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Housing Looking for Good Old Days

Internet Intercedes in the Market

What’s the Canadian Preferred Market Made Of?

Right Conclusion (maybe), Wrong Reason (definitely)

Retail Sales Hop Before the Easter Weekend

Housing Looking for Good Old Days

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David Blitzer

Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Rising Home Prices are boosting property taxes while mortgage lenders may be getting more generous.

Bloomberg reports that property tax collections are rising at the fastest pace since the financial crisis with gains spread across the country. Among cities cited as enjoying renewed revenue gains were San Jose CA, Nashville TN, Houston TX and Washington DC.  Rising home prices, as chronicled by the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Indices are a key factor in the rebound.  With some communities under pressure from lower revenues in recent years, the rebound will be welcome.

A different development in housing finance may remind some people of darker memories however. The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that one major bank is offering mortgages with only 5% down payments.  This does not appear to be a return to the sub-prime days of years past and the loans are not being offered to all comers.  It may also reflect the decline since last May in mortgages for refinancing. Since the Fed first hinted about tapering and the end of QE last year, the refi business has dropped from 75% of all mortgages to roughly half.  Nevertheless, some may wonder if the generosity will turn out badly for the lender.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Internet Intercedes in the Market

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David Blitzer

Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The last month has been marked with worries that the stock market is about to (finally) have a correction and drop some 10% or more.  While it is impossible to tell if, or when, this might happen; a few numbers may explain some of the recent action. Stocks were seized with a bit of mania for growth and the internet which over-shadowed other parts of the market.  The Dow Jones Internet Index peaked at the beginning of March after climbing almost 70% from the start of 2013. Then it turned down and slid 16.4% to April 11th; as of this afternoon it has regained about three percentage points.  One factor in the down move may have been valuation: the PE is over 70 and has risen substantially more than the index level.

The rest of the market hasn’t shown these kinds of large shifts.  The S&P 500 is up about 30% since the beginning of 2013. While the PE is at 17, earnings have more than kept pace with stock prices and the PE is up about 21%.  Growth stocks slightly out-performed value stocks in the S&P 500 over the last two years. However, since the beginning of March when the Dow Jones Internet index peaked, growth lagged value by a four and a half percentage point spread.  The worry of the last six weeks was the passing, at least for now, of that internet infatuation.

The chart shows the S&P 500, the S&P 500 tech sector and the DJ Internet index, all rebased to 100 at the end of 2012.  The rise and subsequent decline of the DJ Internet index stands out.stocks 4-16

 

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

What’s the Canadian Preferred Market Made Of?

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Phillip Brzenk

Senior Director, Strategy Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Shift in the Makeup of the Preferred Market

As we noted in an earlier post, the Canadian preferred share market has undergone a significant expansion over the past five years, approximately doubling in market size.  In addition to the growth of the market, the Canadian preferred market has seen a shift from most outstanding preferreds being fixed-dividend to a majority being rate-resets.  The proliferation of fixed-rate-reset preferreds and their unique distribution characteristics make it possible for investors to get a degree of protection in a rising interest rate environment.

If we take a look at the S&P/TSX Preferred Share Index, which is a proxy for the Canadian Preferred market, by count rate-reset preferreds made up one-sixth of the index in 2008.  At the end of 2013, over half of the index was made up of rate-resets.

Historical Security Type Makeup of SP-TSX Preferred Share Index

Types of Preferred Shares Explained

Perpetuals have no set maturity date.  The dividend rate is determined at the issuance date and is fixed for the life of the preferred share.  With the long time horizon and fixed dividend amount, perpetual shares carry the highest interest rate risk amongst all preferred types.

Retractables pay a fixed dividend and have a pre-determined maturity date, usually redeemable at par value.  Most redemption payments are via cash, while some issuers also have the option to pay the equivalent amount in common shares.

Rate Resets are variable dividend payment preferreds, where the dividend rate is reset every five years.  The initial dividend rate is determined by adding a spread above a reference rate, most using the Bank of Canada’s five-year bond yield.  This spread amount is based on several factors such as the credit quality of the issuer and present market conditions.  At each reset date, the dividend rate is adjusted by taking the current interest rate of the reference instrument and adding the spread determined at issuance.  Most issuers also hold the option to call the security on each reset date.  Because the dividend rate resets based on current market interest rates, the duration and thus interest rate risk, of rate-resets are lower than perpetuals and retractables.

Floating Rate preferreds feature a dividend that floats at each payment, based on a spread above a prime interest rate, such as LIBOR.  Typically, a minimum dividend rate is promised to investors to protect them against low market interest rates.

For more on preferreds in Canada, read our recent paper, “Looking Under the Hood of Canadian Preferred Indices.”

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Right Conclusion (maybe), Wrong Reason (definitely)

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Craig Lazzara

Managing Director and Global Head of Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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This morning’s Wall Street Journal joined (actually, re-enlisted in) the chorus of those arguing that 2014 would be a time for stock pickers to “shine.”  The lynchpin of the Journal‘s case will be familiar to advocates of a “stock-picker’s market.”  That argument is that since correlations in the U.S. equity market are declining (perhaps as a consequence of the Federal Reserve tapering its support of the Treasury market), stock selection strategies will perform better than in a more macro-driven investment environment.

That conclusion may turn out to be correct — we’ll know in less than a year’s time.  But it won’t be correct for the reason the Journal, and so many others, typically cite.

Correlation is largely a measure of timing — it tells us whether two assets tend to go up and down at the same time.  Here’s a simple illustration:

A and BStock A and stock B are perfectly negatively correlated — whenever one goes up, the other goes down.  But their returns are identical.  An omniscient day trader would benefit hugely from their negative correlation.  For a stock picker with a longer time horizon, it doesn’t matter — his return is the same regardless of which stock he picks.  Despite the negative correlation, that doesn’t strike us as a good environment for stock picking.

Dispersion gives us a better measure of the potential opportunity for stock pickers.  Unlike correlation, which is a measure of timing, dispersion is a measure of magnitude — specifically, of the extent to which the return of the average stock differs from the market average.  In a high dispersion environment, there’s a relatively large gap between the “best” and the “worst” stocks; when dispersion is low, the gap is small.  We can think of dispersion as a measure of the value of successful stock selection:

Dispersion and active manager performance_2013The line in the graph above represents the average dispersion for the calendar year in question; the bars represent the interquartile range (i.e. the 25th percentile minus the 75th percentile) of large cap core equity managers in our year-end SPIVA survey.  The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly true that the gap between better- and worse-performing managers tends to be greater when dispersion is higher.

And so what does dispersion tell us?  Dispersion in calendar 2013 was lower than for any year since 1991.  Recently, though, dispersion has begun to climb.  At the end of March, S&P 500 dispersion stood at 4.90%.  For the 30 days ended April 14th, dispersion had risen to 5.9%.  This reading is still below average by historical standards, but well above the lows of 2013.  If dispersion continues to trend upward, that could make 2014 a “stock-picker’s market.”  And if 2014 is a “stock-picker’s market,” it will be because dispersion increased, not because correlation fell.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Retail Sales Hop Before the Easter Weekend

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Kevin Horan

Director, Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Treasuries closed the week returning 1.02% as measured by the S&P/BGCantor Current 10 Year U.S. Treasury Bond Index.  Last week’s return was the strongest weekly return since the flight to safety trade driven by Ukraine / Russia news from the week of March 14th, which remains the largest weekly gain for the year.

This week started with a hop in Retail Sales, as reported numbers were stronger than expected and are at levels that have not been seen since September, 2012.  Treasuries sold off moving the 10-year yield to a 2.64%, up from its Friday close of 2.62%.  Tomorrow’s March CPI number (0.1% expected) along with Housing Starts (975K expected), Jobless (315k expected) and the end of the week Philadelphia Fed Outlook, all have the potential to move the indices.

Away from domestic economic measures, $18 billion of the 5-year TIPS will be auctioned by the Treasury on the 17th.  The week has the potential to be quiet heading into the Easter Holiday, though global politics and the evolving Ukraine situation can affect the directions of markets at any time.

This week’s new issuance in investment grade debt continues at a healthy pace, the majority of new paper focuses around 3 and 5-year maturities, but there were some longer maturity deals such as $500 million Gerdau 7.25% 30-years.  The S&P U.S. Issued Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index returned 0.8% for the week and is just under about 1% (0.98%) for the month.  Year-to-date investment grade corporates are returning 3.90%.

The S&P U.S. Issued High Yield Corporate Bond Index is returning 0.23% for the month while year-to-date peaking at a 3.34% before dropping slightly to close the week at 3.2% YTD.  A number of ratings changes occurred through-out the week as rating agencies evaluate credit valuations.  One such familiar issuer was Alcoa who rating was cut from BBB- to BB+ by Fitch on the 11th.  These bonds are already in the S&P U.S. Issued High Yield Corporate Bond Index because of their Moody’s rating of Ba1 and account for less than 1% of the index’s market value.

The pace of loan issuance slowed up a little this past week as issuers dealt with existing calendar deals that have been in the works.  The digestion of recent aggressively structured and priced deals has the S&P/LSTA U.S. Leveraged Loan 100 Index giving up ground for the week returning -0.10%.  Month-to-date this index is down -0.3% and the yearly return has hovered just at or under 1% since the middle of March.

 

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Data as of 4/11/2014, Leveraged Loan data as of 4/13/2014.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.