Eight Non-Consensus Views

Monday, December 19th, 2022

A bearish consensus can still be complacent

We agree with the idea that US equities are going to suffer in the New Year, but disagree with many of the assumptions surrounding this view. We think US Treasuries are behaving like a risk-asset and cite their current elevated volatility as evidence. We highlight the positive correlation between equities and bonds, which means that there we may well repeat the bear market of everything we saw in H1 2022. On this basis, the dollar strengthens temporarily and the trough in equities is delayed till Q3. When the recovery comes, sectoral and geographic leadership in equities in likely to change and China will be a much bigger part of the story than Western investors currently imagine. The outlook for oil is anyone’s guess, but it will influence inflation expectations and generate bursts of volatility in all markets, contrary to its current benign behaviour.

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Upside Protection

Monday, November 21st, 2022

The need to hedge against unexpected good news

Our models are slightly conflicted at the moment. The multi-asset models, which mimic sophisticated institutional portfolios, are significantly more bearish than our simple equity vs government bond models, which are more retail-orientated. Before we dismiss the latter is just being wrong, we should at least try to explain the difference. Retail investors may be trying to hedge against the possibility of unexpected good news: a shallow US recession; a peace deal in Ukraine; or an end to zero-Covid in China. Any one of these could result in significant upside for global equities and the joint probability that none of them will happen is lower than you think.

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Timing the Turn

Monday, October 17th, 2022

Think like a hedge fund with a short-equity position

At the bottom of every bear market, there is a moment when equities turn, but most long-only managers are too risk-averse to believe it. Our approach does not try to anticipate this, but there are techniques we can use to spot the opportunity sooner. The trick is to think like a hedge fund manager with a short position in equities. In every bear market since 2000, the window for a risk-efficient short position in equities has opened weeks or months after our long-only models have got to an underweight position. This window also closes well before our long-only model rebuilds its position in equities. At the bottom of the cycle, the marginal buyer is the person with a short position.

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Something Is Going to Break

Friday, May 13th, 2022

Volatility has entered the danger zone.

Realised volatility continues to march higher every week and we have now got to the danger zone, where this creates the conditions for more volatility – especially if the FOMC is committed to much tighter monetary policy. In these circumstances, traditional valuation metrics lose a lot of their power and investors should assume that markets in one or more major asset classes will become disorderly. We think this has already begun in Nasdaq, Italian government bonds and the Chinese yuan. Other assets, which may follow in due course, include US High Yield, credit ETF’s and US housing.

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Back to the 1870’s

Friday, April 1st, 2022

150 years of beating the benchmark

We have recently achieved one of our most cherished ambitions – to test our process against a truly long-run data set and see if it works. The answer is a very definite yes. Our standard process beats US equities, US Treasuries – and any fixed combination of these two – on all of the three most important tests: highest absolute return, most risk-efficient return and smallest drawdown. The test covers 150 years, including two world wars and multiple bear markets. The outlook for the world is impossible to forecast at the moment, so we find it very comforting that a systematic data-driven approach can do so well

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Approaching a Turn in USD

Friday, December 10th, 2021

The consensus for a strong dollar is more fragile than it appears

Our asset allocation models have been significantly dislocated by the strength of the US dollar. Our previous note – Currency First Is Second Best – showed that we had a model for working round the problem, even if it was difficult to know when to use it. This note introduces our G7 currency model, which we have been live-running for about two years. We don’t use it to make trade recommendations because we think the risk-adjusted returns are normally unattractive compared to those in other models, but it is occasionally useful in times of extreme market stress. The model itself is based on a mean-reversion approach and it is now close to its largest underweight position in USD over the last two years. This time last year, it was close to a two-year maximum overweight, when the consensus view was the dollar would be weak in 2021. If we were forced to commit capital, we would position for a weaker USD, but we think the right time to do this is January, not December.

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Time for Some Bottom-Fishing

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Chinese Technology could lead a rally in EM Equities

We spend a lot of our time dissuading clients from going bottom-fishing, mainly because it doesn’t work very well. But there are times when we may need to do it to protect ourselves from the risk of being underweight a sector or country which rallies very fast. This week we highlight a combination of charts (EM Equities and China vs the World and Chinese Technology vs China) which have all sent recent signals suggesting that we may need to close our underweight positions in a hurry. There is a risk/opportunity that Chinese Technology could lead sharp and unexpected rally in EM Equities.

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Three Quick Ideas

Friday, September 10th, 2021

End of summer lull makes us cautious about big calls

We are always wary of making big calls on the basis of thin summer markets, so here are three quick ideas. First, Japan produced an important technical buy signal just before Prime Minister Suga announced his resignation. It is very similar to the one at the start of the Abenomics rally in 2012. Second, the recommended weight of US equities to the rest of the world is at a 10-year high and it does not normally hold this level for more than a month. Third, we think European industrials are out of line with US Industrials and potentially vulnerable.

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The China Question

Friday, July 30th, 2021

China’s problem may be Europe’s opportunity.

Our recommended weight for Chinese equities has just hit its all-time low since the beginning of this century. They have been in extreme underweight territory for their longest period ever. We think this is more than a temporary misunderstanding. It could represent the breakdown of the pro-China consensus that has dominated US investment thinking for over a decade. There may be parallels with what happened when the US became disillusioned with Russia 10 years ago. US investors who want international equity diversification will be forced to have another look at Europe.

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Adding REITs and TIPS to the mix

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Multi-asset diversification works, but hasn’t done so recently

Successful diversification using publicly-traded alternative asset classes, like commodities, REITs and TIPS is possible. We can select from a family of systematically-managed portfolios, which allow us to capture the upside of diversification and avoid most of the downside. However, the big takeaway from this process is that multi-asset diversification itself has been largely redundant since the end of the financial crisis, thanks to the actions of the Federal Reserve. Since that time there have been two false dawns, when it looked as though the concept was about to make a comeback and we may be on the verge of another one now. If it turns out to a real dawn, we have the regime management skills to exploit it. If not, we should be able to get out without too much harm.

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