Do not be distracted by conventional presumptions about the Fed’s tightening cycle and interest rates. The ultimate bogeyman of this investment cycle will be credit quality and the warning sign will be when banks tighten lending standards.

With the Federal Reserve today moving away from zero with a 25 basis point move, has anything changed my view that bond yields will stay lower for longer? I don't think it has. 2016 should be a very interesting market environment

One of the biggest economic surprises of 2015 is that the stunning drop in global oil prices did not deliver a bigger boost to global growth. The good news is that the welcome but modest effect on growth probably will not die out in 2016.

The addition of the Chinese renminbi to the IMF's basket of reserve currencies is likely to accelerate foreign access to China's debt markets, one of the most significant milestones in integrating China into the international financial system.

As the Fed normalises its monetary policy and the ECB doubles down on extraordinary measures, we certainly should hope for the best. But we should also be planning for a substantial rise in financial and economic uncertainty.

Today's slowdown is truly global, with economies everywhere contributing to it. We witness "disappointing" growth, quarter by quarter, year after year. The consensus pays too much attention to China as the cause. So what really is behind all this?

The case for and against illiquid assets is hotly debated. Indeed, other than fees, the battle between industry funds and retail super funds has been heavily fought around significantly differing levels of exposures to the main illiquid asset classes.

I have 80% of my personal assets in private equity - and I plan to increase that to roughly 100%. I don’t have many other good ideas as to what to do in this environment.

The Paris terror attacks have severe political, strategic and economic implications. After only one week, the Union moved away from its ideal of free movement of people, and fiscal rules.

I am not at all sure that an eventual interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve should be dismissed as an event with little impact in the real world.

If Paris is not an anomaly, and the frequency or magnitude of terrorist attacks against soft targets in G7 cities increases, what will be the geopolitical, economic and investment consequences?

In October, I joined Dr Woody Brock and PIMCO's Fed watcher, Tony Crescenzi, and 18 senior practitioners for a workshop organised by PortfolioConstruction Forum on where global monetary policy was headed. Three key views emerged.

Financial pundits routinely claim that US inflation is much higher than the reported statistics. Viewed over the longer term, however, US inflation is far lower than reflected in the published data, according to economist, Dr Woody Brock.

The US Fed is near-certain to start its tightening cycle on 16 December. Apart from praising Yellen for consistency and foresight (instead of castigating her for confusion and indecisiveness), how should investors react?

Since Angela Merkel singlehandedly opened Germany's borders to refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and any other nomads, the continent has been plunged into chaos. It threatens to wreck the European Union - or, at least turn it into an entirely different organisation.

To harness the full potential of India's growth story, investors should seek exposure to India's mid and small cap companies, rather than just the large, liquid companies with significant global revenue bases which dominate benchmark allocations.

In Putin's third presidential term, dissidents are routinely dubbed deviants, fifth columnists, and traitors, as the regime leads a drive for national unity based on religion, tradition, and paranoid rhetoric. For the moment, Putinism is the only game in town.

According to a Harvard Business School study, the percentage of US GDP attributable to the financial industry tripled from 1950 to the 2000s. Has any of this increase improved the services rendered by the financial services industry to the real economy?

The idea that financial markets are too focused on the short term is gaining ground in the media, academics and now, politicians. Upon closer inspection, the supposed negative consequences of investor short-termism appear not to be happening at all.

The influx of refugees and economic migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East appears as broad-based as the ancient migrations that defined Europe throughout history. Europe needs migrants from a purely economic perspective.

With the US on its way to energy independence, there's a risk it and its Western allies will consider the Middle East less important. That's wishful thinking - a burning Middle East can destabilise the world economically and socially.

With interest rates at record lows, it is a really good time to revisit how we build debt portfolios. A three box approach can really help in making and communicating investment decisions for the secure part of their portfolio in the new, low interest rate environment.

Tim Farrelly | 2 comments | 0.50 CE

Markets have a habit of coming along and kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it - and often when you are most confident you know what you are doing. The bull market in central bank omnipotence is probably over.

Turmoil often provides a fantastic opportunity to reassess one's portfolio - and we're currently going through exactly such turmoil. The question is: what are the critical issues that investors should focus on as they rethink portfolio positioning today?

Yellen has confirmed what should have been obvious all along - the Fed is not indifferent to international financial stress and its risk-management approach remains strongly biased in favour of "lower for longer". But four things about US monetary policy are frequently misunderstood.

In all of '87, '98, '05 and '15, the US economy was close to full employment, inflation was tame, commodity prices low, EMs were under financial strain, volatility roiled financial markets, the US dollar was strong, and US monetary policy excessively generous. What followed?

Europe in 2015 stands at the crossroads. The euro crisis and the refugee crisis are testing the foundations of the European project. Even if the EU survives this challenge, it will be a much changed and probably much weaker.

The last few weeks have felt like riding on that old, antiquated rollercoaster – unexpected turns, harsh stops and, frankly, no clear sense of when the ride was going to end. Why have markets reacted so sharply, and what's ahead?

The Australian residential property market is stretched. But about to crash, triggering a recession? It's nuts and you can clearly see it's nuts.

The progress we have seen in European markets in 2015 is sustainable over the next 12 months. But, investors should temper return expectations and anticipate continued market volatility.

The outlook for developed credit markets, and in particular the US credit market, remains constructive. Here are Three reasons support the case for credit now.

Real return investing isn't too real at all, with big targets like CPI+5%. It is an objective that is not strongly linked to the reality of investment markets - so prepare for another investment approach aligned with disappointment.

To be clear, Europe is still one of the most developed, most prosperous, and most liveable places on earth. However, the cracks in Europe are clearly visible. It is a world region that made the past but will not make the future.

Oil prices have headed south again. The current decline also has an important demand dimension. A sustained price recovery will not occur quickly...

PortfolioConstruction Forum Strategies Conference 2015 featured a carefully selected faculty of more than 35 international and local portfolio construction experts offering their best high conviction ideas about critical portfolio "crossroads". Here are the highlights.

Fears that China's economy is teetering on the edge of collapse are exaggerated. But it is slowing. And the slowdown will inevitably highlight problems that until now have remained largely hidden, triggering fresh bouts of market volatility.

If you want to understand falling oil prices, forget Chinese consumption and focus on Middle East production. And, if you want to understand the world economy, forget about stock markets - focus on the fact that cheap oil always boosts global growth.

This week's market correction is long overdue. It is also not over because the true underlying problems are much more serious than the commonly cited causes. And, at last, markets are teaching Xi and Li who in fact is the boss.

I don't believe this week's market corrections portend the ultimate downturn in this investment cycle. The endgame will take a few more years. Here are some market, currency and China milestones to watch for to check this view is correct.

Many have taken an alarmist approach to the recent sell-off in China's A sharemarket, declaring the bubble has definitely burst. The question was well put by one of our key clients who in late June asked, "Is China Done?".

Our eclectic Panel - a politician, a pastor, a professor, a portfolio manager, a practitioner, a provocateur, and a 'preneur, moderated by our Publisher - addresses Conference 2015 delegates' questions about key Crossroads, Dilemmas and Decisions.

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While 36% of investors say they are ‘reviewing their need for downside protection’, only 8% are currently implementing it. Yet there are many strategies to manage risk in portfolios.

Going forward, there are headwinds for equity and fixed income markets, however the outlook for alpha generation from many alternative strategies remains robust. Now is an attractive point in the cycle to add, or increase exposure to alternative strategies.

The smooth sailing of Australian equities over the last few years has developed complacency among investors. But rougher seas ahead will require a more active approach. It’s time to ensure that you engage a truly active manager.

At the heart of defensive investing lies infrastructure assets - but only only in its purest form is infrastructure able to deliver the defensive qualities that investors are targeting.

As volatility in bond markets becomes more pronounced, and asset bubbles develop, investors will need to reassess their approach to the asset class. Unconstrained bond investors can exploit opportunities across relative value, yield curve and fixed income volatility.

The reformist credibility of the Chinese government has been severely damaged by its market intervention, which could be very serious for the ongoing transformation of the world’s most populous nation.

Jonathan Pain | 0.50 CE

EM policymakers have wasted their commodity-fueled Goldilocks Era and are sitting at a crossroads. Without a dramatic policy shift, EM are a value trap, if not an outright bubble.

Indexing could be as problematic during the next few decades as it has been successful in the past few. This heightens the appeal of active management for those brave enough to pursue it.

Woody Brock | 0.50 CE

It's been almost 24 years since Australia's last recession. It could be said Australia is “due for one”. While it would be foolish to say that the chances of a recession in Australia are zero, it's also wrong to say that they are over 50%.

Special one-off factors have underpinned Australia's record expansion. The key to forecasting the next Australian recession lies in forecasting the end of cheap money – if correct, then clearly a major investment crossroad for all Australian residents and investors.

Chris Watling | 0.75 CE

With traditional asset classes expensive and historically low yields on bonds compromising their role as a diversifier, investors are at a crossroads. Investors should be looking for alternative sources of return and genuine diversification.

There are two possible outcomes from the extreme debt levels in the global economy - high inflation or long-term below trend growth. The key dilemma is how to minimise this uncertainty and return dispersion.

Warryn Robertson | 0.75 CE

Recent stock market volatility demonstrates that asset price growth expectations can’t be taken for granted in China, despite intervention from policymakers. The bursting of China’s property bubble poses a major risk to the stability of China and the global economy – and a critical dilemma for investors.

QE has driven a search for yield globally, resulting in a unique Australian experience that has seen the major ASX indices become increasingly concentrated. We are at the crossroads for active Australian equity management.

The US Federal Reserve is (reluctantly) ending a long period of abnormally low rates. Investors should consider flexible benchmark unaware approaches in their fixed income portfolios, to potentially mitigate adverse market conditions going forward.

Consumers and the energy industry are at a crossroad. Customer choices are impacting different parts of the energy supply chain, but energy networks themselves are insulated from emerging technologies.

The diverse range of quality small cap companies with recurring earnings and growing dividend yields offer investors essential risk diversification and should be incorporated into portfolios.

Many investors are facing a dilemma with the perceived risk embedded in debt markets as Fed lift-off looms. However, reality beckons - rates will rise and investors can benefit.

Tony Crescenzi | 0.75 CE

Our panel debated the contrasting views of the two presenters who addressed this "crossroad" - that rates are likely to go higher than most expect over the next three years vs that markets will go on tolerating lower interest rates for far longer.

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The view that markets will go on tolerating lower interest rates for far longer is the more benign, market friendly (almost bullish) outlook than the common thinking that higher interest rates will be good.

With the Fed signalling its intention to raise rates, there is great disagreement about the quantum of rises ahead. Rates are likely to go higher than most expect - and the risk of a material equity market correction is elevated.

Portfolio construction is approaching a crossroads – critical questions must be answered, and critical decisions must now be made.

Six years into a bull market, Australian equity values are beginning to look stretched. But large divergences in valuations across sectors are creating great opportunities for truly active managers.

The longer interest rates stay negative, the more distortions will appear in financial markets. Certain trends are already in place which could ultimately lead to severe distortions.

Infrastructure has gained greater focus in recent years, with investors drawn to its defensive characteristics. But infrastructure investing requires a tight definition to deliver the defensive attributes that investors are targeting.

The increasing concentration of the Australian stock market indices is mirrored by the concentration of the Australian funds management industry. What does this mean for alpha generation?

Consumers and the energy industry are both at a crossroads - hence the exclusion of some parts of the electricity supply chain from the investible universe of low-risk global listed infrastructure securities.

There are three escapes the Fed had to make in order to declare its mission a success - escape from a liquidity trap, escape from quantitative easing, and, escape from the zero bound. Only the last remains. Will it achieve its great escape? Probably.

The US Federal Reserve is (reluctantly) ending a long period of abnormally low rates. Traditional drivers of portfolio returns such as productivity and earnings growth are set to reassert themselves.

Traditionally, risk management might have been considered as a monitoring activity only. Risk analysis, can, however, add value at the earlier stages of the investment process.

There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about China's long-term economic future, but the short-to-medium term challenges are considerable.

The single most important macro-trend of our time is China's attempt to transform itself from a typical (if large) emerging market into an empire. The interesting bit for investors is that growing empires usually breed strong currencies.

China is a glass both half full and half empty. It will continue to grow and become a great superpower, but its future growth rate will be significantly lower than President Xi's "new normal" 6% forecast.

Market manipulation has become standard operating procedure in policy circles around the world. The more proactive Chinese approach is the policy equivalent of attempting to catch a falling knife – arresting a market in free-fall.

As we have just witnessed, it took an enormous effort to keep Greece in the eurozone. In the end, Europe could deal with the problem. For other members, such propping up will not always be possible. What happens next in France, Spain and Italy may well turn out to be more worrying than anything we have seen around Athens so far.

This week, Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen has repeatedly said it is likely the Fed will lift its policy rate at its September meeting. It will be a minor adjustment but a momentous event. In short, I expect the first 100 basis points of Fed normalisation will have relatively little effect on long-term rates - with a critical caveat.

Will alpha eventually go to zero for every imaginable investment strategy, as suggested by Swedroe & Berkin's The Incredible Shrinking Alpha? The idea of financial singularity may seem inspiring, but real world markets are nowhere close to it.

We should acknowledge the Greek crisis for what it is - the death-knell for the European dream of empire. The growing reality is the return of borders, national preferences, and opt-outs. The euro has become a structurally weak currency and European bonds are likely to underperform those of other, nonshrinking, empires.

Despite all the negative ink that's been spilt over the recent collapse in Chinese equities, we continue to believe that a year from now there will be more marginal buyers of Chinese equities than today.

Whatever the EU now decides at its summit on Sunday (the umpteenth, by my count), it will be costly. It is unlikely to work. And it was totally avoidable.

Understanding PETS - Political, Environmental, Technological/Scientific, Social - factors is relevant, if not crucial, to us as citizens. But to what extent are they relevant or important to investing?

Greece's creditors are likely to find it very difficult to compromise. Capitulate today and Greece will be back for more concessions in future. Many politicians will want to draw the line here and now, making Grexit highly likely.

Will low interest rates be with us for decades? Or are higher rates ahead? Our Academy panel argues the case for "lower for longer" versus "back to higher" - and the implications for portfolios.

Four "big picture" geopolitical conditions will affect policy and markets going forward - in order of importance, the South China Sea, Russia returns, the end of Sykes-Picot in the Middle East, and the unwinding of the EU.

Contrary to most of headlines, the astonishing weekend events in Greece will almost certainly prove bullish for risk assets around the world and especially in Europe.

The current focus on the downpour in Greece is understandable. But we should not be so distracted that we fail to prepare for two other possible storms – and the possibility that they converge into a perfect storm.

As always, PortfolioConstruction Forum Symposium is the highlight of my year in terms of professional development. This year's was probably the best to date. Here are the key takeouts I sent to my clients.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy challenges and advances portfolio construction knowledge and wisdom. Open to a select group of just 80 senior, experienced portfolio construction practitioners each year, Academy will enable you to continuously develop, test, and validate your portfolio construction philosophy and decision-making framework.

The 2014-2015 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2014-2015 curriculum year...

The 2013-2014 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2013-2014 curriculum year...

The 2012-2013 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2012-2013 curriculum year.

The 2011-2012 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2011-2012 curriculum year.

The 2010-2011 Academy Resources Kit is a rich repository of continuing education material including the presentations, podcasts, and research papers from the Academy Seminars for the 2010-2011 curriculum year.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Winter Seminar 2015 featured four sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar, as well as the presentation slides.

If the "no property bubble" camp is to gain credibility, they need to develop much stronger arguments than many trotted out recently.

I am convinced that both economies and markets are reaching a point of transition where one of two discrete outcomes is likely. Portfolios must offer the potential for reasonable performance in either eventuality.

In 2015, currencies will basically drive the outperformance candidates as economies try to steal growth from each other. Plus, there is a decade-long mania candidate - healthcare.

Symposium 2015 featured 20+ leading investment professionals arguing their best, high conviction ideas about the markets, strategies and investing.

Macro liquidity is feeding asset booms and bubbles in equity, bond, and other asset markets. As more investors pile into overvalued, increasingly illiquid assets – such as bonds – the risk of a long-term crash increases.

The surprising result of a recent study is that the "conventional" view that earnings rise steadily (above inflation) throughout our careers is not accurate. Good spending habits established early on can make an astounding difference to wealth over a lifetime.

Michael Kitces | 0.50 CE

We now have enough history to determine who the winners were from 25 years of globalisation. The answer? Small countries. The investment conclusion is obvious - overweight good companies listed in small countries.

This week, Portugal's sovereign bonds traded on negative yield - flying in the face of any sensible assessment of credit risk. There seems to be little chance that the ECB's belated and oversized QE program will end gracefully. Policy blunders never do.

Divergences in global economic and policy outcomes have important implications for markets around the world. This policy divergence has directly influenced asset prices across the globe with implications for stocks, bonds and currency markets.

China now has to deal with a massive excess supply of property… This is unlikely to be “just another property cycle” in China. The bursting of China’s property bubble poses a major risk to both the country’s stability and the global economy.

In this environment, what’s very important is capital preservation. The problem investors have is that there are very few places to hide. So, while cash may not be king, I think it could end up being a very handsome prince.

Each of our Symposium 2015 DDF presenters gave a 2-minute overview of their high conviction portfolio construction strategy idea.

Rather than large, liquid companies with significant global revenue bases which dominate benchmark allocations, investors should seek exposure to India’s surging local demand…

uilding NZ fixed interest portfolios is harder than it has ever been… Portfolios need to be constructed for the specific needs of clients, which will typically be a combination of liquidity, income, quality, and diversification

Investors will need to hunt out alternative sources of yield to meet their investment objectives. All is not lost. Yield can be preserved in a low yield world but investors need to be aware of the risks and trade-offs.

Each panelist outlined which high conviction markets idea from Symposium 2015 day one they agreed with most, and which one they agreed with least.

As we all brace for lift-off in the key US Federal funds rate, a robust, top-down macro perspective will be even more critical to the success of portfolios than ever.

Jonathan Pain | 0.50 CE

Our Symposium 2015 debated their high conviction ideas on the drivers of, and medium-term outlook for, the New Zealand economy.

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Economic growth has had a lot of bad press recently. But on closer inspection, the objections typically leveled against growth do not stand up to empirical scrutiny.

NZ has plummeted down the global income per capita rankings from third in the 1950s to 23rd in 2015. Successive governments have done little to reverse the decline. Why have we failed to regain our position?

Our Symposium 2015 Faculty debated their high conviction ideas on the drivers of, and medium-term (two to three year) outlook for the markets.

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Despite a genuine desire to invest in New Zealand on behalf of a substantial Australian superannuation fund, after several years of trying, no money has been invested.

For investors, one of the most important events of 2014 was the dramatic collapse in the oil price. The long-term equilibrium price is now likely to be lower. Overall, portfolios must be repositioned for increased volatility.

Nick Langley | 0.50 CE

Returns in defensive equity yield and income sectors have been outsized as bond yields have fallen. Growth sectors have underperformed. But globally, technology shares are cheap on a relative basis.

World-wide low interest rates are not a temporary phenomenon. The world has changed and it is highly likely that the current low rate environment will be with us for decades. Getting used to low rates will be a critical adjustment for all investors to make in the coming years.

Tim Farrelly | 0.50 CE

Slow growth is an old story. The new story is that world is finally beginning to re-balance - a process that unfortunately will take another 20 years. Well-intended policies are causing bubbles and distortions to asset prices.

Robert Gay | 2 comments | 0.50 CE

The outlook for the global economy is unambiguously positive. At long last, all regional economic cylinders are firing in unison and secular stagnation is yesterday's story.

Jonathan Pain | 1 comment | 0.50 CE

PortfolioConstruction Forum Publisher and Symposium NZ 2015 Moderator, Graham Rich, opened Symposium NZ 2015 in his usual thought-provoking (and entertaining) way, highlighting key issues to consider over the jam-packed, marathon program.

In a world dependent on robust economic growth to solve or postpone debt problems the over-reliance on an apparently slowing US economy is of major concern.

With NZ fixed interest portfolios arguably harder to build than ever before, this paper introduces a framework for practitioners to build fixed interest portfolios for to meet the needs of individual clients.

I think we have seen the low in European bond yields and that we have commenced on the path - at long last - of secular reflation.

Lower oil prices and a wave of monetary policy accommodation are a net positive for the global economy, but there are losers as well as winners, especially in some emerging market economies.

The collapse in oil prices in the second half of 2014 is very large in a historical context. This paper explores the implications for portfolios.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 20 central banks have eased monetary policy. Upward pressure on the US dollar has been sharp. America's entry into the fray was only a matter of time.

I have a sense of a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. Only the timing is in doubt. Because of this, I have increasingly a great unrest. You should too.

In recent years, academics have been at war over whether the small cap premium exists. This recent paper finds it does - if you control for quality - and that it is significant, and not time or market specific.

A surprise rate cut in November 2014 and investor expectations of further easing measures have triggered a strong rally in China equities - both A shares, and in the last three weeks, H shares. Can it last?

To maintain "no taxation, no representation" deal with its people, China's leadership seems to be going down a path that'd see index funds as forced buyers of Chinese equities.

Is it time to start thinking more about E/P ratios than P/E ratios? After all, predicting that returns may be higher or lower with a low (or high) earnings yield (and a corresponding P/E ratio) really isn't so controversial.

We are reminded daily that the US stock market has achieved record highs between 2009 and today. But the true bull market covers 35 years. What does an understanding it tell us about the future? The answer is: a lot.

Woody Brock | 1.00 CE

Fixed income markets seem to have gotten the correct message, albeit perhaps for the wrong reasons – short-term interest rates will stay low for a long time.

These are words that I utter with the utmost caution - this time, it really is different. For something genuinely new to the modern experience, consider the curious case of collapsing equity volatility.

Low GDP growth, very low real rates, higher PEs and valuation multiples - it's a new world. We all need to get used to it. In particular, we should review client spending plans.

House and land prices should come down, in real terms. But there isn’t anything obviously irrational about house prices as they are.

Grant Spencer's interview on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint last night answered one of my questions. It seems that Spencer, and the Reserve Bank, now favour a capital gains tax.

I had been going to write something about housing this morning, but got distracted in the WEO database. House prices, especially in Auckland, are a political and social scandal.

Indexing, as I have written before, is a form of socialism, since capital is allocated not as it should be. It is hard to think of a more stupid way to allocate this scarce resource.

A German exit from the eurozone would give Germany the currency it deserves and leave the rest of the eurozone with the carcass of a currency well suited for its needs.

What does dollar parity say about New Zealand and Australia? It is a tale of two different countries. And, it is a tale of a major role reversal.

While it has offered a very bumpy and challenging ride in recent years, I suspect those prepared to buy and hold some gold exposure today will be well rewarded.

Fundamentally, there are three ways to make money in financial markets. A well structured, well-diversified portfolio should encompass all three, across all geographies.

Now the Fed has opened the door to normalising interest, what constitutes "normal"? Take care in stretching for yield now the Fed is no longer making promises.

Hardly a day passes that a Greek government official does not add a needless provocation to the bailout debate. Is this just madness? Or is there method in it?

After more than six years of near zero interest rates, the Fed seems set upon the long journey back to more normal monetary policy. What are the investment implications?

A behavioural shift by Japan's people from a 20-year deflationary mindset to an inflationary one represents a major opportunity set for investors for many years to come.

This paper by Rob Arnott and Denis Chaves looks the effects of different age cohorts on GDP and asset class returns.

Vimal Gor | 1.75 CE

The world is increasingly characterised by divergence - in economic performance, monetary policy, and thus, in financial markets.

The US dollar is hitting new 12-year highs almost daily and the euro seems to be plunging to below parity. But there are at least four factors pressuring it the other way.

Macroeconomic outlooks may differ from where you can receive market returns. The outlook can be summarised in three words - improvement, divergence and decoupling.

How should one understand the disconnect between new highs reached by global equity indices and new depths plumbed by real interest rates worldwide?

Since the 1980s, oil prices have fallen 50% or more over six months just twice - including last year. Was oil a bubble which has now imploded? Or is oil set to bounce back?

With 20 speakers at Markets Summit 2015, there were inevitably conflicting views of the world. This year, the bears outnumbered the bulls and the mood was noticeably downbeat compared to last year.

Despite forecasts of continued superior US economic growth, we are selling down our beloved US quality stocks in favor of the problem children of the investing world.

Markets Summit 2015 - Cyclical? Structural? Secular? - featured 19 international and local investment experts debating their best ideas on the key cyclical, structural and secular issues driving the medium-term outlook for markets - and, of course, the implications for portfolios. This Resources Kit is a deluge of videos, podcasts, and papers for all sessions of the jam-packed program so you can "attend" even if you weren't there.

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The world was shocked by the oil price collapse. Anuraag Shah, who made a fortune betting on a falling oil price, summarised the astonishment - "It's nuts!". Actually, it isn't.

In this not-to-be-missed session of a not-to-be-missed program few prisoners were taken in debating the moot "overweight int'l equities, underweight Au equities.

Investing globally is increasingly popular with the expectation of a continued weak AUD being a big driver. But easy currency gains may have been had.

Pippa picked up where she left off in her opening keynote, tying the Markets Summit 2015 proceedings together, summarising her key takeouts, and their implications for portfolios.

In this simulated investment board meeting, our day's 17 international and local Faculty members debated and voted on whether to overweight international equities and underweight Australian equities in portfolios on a two- to three-year view.

In 2014, we witnessed the return of market volatility. With potentially significant market return and volatility, investors should consider portfolio positioning before the fact.

The fourth D confronting investors - the disruptions wrought by technological change. Cash cows, thoroughbred stocks and roll-ups are best placed in a world challenged by the four Ds.

Kate Howitt | 0.50 CE

While demographics will still dominate into the future, energy and automation are quickly rising to be just as important with significant implications for portfolios.

Vimal Gor | 0.50 CE

A currency union absent of full political union is inherently unstable. After the first country exits the eurozone, markets will attack the next most vulnerable. The dominos will fall.

Few opportunities are available today where discounts to intrinsic value outweigh downside risks. Japanese corporations are increasingly embracing ROE and shareholder value.

As its capital markets develop, the macro picture improves, inflation comes under control, and the economy grows, India's credit and rates markets present a compelling opportunity.

Since Q4 2014, oil prices have plunged, currency markets are at war and intraday volatility of stock indices is disturbing. A crisis mode has started. Asset allocators must mitigate risks before this next crisis inevitably hits.

One of the most important events of 2014 for investors was the dramatic collapse in the oil price. Overall, investment portfolios must be repositioned for increased volatility.

Nick Langley | 0.50 CE

The US equity market will disappoint going forward. Global equity investors need to be far less US-centric to capture better returns.

Navigating the lower limbo stick will require more unconstrained investing, greater consideration of the chosen benchmark, and a greater focus on downside risk management.

Lower 'neutral' monetary policy rates across the developed world will continue to serve as an important anchor for the secular valuation of all asset classes.

Robert Mead, PIMCO | 0.50 CE

Emerging markets will face a more challenging economic and financial outlook over the next few years - but systemic risk across the emerging world is lower than before the Asian crisis.

De-leveraging, widening inequality and structural reforms limit growth in developed markets. The US is the most advanced in addressing these challenges.

Ronald Temple | 0.50 CE

Bond markets were once the world's most liquid. Today, trading even $5 million in bonds can be difficult. Managed fund holders must recognize that funds may limit withdrawals and hold larger cash balances.

2015 will be a year of huge uncertainty about the future of the Euro. These uncertainties are likely to pose a fundamental challenge to investing in the Eurozone.

Differentiation is key for emerging markets. Secularly, countries enjoying the rise of consumerism are expected to drive local company earnings above the global norm.

Economic signals are everywhere. By being alert to signals, anyone can start to navigate through the turbulence of the world economy.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Publisher and Markets Summit 2015 Moderator, Graham Rich, opened Markets Summit 2015 in his usual entertaining way, highlighting key issues to consider over the jam-packed, marathon program.

Focus on structural reform and potential room for monetary easing provides a positive backdrop for India in the current global context.

EM equities and fixed income enjoyed a boom in the 2000s. Now after several years of relative underperformance, EMs appear to be on the cusp of stronger growth.

The US secondary corporate bond market is in a time of significant upheaval. Changes to regulations has caused a new, insidious liquidity risk.

The most important issue for investors is the risk of a US recession in 2016. It would play out to a global recession. There are cyclical, structural and secular forces at work.

After a run of historically rapid improvement in living standards in the first decade of the millennium, emerging markets will face a more challenging outlook - not a crisis - over the next few years.

As the US potentially enters its sixth year of expansion, we are optimistic its economy can continue on a steady trajectory throughout 2015. Elsewhere in the world, the outlook is murkier.

Japan has become a nation to which many investors are largely indifferent. But individual Japanese stocks offer some of the most compelling asymmetric risk/return profiles within the equity landscape.

At first glance, it appears that the US job market has healed. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The US still has substantial excess labor supply.

An emphasis on tactical asset allocation, careful bottom-up security selection and prudent relative value decisions are going to be critical in 2015.

A puzzle challenging economists and policymakers is the persistent increase in company profits as a share of GDP in recent decades. Is it an enduring phenomenon driven by an underlying secular trend?

This Backgrounder defines the terms "cyclical", "structural"" and "secular" and provides examples, in order to increase the clarity of debate about what's really driving markets.

2015 has got off to an eventful start - we've seen dramatic changes only five weeks into the year. Here's where I see markets going in 2015. A couple of things really stand out.

PortfolioConstruction Forum Academy Summer Seminar 2015 featured four sessions. This Resources Kit contains the materials for preparing for the Seminar, as well as the presentation slides.

Who would have thought that six years after the GFC, most advanced economies would still be swimming in an alphabet soup?

The world economy today is defined by the unwinding, the reversal of several very long-term economic trends - and they have economic and investment implications.

Does geopolitics have investment implications? In short - yes - and this paper provides a clear understanding of both geopolitics and its clear link to investment markets.

Japan has a history of changing dramatically, often when least expected. As Abe's economic policies and structural reforms spark growth, Japan is well-positioned to reemerge as a global investment force.

The consensus of FOMC participants expects core inflation to revert toward the 2% target over the next two years. I think they will be wrong.

Australia still looks like one of the holdout anomalies in global markets where the adjustment from a decade of mispriced assets has yet to fully play out.

In an era when central bankers are supposed to be more open, collaborative, and communicative, why did the SNB decide to turn on a dime and shock the markets?

As long as policymakers can stay on course and avoid the policy mistakes of the late 1990s, the oil price collapse could prove more therapeutic than destructive.