It would be pleasing to see a month go by without a terrorist atrocity somewhere in the world but, sadly, May was not going to be one of those months. The Manchester abomination is just one more in a string of similar attacks. It is difficult for the authorities anywhere to protect citizens from extremists who operate alone, wear no uniform and are prepared to die for their beliefs. There will, undoubtedly, be many more unhappy months.
One of the most common questions that we’ve heard/received from clients over the past year has been our view on active versus passive management. Active management has come under significant pressure due to its underperformance relative to passive over the past few years, particularly in the very competitive US large cap space, as well as the broader theme of fee compression in the industry. This theme is well illustrated by mutual fund flows over the past couple of years. According to Morningstar, passive fund strategies in the U.S. experienced inflows of $505 billion in 2016, while active funds saw outflows of $340 billion. Will this trend continue, or will active management again have its day in the sun?
With markets seeking to avoid similar toe-stubbing in the policy arena, we examine the drivers of the fixed income markets for the near term. In doing so, we consider President Trump’s fiscal policy influence, Janet Yellen’s monetary policy impacts and evolving exogenous geopolitical dynamics. So, who or what will determine the market’s course moving forward?
Recent months have been unusually eventful, characterized by a swing in the global political landscape, U.S. dollar strength, geopolitical flash points, demonetization in India and military coups in Turkey (among many others), all feeding into general market nervousness and a significant rise in volatility. This was certainly the case in emerging markets.
One of the hottest gifts of the recent holiday season was the Amazon Echo, which offers to ease the lives of customers by directing the system with its famous command “Alexa…” This move toward the automation of a greater percentage of our lives has a parallel in the investing world.
Can Mr. Trump perform miracles? How can we indulge in meaningful speculation about the unforecastable? The President-elect does have some relevant experience — running companies with mountains of debt.
One topic noticeably absent from the recent presidential election was the U.S. government debt. In fact, the topic seems to have fallen from public consciousness. In the medium term we do not expect current debt levels to cause a shock, but the longer-term effects could drag on growth, especially with an aging population and sluggish economic growth.
Our base scenario depicts the stable continuation of a US-led global recovery, with modest levels of growth being maintained and no recessionary dip.
As we look to the fourth quarter of 2016, we believe broader growth trends should be able to withstand the risks outlined here. While growth is slow, context is important.