Global Investing

Too much correlation

Globalisation is evident in this graphic put together by James Bristow, a global equities portfolio manager at BlackRock. It shows the correlation between the U.S. S&P stock index and counterparts in Europe, Australasia and the Far East.

Basically, what happens these days on Wall Street is matched everywhere else, or vice versa.

It is a bit of a problem for long-term investors. One of the best ways to diversify used to be to buy outside your domestic market. Not so now. This is likely to push more institutional investors to non-correlated assets and hedge funds.

Picture1

Back to the dance floor

It was Chuck Prince, former CEO of Citigroup, who famously said on July 9, 2007: “When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still standing.”

PARAGUAY/

Little did he know the music did nearly stop for Citi with its shares tumbling to less than $2 in 2009 from $55 in 2007.

A year later, worldwide reflation from huge liquidity injection and stimulus packages helped the global economy from collapsing.  The music may have started. The question is, should investors return to the dance floor?

Sell in May and go away?

“Sell in May and go away” — a strategy that implies that taking a good summer holiday is the best way to deliver returns — may seem like an out-dated axiom by which to manage a share portfolio, but research from S&P indicates that using a strategy this decade would have paid dividends.

Analysing the monthly performance of 16 European markets over the 10 year period from January 2000 to December 2009, S&P shows that the summer months are inauspicious for investing.RTXFFP2_Comp

Germany saw an average total return 0f 3.3 percent over the January to May period compared with an average loss of 1.4 percent over the June to August summer months, and a total return of 8.9 percent for the year as a whole, S&P says.

Another fine excuse for selling stocks

There is no question that the losses on stock markets at the moment are primarily the result of the Greek crisis. A downgrade of a euro zone country’s sovereign debt to junk is enough to make all but insane mainstream investors take a large step away from risk.

But could it also be that the Greek crisis has come at a time when big investors were looking for an excuse to cool down the equity rally? MSCI’s all-country world stock index hit a peak on April 15 that was not only higher than anything seen this year, but also last year as well.  Up about 85 percent from its March 2009 lows, in fact.

Partly as a result, there were some signs emerging that suggested a correction would soon be in the works.

from MacroScope:

Greek Contagion: One Hell of a Tail Risk

The crisis of confidence in Greece's fiscal health has dented U.S. equities, though not enough to compromise a budding American economic recovery. Even a significant slowdown in European growth prospects might have limited immediate impact on the United States. However, that benign backdrop could vanish, economists at Morgan Stanley say, if the Greek situation were to turn in to an outright credit crisis.  They call it the "contagion tail risk":

While the retreat in risky assets in the past few weeks is not yet a headwind for growth, it is hardly a plus.  If the crisis spills over into broader risk aversion and a drying up of liquidity — the functional equivalent of the US subprime crisis — the consequences could be more dire.

JP Morgan, for its part, notes that it's not just Greece investors need to worry about.

It’s the exit, stupid

Ghoul

Anyone wondering what ghoul is most haunting investors at the moment could see it clearly on Tuesday — it is the exit strategy from the past few years’ central bank liquidity-fest.

Germany came out with a quite positive business sentiment indicator, relief was still there that Greece had managed to sell some debt a day before, and Britain formally left recession – albeit in a limp kind of way.

But what was the main global market mover? It was China implementing a previously announced clampdown on lending.

RIP 2008-2009

It was down, down, down in 2008 and up, up , up in 2009. So what will 2010 bring?

Year

Credit rules, ok?

Equities may be the poster child for this year’s market recovery, but corporate bonds have been the runaway outperformer.

As the graphic below shows, corporate debt was less volatile and moer profitable over the past nearly three years of crisis and recovery — even “junk” bonds.

This year’s performance for corporate bonds has been stunning. In December last year, the spread between global large cap company debt and U.S. Treasuries was 155 basis points, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It has now narrowed to around 52 basis points.

“Normal” volatility to help rally?

As the graphic above shows, volatility in U.S. stocks has re-entered what could be called normal territory after soaring higher during the financial crisis. The blue band is plus or minus one standard deviation around the 1990 to 2007 avverage.

There may be an implication for equities beyond the obvious sign that things are calming down. Lower volatility is a buy signal in many trading models.

(Reuters graphic by Scott Barber)

Know when to hold ‘em

If you had bought emerging market stocks exactly at the top of the bubble and sold them exactly at the bottom of the crash, you would have suffered a lot of pain (and probably shouldn’t be in the investment business in the first place).  The loss would have been 67 percent of your principal.

Most people won’t have lost that much, of course, depending on when they bought and sold. But even if an investor did buy exactly at the top, as long as they held on their losses by now would have been pared back considerably. 

The graphic above, created by Scott Barber, shows how much of the crash has been clawed back. The full column represents the maximum loss; the green shows the amount recovered. In points terms, 50 percent of the emerging markets crash losses have been recouped.