The objective of investing in stocks is to provide growth of your capital over the long-term. Stocks represent a percentage ownership in a company. After a company has paid its expenses and creditors, any earnings left over belong to you. As a stock holder then, it is important for the company to be successful in growing its business and that it remains profitable – simple enough.
The World however is always changing. Change means new opportunities for some companies, and major threats for others. A few years back when investing in international markets started to become popular, the focus was on different regions or countries. Little thought was dedicated to the economic sector or industry on a global basis.
Today however increased globalisation, more sophisticated capital markets, and the emergence of the middle class in developing countries make the sector and industry decision even more important to your total return. With this in mind, it imperative to have an approach that is both global in nature as well as flexible enough to recognise that opportunities exist on a global nature as oppose to a country or region in isolation to everyone else. As such, our view of the World is one that sees not only different countries and economies, but one that consists of 10 major economic sectors, with each one being strongly influenced by global economic cycles, interest rates, as well as local consumption trends.
Our approach to managing stocks is therefore highly focused on both regions as well as economic sectors. To assess the relative attractiveness of a region and sector, we rely upon two different models consisting of external factors and internal factors. Our external factors assesses economic conditions, real money supply, OECD leading indicators, short-term real interest rates, and long-term interest rates. While our internal factors assess earnings yield momentum, stock price momentum, and market breadth indicators. Together, this disciplined and unbiased approach identifies not only the attractive areas to invest your money, but also areas to avoid.
The objective of investing in bonds is to provide:
1) provide a constant stream of income and
2) provide stability to offset the fluctuations inherent with other parts of your portfolio
In its simplest form, a bond is a loan to a company, or government. In exchange for you lending them money, the company or government promises to make regular interest payments to you as well as to fully repay the loan at a specific date in the future. Some bonds have maturities for as short as one day, while other bonds have maturities for as long as 30 years from now. Depending on the terms of the interest payments and maturity, as well as the credit worthiness of the borrower some bonds will pay (or yield) more or less than others.
Our bond strategies cover all global regions, and corporate sectors. The primary focus for each client is on their respective domestic market.
With that in mind, we use our bond strategies as defensive positions, one that is meant to protect your wealth. Duration or maturities will be rather short-term in nature, and credit risk will focus primarily on government, sovereign, and high grade corporate bonds.
The key inputs into our fixed income strategies include a thorough analysis of the economic cycle, inflation expectations, and credit conditions. The composite outcome from all models provides guidance as to how the fixed income strategy is positioned within your portfolio.
Commodities offer long-term returns similar to that produced by the stock market. However, what is special about commodities is that collectively they have a low correlation to stocks, bonds, currencies, and real estate. This is valuable to you because when commodities are added to your portfolio, their low correlation attributes help to actually reduce your overall investment risk.
Strategies focus on the main commodity groups including Energy, Agriculture, Base Metals and Precious Metals.
Long-term trends in commodity markets usually run for 12-18 years, producing great opportunities for additional portfolio returns and diversification from stocks, bonds, currencies and real estate. Yet, these long-term markets also possess several smaller cycles that can last for several months to several years. The point being of course, nothing goes up or down in a straight line.
With this in mind, our commodity models identify favourable trends by focusing on fundamental, economic, technical and sentiment indicators. Once an opportunity is identified the portfolio will consist of an ETF strategy of either a broadly diversified commodities, or specific commodity groups including Energy, Agriculture, Base Metals, and Precious Metals.
When constructing investment portfolios, the ultimate objective is to structure a strategy that optimizes return while protecting your wealth. The addition of gold to a portfolio achieves this objective by significantly reducing portfolio volatility, while also maintaining expected returns. During normal economic cycles, gold performs in-line with a diversified commodity portfolio.
Yet, the real value of holding gold is even more evident during the following market environments:
1) Periods of US Dollar weakness, and other major currency crisis. Currencies are paper assets, issued with the backing of the underlying government. Gold is a hard asset, that serves as the ultimate storage of wealth which becomes even more attractive during periods of any major currency crisis.
2) Low/negative real interest rates signal that inflation expectations are low and that a policy response will likely focus on reigniting inflationary pressures. Gold outperforms during all inflationary environments.
3) Deflation. The world has really only experienced one period of severe deflation (The Great Depression). Throughout that cycle gold outperformed all other asset classes. This really shouldn’t be a surprise because whenever there is increased uncertainty in the world investors automatically want safety – and gold is the ultimate store of value.
4) Heightened systemic risk. One side effect of a global market economy is asset bubbles. All bubbles eventually break, and gold has always preserved capital during these periods of systemic risk.
When global macro conditions become detached from the trends in gold prices, our strategy focuses on trader and investment sentiment, market technicals, and seasonality factors. When assessed together, these factors are very dependable for identifying opportunities to invest in gold.
The allocation to currencies will normally compliment your cash and bond strategies with coverage including US Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, Swedish Krona, and Swiss Franc.
Differences between exchange rates is normally a function of inflation expectations, interest rate differentials, and the fiscal outlook for the respective countries. This holds true over the long run, however fluctuations and deviations between true values can exist for quite some time.
Our approach to managing currencies is to consider the long-term fundamental values for each currency, but also utliise our technical models to identify opportunities when current values have deviated from their true long-term price. To achieve this we focus on moving averages, momentum, and relative strength indicators.
From an investment perspective, real estate is normally included in investment portfolios to provide a constant stream of income as well as to provide protection from inflation. Traditionally, institutional investors such as pension and endowment funds were the dominant investors in the industry. However, today opportunities exist for individual investors through the use of ETFs.
Having said that, we are cognizant that many individuals already have ample exposure to real estate through their primary residence and other properties. In addition, this is usually a significant portion of their total net worth meaning that additional exposure through their investment portfolios may not make sense.
Since every client is unique, real estate certainly shouldn’t have to be included in every portfolio. We do appreciate however, that normally real estate returns are driven by financing and regional factors, and there will therefore be times when it is appropriate for certain portfolios. In addition, during an economic cycle real estate does behave differently than other asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and commodities meaning there diversification benefits to including it in the portfolio. When it does make sense to include real estate in the investment portfolio, we do have the tools and strategies available to provide optimal returns.