October 2015 Investor Letter

Active Asset Allocator Performance

performance table.jpg

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns  over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. We follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. We always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, we manage the market risk for our clients. Our strategy has returned 12% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. Our active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Executive Summary

The Active Asset Allocator is on track to deliver another solid return in 2015 +5.8% YTD in what has been quite a volatile market so far this year. Our proprietary investment tools have helped us navigate the market uncertainty with a degree of confidence. The technical set up of the stock market has improved in recent weeks, though we continue to advise caution in the near-term. Financial engineering has put a gloss on corporate earnings that we believe is unsustainable. 

Despite record low yields, we believe there is still room for government bond yields to fall over the next 12 months. We also provide our updated views on inflation and inflation-linked bonds this month. Rising inflationary pressures have not been lost on the precious metals market and we believe gold is waking up from a four year slumber. Gold has a tendency to move in 7-8 year cycles and we could be about to embark on a new multi-year bull trend for precious metals. 

Stock Market Update

Our Technical Trend Indicator (TTI) has kept us on the right side of the primary trend of the stock market and cautioned when to step aside ahead of major stock market corrections. The TTI has been an invaluable tool in our investment toolbox. A history of TTI buy and sell signals are overlaid on a chart of the S&P 500 Index below.

 
 

Today, our trend indicator (lower left) is still in defensive mode, but has worked its way back towards neutral with the recent rally in the stock market. The number of advancing versus declining stocks has turned up recently, driving some of the improvement in the technical set up of the stock market, though the longer-term trend still remains down. 

The number of stocks making new highs minus those making new lows has also turned positive for the first time in many months. A consistent positive trend here will allow us to become more constructive on the stock market, but we need to see more data before making that call.

 
 

In addition to the above indicators, we pay attention to the percentage of stocks trading above their 200 day moving average to gauge the overall health of the market. In rising markets, at least 50% of the stocks trading on the NYSE trade above the 200DMA. When this percentage falls below 50%, stocks tend to struggle. Today, we only have 36% of stocks trading above their 200DMA. This chart needs to repair itself quickly or the path of least resistance will turn lower again shortly.

 
 

While it is possible that stocks consolidate their recent gains in the weeks ahead and break out to new highs, this is not our current expectation. US companies reporting third quarter 2015 earnings are not delivering much in the way of positive news. Alcoa for example recently kicked of earnings season in the United States with somewhat disappointing news and their shares were clubbed for -10%. Walmart, considered a bellwether for the US economy, also provided a reality check for those with a bullish bias, delivering quite a sobering outlook for 2016 on their quarterly analyst conference call. WMT shares have plunged -36% so far this year. Financial engineering has put a positive gloss on corporate earnings in recent years but that trend can only last for so long. 

 
 

Regular readers will know that we are watching the performance and chart pattern of the FTSE All World Equity Index with interest. This global equity benchmark for fund managers around the world continues to track the 2007/8 stock market top in an eerily similar fashion. We have experienced a sharp selloff in the stock market and are now rallying off the August lows. The bulls will argue we have had our 10% correction and come through October relatively unscathed, so it's off to the races for the rest of the year. We take a more sanguine view. Given that the global economy is slowing and corporate earnings have been relatively disappointing, there is quite a disconnect in the market today between expectations and reality. We remain defensively positioned in the Active Asset Allocator for now, 20% equities / 30% bonds / 30% gold / 20% cash.

 
 

For more information on our stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach Brian Delaney at brian.delaney@secureinvest.ie or 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
 

You have to pay the German government 0.26% per annum to take your money for two years and can earn just 0.57% per annum on a 10 year German bond. A 1% rise in German bond yields will eat up over a decade's worth of income. Irish 2 year government bonds are also sporting a negative yield, despite an economy that is growing at a rate of 6% in 2015. Today, Germany, France, Finland, Ireland and Sweden all have negative government bond yields out to four years. 

Despite record low yields, we believe there is still room for government bond yields to fall and prices to rise. By the time the ECB has finished its QE government bond buying programme, we could see negative 10-year yields across many of the core EU government bond markets, while government bond yields in the EU periphery move closer to zero. EU government bonds should also benefit from the flight-to-quality trade on the next stock market correction. As always, we will be guided by the price action of the fixed income markets we follow. 

 
 

In our active asset allocation strategy, we have begun to rotate away from long duration government bonds - reducing the allocation from 30% to 20% in November 2014 - into a mix of shorter duration EU government and corporate bonds (+5%) and EU inflation-linked bonds (+5%) and will continue this process in 2016. Given the collapse in crude oil prices in 2015, inflation expectations are relatively benign this year but many market forecasters are increasing their inflation estimates for 2016. JP Morgan for example is expecting inflation to rise in Europe from 0% this year to 1.0-1.5% in 2016.

 
 

The iShares Euro Inflation Linked Bond ETF has begun to price in a more inflationary environment for 2016, rallying +4% from the July lows. Inflation linked bonds should outperform fixed interest rates bonds in periods of rising inflation and deliver positive returns should inflation rates increase at a faster rate than anticipated by the market. We are well positioned to capture this trend with allocations to ILB's and precious metals in the Active Asset Allocator.

 
 

For more information on our bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach Brian Delaney at brian.delaney@secureinvest.ie or 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Slowly but surely the gold market is waking up from a four year slumber. Euro gold rallied +28% from the November 2014 low, then corrected by -17% earlier this year. Euro gold has added another +10% in recent months and we believe this uptrend is just getting started.

 
 

Gold has a tendency to move in 7-8 year cycles and we could be about to embark on a new multi-year bull trend for precious metals. Certainly, the combination of a weakening global economic growth outlook, zero-to-negative interest rates, record loose central bank monetary policy, rising political tensions in between West and East and rising demand for a scarce resource that has been considered money for thousands of years, all combine to set the stage for an explosive rally in the precious metals sector.

 
 

While gold in US dollars has rallied +9% since the July 2015 lows, the gold mining companies have reacted much more favourably, which should be expected as the miners really are leveraged plays on the price of gold. The most popular ETF of gold mining stocks, GDX is +27% over the same period while certain mining companies have performed even better: Agnico Eagle (AEM), Yamana (AUY), Novagold (NG) and New Gold (NGD) to name a few. Caution is warranted however. We have seen this movie many times before over the last four years. Miners need to continue their current form for quite a few months yet before we can be confident that the bear market in precious metals is behind us.

For more information on our gold market analysis, please contact Brian Delaney at 086 821 5911 or brian.delaney@secureinvest.ie.