Ready to Throw Caution to the Wind?
True story: I had a friend who was such an abysmal investor he actually started investing against his own judgment. He’d plow through masses of data, read every piece of expert investment advice he could get his hands on, and make his picks. If his research and intuition told him to sell energy stocks, he’d invest a bundle in the sector. When he thought he was looking at a stock that was a “sure thing,” he’d sell. It was a bit crazy, but it paid off. Why? Because the one thing he knew for certain is that what he had been doing before wasn’t working, so he did the exact opposite, and his portfolio surged.
Just do something different
At the moment, it seems more than a few people are wondering if the Fed should think about using a similar tactic. Interest rates have been at historic lows ever since 2008 when rates plummeted to zero in an effort to salvage the tanking economy. And while a lot has changed in the US economy, the Fed has stuck by its old policy that rates shouldn’t be raised until core inflation hits the magical number of 2%.
But after a single rate hike in late 2015, Janet Yellen et al decided last week to sit tight. Again. This time the reason was Brexit, but it seems like there’s always something threatening the US economy. Brexit. China. War. And with a constant barrage of global events, it seems unlikely the US will exceed the 2% core inflation point any time soon—much less remain consistently above it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’ve heard smart people on both sides of the fence argue for and against a rate hike, and both camps have very valid points. There’s no easy answer. So maybe the Fed should, like my friend, throw caution to the wind and just do something different. Just for the heck of it. Just maybe.
Then again, maybe they should look before they leap.
Setting Guideposts Creates Confidence for Advisors and their Clients
Here’s the thing: in today’s volatile environment, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. There’s too much news. Too much information. Too much input to make smart, sensible decisions. For advisors, it begs the question: how do you manage your portfolios in the midst of unprecedented volatility? How do you manage the unmanageable?
The best-selling trading book of all time, Trading for a Living by Alexander Elder is a great place to start. (The updated version, The New Trading for a Living, was released in 2014.) Of course, there are many methods out there, but all of them are designed to help advisors and investors develop a disciplined approach to investing that removes the psychological and mechanical barriers to success.
As we all know, one of the biggest of those barriers is reacting to the market. You’ve seen it with clients: as soon as the market dips, the phones start ringing with clients wanting to jump ship—right at the worst time to sell. When the market peaks, everyone wants to jump on board—right at the worst time to buy.
It’s an easy cycle to spot when someone else is making the blunder. But unless you’re following specific guidelines and have created your own guideposts that drive not only buy/sell decisions, but the myriad other decisions you have to make on a daily basis, how can you be certain you’re not blundering yourself? Trading for a Living is a great read for anyone who wants to develop a calm, disciplined approach to the markets because it focuses on managing risk and managing your own responses to market volatility and other events, and it provides clear pathways for both.
Perhaps the most valuable outcome of having unshakeable guideposts in place is not confidence in your own decisions (which is wonderful in itself!), but the confidence of your clients. The next time a client comes to you saying that “it’s time to do something,” you can remind them you already did do something. You jointly agreed to a strategy and guideposts that you’ll use to grow their wealth over the long run. You balanced their tolerance for risk and reward. And now they need to trust those decisions will pay off.
Even if Janet Yellen trusted my advice about the best next step for interest rates, I don’t know what I’d recommend. Perhaps trying something new is the right move. Perhaps it would be an economic disaster. What I do know is that creating and following concrete guideposts is the best possible way to manage uncertainty.
Building a Better Index With Strategic Beta
Written by: Yazann Romahi, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Beta Strategies and Lead Portfolio Manager of JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF at J.P. Morgan Asset Management
With the global economy warming up, but political uncertainty remaining a constant, it’s more important than ever for investors to position their global portfolios to navigate long-term market volatility. That’s where the power of diversification comes in, says Yazann Romahi, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Beta Strategies at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Lead Portfolio Manager of JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN).
Not all diversified portfolios are alike
In their search for diversification, many investors turn to passive index ETFs, which track a market cap-weighted index. But these funds aren’t always the most effective way to steer a steady course through volatile markets—and there are two key reasons why.
First, traditional market cap-weighted indices are actually less diversified than investors may think. For example, in the S&P 500, the top 10% of stocks account for half the volatility of the index. Within sectors, while you might assume that sector risk is distributed across the ten major sectors fairly evenly, it is a surprise to many that at any point in time, one sector can be as high as 50% of the risk.
Second, cap-weighted indices come with some inherent weaknesses, including exposure to unrewarded risk concentrations and overvalued securities. So, while these indices provide investors with exposure to the equity risk premium and long-term capital growth, as is the case with any other investment, investors can also experience painful downturns, which increase volatility and reduce long-term performance. For investors seeking equity exposure with broader diversification—and potentially lower volatility—strategic beta indices may be better positioned to deliver the goods.
How do we define strategic beta?
Strategic beta refers to a growing group of indices and the investment products that track them. Most of these indices ultimately aim to enhance returns or reduce risk relative to a traditional market cap-weighted benchmark.
Building on decades of proven research and insights, J.P. Morgan’s strategic beta ETFs track diversified factor indices designed to capture most of the market upside, while providing less volatility in down markets compared to a market cap-weighted index. Rather than constructing an index based on market capitalization—with the largest regions, sectors and companies representing the largest portion of the index—our strategic beta indices aim to allocate based on maximizing diversification along every dimension—sectors, regions and factors. The index therefore seeks to improve risk-adjusted returns by tackling the overexposure to risk concentrations and overvalued securities that come as part of the package with traditional passive index investing.
So, how do you build a better index?
As one of just a few ETF providers that combine alternatively-weighted and factor-oriented indices, our disciplined index methodology is designed to target better risk-adjusted returns through a two-step process.
First, we seek to maximize diversification across the risk dimension. This essentially means that we look to ensure risk is more evenly spread across regions and sectors, which balances the index’s inherent concentrations. As uncontrolled risk concentrations are unlikely to be rewarded over the longer term, we believe investors should strive for maximum diversification when constructing a core equity exposure.
Second, we seek to maximize diversification across the return dimension. Research shows that there are a number of sources of equity returns beyond growth itself. These include risk exposures such as value, size, momentum and quality (or low volatility). When creating a diversified factor index in partnership with FTSE Russell, we seek to build up the constituents with exposure to these factors. We therefore select securities through a bottom-up stock filter, scoring each company based on a combination of these return factors to determine whether it is included in the index. These factors provide access to a broader, more diversifying source of equity returns as they inherently deliver low correlation to one another, providing diversification in the return dimension.
So, whereas traditional passive indices allow market cap to dictate allocations, the diversified factor index seeks to ensure that we minimize concentration to any source of risk—whether it be region, sector or source of return.
How are you currently weighted versus the market cap-weighted index, and how have your under- and over-weights enhanced risk-return profiles?
Crucially, our weightings don’t reflect specific views on sectors or regions and are instead, by design, the point of maximal diversification. It is important to remember that market cap-weighted indices typically carry a lot of concentration risk—for example, at various points in time, a single sector can explain half the risk of the index when left unmanaged. At the moment, three sectors explain two-thirds of the risk of the FTSE Developed ex-NA Index—these being financials, consumer goods and industrials. In contrast, the FTSE Developed ex-NA Diversified Factor Index—or strategic beta index, which JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN) tracks—is explicitly designed to maintain balance and therefore these sector allocations range from 8% to 12%. In the short term, any concentrated portfolio can of course outperform a more diversified one, if the concentrated bet paid off.
Investing wholly in a single stock may outperform over short-term periods. At other times, it may significantly underperform an index. However, it is well understood that an investor is better off diversifying across lots of stocks for better risk-adjusted long-term gains. The same applies here. From a pure return perspective, if financials, for example, account for half of a cap-weighted index in terms of market cap and have a strong run over the short term, of course, this index would outperform over this period. Over the long run, however, it is fairly uncontroversial to suggest that the more broadly diversified index could achieve better risk-adjusted returns.
Seeking a smoother ride in international equity markets?
For investors targeting enhanced diversification through a core international equity portfolio, JPMorgan Diversified Return International Equity ETF (JPIN) targets lower volatility by tracking an index that more evenly distributes risk, enabling them to get invested—and stay invested.
Learn more about JPIN and J.P. Morgan’s suite of strategic beta ETFs here.
Call 1-844-4JPM-ETF or visit www.jpmorganetfs.com to obtain a prospectus. Carefully consider the investment objectives and risks as well as charges and expenses of the ETF before investing. The summary and full prospectuses contain this and other information about the ETF. Read them carefully before investing.
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