Global Investing

Quarter-end rebalancing: A myth?

With world stocks up more than 10  percent since the start of the year, it must be tempting for investors to cash in their gains before the quarter-end/fiscal year-end. Or is it really?

JP Morgan, which analysed equity buying of institutional investors including pension funds, insurance companies and investment funds in the United States, euro zone, Japan and the UK, finds that there is no empirical evidence of quarterly rebalancing by pension funds or insurance companies.

Below are the charts showing their findings on the amount of equity buying as a share of equity holdings in each quarter against the difference between equity return and the return on total assets. If pension funds and insurance companies do not rebalance at all, the amount of equity buying should be unaffected by the relative return of equities against total assets. And this is the result they found in Chart 1.

 

The regression line is horizontal suggesting no impact from returns to equity purchases.

In the case of investment funds however, they tended to rebalance when equities are doing badly.

Two months rally + long markets = correction?

The debate in global financial markets is whether the new year’s rally is either just pausing or coming to an end.

Many say the rally so far has been driven by only thin volumes (for more on volumes read this story) and thin volume rallies tend to outlive high volume stampedes.

The market certainly seems to be getting very long — which itself suggests that the market was due for a correction one way or another.

from Commentaries:

Don’t hold your breath for European flotations

COLOMBIA/A web-based survey of more than 40 European institutional investors by investment bank Jefferies shows most -- 83 percent of those who responded -- are not expecting a re-opening of the IPO market in the UK and Continental Europe before the middle of 2010.

 

Only 23 percent of the analysts, portfolio managers and dealers surveyed reckon the IPO market will re-open by the end of this year.

Seems the world is still split on what type of companies will be floated though:

Rebasing investors’ confidence

Interesting change by State Street in its monthly sounding of its institutional investor clients. The firm has gone back over all its data and rebased it in order to get an indicator that not only marks up and down changes in investor confidence but also suggests what regime investors are in. Ken Froot, the Harvard professor who co-developed the index, describes the move thus:

“We have revised the Investor Confidence Index to provide a better guide as to the level of risk tolerance. Specifically, we have rebased the index so that a level of 100 is ‘neutral’: readings above this level tell us that institutional investors are increasing their allocations to risky assets, while readings below 100 indicate that institutional investors are reducing such allocations.”

So what does this month tell us? The global index is now at a 10-month high, having risen every month since December.  But according to the new rebased reading, it has only been in territory that indicates the buying of risky assets for the past two months.

Terminal problems

If Nigerian banks appear to have suffered disproportionately in the global financial crisis, maybe they have Heathrow Terminal 5 to blame.

Nigerian banks were advertising their services on billboards in Terminal 5 last year, and travelling investors felt it showed the banks were rashly trying to keep up with international investment banks in aiming for a global profile, causing many to sell, a banker specialising in Africa told journalists this morning over breakfast.

“Those adverts were a sign to sell Nigerian banks,” Luca del Conte, executive director in treasury and capital markets at Medicapital Bank said.

Hobson’s choice

Imagine you’re an institutional investor holding a great deal more illiquid, price-impaired assets than you’re comfortable with. Do you a) hold on to them and pray that the price rebounds, or b) sell now and take a loss, before things get even worse?

This is the dilemma facing institutional investors who went just that little bit too far out along the risk curve in search of extra yield. According to Tom Graf, who heads BNY Mellon’s global workout solutions business, clients have to-date largely preferred to wait for markets to rebound, and in some cases this could well make sense.

The workout unit seeks to establish an intrinsic fair value for those assets that have lost their lustre since the sub-prime implosion in 2007. Graf says the illiquid assets most commonly found in institutional portfolios are non-agency “Alt-A” mortgages, which sold like hot cakes during the US property boom. Non-agency means anything not secured through friendly government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whilst Alt-A mortgages require less documentation than traditional loans, allowing borrowers to inflate their income and assets.