them more money just because they had more debt? If you are investing according to a debt-weighted benchmark, that is exactly what you are doing.
The US is undeniably the critical market within the global economy - and there are real sign-posts that clearly suggest it is ready to surprise the world on the upside.
Having redefined media, technology, the Internet and social media will soon likely start transforming how capital is mobilised and allocated.
Often, the true dangers reside where investors are most comfortable going and the best opportunities are where investors fear to tread.
Whatever return forecasts you make will be wrong - so you better have a portfolio that has the opportunity to make money in a very broad spectrum of investment outcomes.
It is time to start looking at alternative assets. Not because there is any pressing need to invest today, but because thorough analysis takes time and mistakes can be expensive.
Long-standing historical grievances among China, Japan, Korea, India, and others remain open wounds. Why are tensions among Asia's great powers becoming more serious?
Valuation is not just an important driver of investment returns but also of investment volatility.
Divorcing your debt benchmark and adopting more unconstrained approach to debt investing and offering degrees of freedom to the portfolio manager is the new "core".
The Academy Autumn Seminar 2014 featured four sessions: 10 golden rules for portfolio construction; Reassessing the global debt spectrum; Currency revisited - to hedge or not to hedge; Volatility investing - the next frontier.
Against a backdrop of currency slides, yield spikes and chronic equity underperformance, we invited our EM experts to defend their asset class against three charges.
Target date funds are becoming the workhorse for DC plans but there are problems with the approach. This paper offers a portfolio construction framework to overcome them.
The Fed's published policy on how it will exit QE is fairly old. Overall, though, there is not a huge overhang of securities that the Fed needs to sell to exit.
The active versus passive debate was recently given a boost when Warren Buffet suggested in his annual letter that most investors are better off investing passively.
In recent months, we've highlighted one school of research on funding retirement income, being the sustainable withdrawal rate approach. This paper takes a different approach.
The challenge for investors over the past several years is that diversification did not work as expected. The dynamic nature of correlation must be factored into portfolio modeling.
So the US budget deficit is contracting because government consumption is falling? It is really just an accounting illusion. Financial repression is still the order of the day.
Economic, financial, and geopolitical risks are shifting. A year or two ago, six risks stood at center stage. These have now reduced. But six others have been growing.
In theory, recent currency devaluations should make EM countries more competitive. But they're also facing a technological jump that they may not be able to keep up with.
Does Fama and French's latest work, A Five-Factor Asset Pricing Model, provide any information that can be of practical value to advisers or investors? The answer is no.
Just as it is hard to make a blockbuster film every time, no leader can consistently shape the narratives that affect the economy. But they need to try.
When any investment and, in particular, an alternative investment begins to be considered mainstream with attendant big inflows, the end is generally nigh.
The Fed's clear message from yesterday's FOMC meeting is that it will stay the course on exiting QE as gracefully and slowly as possible.
2014 is likely to be a year of genuine improvement in the global economy, and one where uncertainty is rather low.
Will each future generation continue to enjoy a better quality of life than its immediate predecessor? The likely answer is yes, but the risks seem higher.
It's the eternal debate - can active management outperform? Two recent reports offer some interesting insights into the issue.
If you believe the US State Department has the Crimean situation under control, plan for a bullish scenario for risk assets. Plan for the opposite, if you believe Putin will prevail.
Australians are waking up to the fact that they have not had enough global (mainly equity) exposure. Why the case for more global exposure now?
Increasing corporate activity in the US, and a more positive US macro-economic backdrop make US micro-cap stocks a good place to invest for the next five to 10 years.
This Resources Kit is a deluge of videos, podcasts, and papers for all 18 sessions of the jam-packed Markets Summit 2014 program - The Great Escape (what will markets be like in the QE runout?) so you can "attend" even if you weren't part of the 500-strong audience.
In finance and geopolitics, experience must always prevail over hope, and realism over wishful thinking. A grim case in point is the Russian incursion into Ukraine.
In rapid-fire presentations, 18 experts from various parts of the world debated the biggest issue facing the financial world.
In a new format for Markets Summit 2014, delegates took the role of CIO for the day, as the 18 strong presenter faculty made the case for their highest conviction insights.
Normal is not our experience - today's world is different from anything in the history of human capitalism. The Aquarium Theory of Investing is one way to gain perspective.
Our Markets Summit faculty debated two critical issues arising from Unconventional Monetary Policy; for the coming two to three years, to substantially overweight DM vs EM Equities in portfolios and substantially overweight Short vs Long Duration Bonds.
We must challenge common assumptions about the US and emerging markets to ensure we are focusing on the best routes to the right destination.
Emerging Markets were a focal point in 2013, repricing as US stimulus, commodity prices and China's boom subsided. In future, EM performance will depend on individual merit.
The US is the critical market of the global economy - and there are sign-posts that clearly suggest it is ready to surprise on the upside, with significant implications for portfolios.
Think about bonds as an insurance policy for portfolios. With higher yields available, very cheap insurance is even better able to pay for hurdles facing portfolios.
To achieve the Great Escape, central banks must first complete the Great Unwind – the removal of ultra-easy monetary policies. So what is the roadmap for the Great Unwind?
Ultra-low interest rates and QE have offset the deflationary forces of debt deleveraging. The challenge policy makers face is when to withdraw the stimulus to avert inflation.
Breaking Unconventional Monetary Policy (B.U.M.P.) and it's impact on global financial stability is the key risk for the foreseeable future.
In a Great Escape world, ignoring the index and actively seeking growth investments regardless of size or weightings is more important than ever.
The ability to pick inflection points in markets as well as deploying TAA across credit will be the key ingredient going forward.
Short-term rates are likely to remain low for a prolonged period of time. Investors will still need to source yield, they'll simply have to be more creative to find it.
After a half decade of weakness, robust growth in the US and UK is setting the stage for unconventional monetary policies to be unwound.
There is no doubt that some countries are better placed than others in The Great Escape. In fact, Australia and NZ have the chance to be rock star economies of the 21st century.
If the US and China prove to be prescient and 'ahead of the curve', financial markets will flourish; if they dawdle, we'll see yet another boom and bust cycle that ends in tears.
Most of the world will see an improvement in economic growth this year. Equities are by far the most attractive asset class - but they will be much more volatile.
Today's long period of very easy money and very low yields has distorted the financial system. This will cause unintended consequences in the near future as QE ends.
The thought-provoking (and entertaining) introduction to Markets Summit 2014 - The Great Escape - What will markets be like in the QE runout?
Why Unconventional Monetary Policy is undertaken, how it works, what it does, whether it's inflationary, and some of the unintended consequences.
Looking ahead, returns on emerging market debt are likely to better reflect the diversity of the asset class. More than ever, it pays to know your market.
The US is undeniably the critical market within the global economy - and there are real sign-posts that clearly suggest it is ready to surprise the world on the upside.
2013 was a transitional year, as the market woke up to the reality that extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy would not go on forever. What of 2014?
The start of the end of the Federal Reserve's money printing is expected to reshape the global investment landscape.
Turmoil in EM economies has returned with a vengeance. But the threat of a full-fledged crisis remains low, even in the Fragile Five.
The Academy Summer Seminar 2013 featured four sessions: The paradox of wealth (& what can be done); Don't concentrate too hard; Developing your investment philosophy; and, Financial literacy and cognitive functioning.
As we entered 2014, the consensus on the best and worst areas to invest could be described very simply: momentum investing ruled, contrarian investing was dead.
The bullish mood suddenly changed in early January. Here is a structure for thinking about recent market events that may be helpful in assessing new evidence as it comes along.
A report on asset allocation intentions of financial planners set the voice in my head singing "How many times..."
There is a broad acceptance that Bernanke's monetary policy helped stave off another global depression. But the final verdict on unconventional monetary policy remains years away.
The majority of the world will see an improvement in economic growth this year. But, after a lengthy and linear rise, equity markets will see much greater volatility this year.
Breaking Unconventional Monetary Policy is not an asymmetric outcome - it is like 50 shades of grey, whips included, particularly for emerging markets.
Change is stirring and markets do not like uncertainty. Breaking Unconventional Monetary Policy is a catalyst for slower economic growth and deflation - market volatility will only increase in 2014.
Breaking Unconventional Monetary Policy is going to prove too hard to achieve. Central Banks will run scared of their political masters; QE or an equivalent will recommence.
The US economy made substantial progress in 2013. The economic outlook for 2014 appears promising -and the US equity market can continue to appreciate.
Will QE ruin retirement? Looking back at the risks inflation has presented in the past helps us look forward to the potential consequences.