Investment Themes

Sign up to receive Indexology® Blog email updates

In This List

The Current Dispersion-Correlation Map …and Brexit

REITs Rising Up

How the Brexit Affected Rates and Currencies in LatAm

The S&P 500® Dynamic Gold Hedged Index Increased in Reaction to Friday’s Brexit Vote

Navigating Brexit

The Current Dispersion-Correlation Map …and Brexit

Contributor Image
Fei Mei Chan

Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

As an exercise in understanding market volatility, we recently introduced the dispersion-correlation map to see how volatility manifests in dispersion and correlation. We saw very high levels of correlation at the beginning of January for both the S&P 500 and S&P Europe 350; the S&P Pan Asia BMI also sat at above average correlation then. We’ve often said that high correlations indicate fragile markets, as indicated by the sharp declines that took place in the following month for all three indices.

Following the results of the June 23rd Brexit referendum, volatility spiked around the globe. In the U.S., correlation is almost as high as it was at the beginning of the year, and dispersion is slightly higher. Similar readings can be seen in Pan Asia where correlation is high but dispersion is below average. The situation in Europe is different. As of the end of June, dispersion for the S&P Europe 350 was well above average, as was index correlation.

Paradoxically, wider dispersion in the S&P Europe 350 also means that there are more places to hide. Current European dispersion levels reflect considerable room to add (or subtract!) value by stock or sector selection.

Heightened correlations make for fragile markets.  Investors in the U.S., Europe, and Asia should prepare for the possibility of a rough ride.

 

dispersion_correlation1dispersion_correlation2dispersion_correlation3

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC.  Data from Dec. 31, 1990, through June 30, 2016.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  It is not possible to invest directly in an index, and index returns do not reflect expenses an investor would pay.  Chart is provided for illustrative purposes.

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

REITs Rising Up

Contributor Image
David Blitzer

Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

REITs used to be seen as step-children – unusual securities with special tax treatments and slightly different accounting. Some investors weren’t sure if REITs were really common stocks. Then in 2002 for the first time a REIT was added to the S&P 500. That recognition attracted attention and investors began to see REITs as a bit more main stream. As housing began to boom in the early 2000s, real estate was more widely talked about. While some people were buying second and third homes as investments, a few others were focusing on buying real estate on the stock market with REITs or real estate development companies.

Analysts following REITs use GICS, the Global Industry Classification Standard, and track REITs and real estate as part of the financial sector.  GICS classifies all publicly traded companies into sectors, industry groups, industries and sub-industries.  While housing and home ownership went through a boom and a bust, REITs and real estate equities continued to garner increasing attention from investors. In the last few years with very low interest rates, REITs have enjoyed renewed attention due to their attractive dividend yields.  The chart shows the weights of real estate and non-real estate financials in the S&P 500 and the continuing growth of the soon-to-be new real estate sector in GICS.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Monthly data
Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Monthly data

The rise of REITs did not go unnoticed by S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI during their annual reviews of the GICS structure.  In recognition of the growing importance of these stocks, a major change is coming: in September real estate development companies and REITs will leave the financial sector behind and become a new 11th sector in GICS. This is the first time since GICS was introduced in 1999 that a new sector is being created. For investors in REITs and real estate developers and for issuers of these securities, this will be a major change.  REITs will have more prominence as the weights of REITs in the S&P 500 and other major indices become more widely recognized.

Many portfolio managers and mutual funds compare their equity asset allocation against the current 10 sectors in GICS.  When real estate becomes its own sector, these portfolio managers may be busy rebalancing to assure their real estate exposure isn’t too far from the benchmark.  The table shows what the S&P 500 would look like were REITs a sector today.

web-2

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Data as of June 30, 2016

Need more information? S&P Dow Jones is hosting a webinar next week on GICS, REITs and real estate.  The link is here.

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

How the Brexit Affected Rates and Currencies in LatAm

Contributor Image
Jaime Merino

Director, Asset Owners Channel

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

After Brexit polls said that the referendum would end with a stay in the European Union (EU), all markets reacted as if that would be the outcome on voting day.  After the announcement that the U.K. would no longer be part of the EU, all markets were shocked, and the emerging markets of Latin America suffered consequences as well.

Exhibit 1 shows the movement on yield in bps between June 22-23, 2016, and June 23-24, 2016, in different parts of the sovereign curve for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Capture

On average, Chile was affected the least in terms of movements in its sovereign curve.  In contrast, Peru had a significant gain in prices in the long part of its curve, but the day after the vote it returned to normal.  Brazil also saw gains before the referendum, and the day after the vote it stayed flat.  Mexico had gains in all parts of the curve on the day of the vote and the next day it closed with upward movements in the short end of the curve, following a possible hike in policy rate by the country’s central bank, there was an upward movement of 50 bps on Thursday, June 30, 2016.  Another budget cut of MXN 31,700 million was announced.

On the FX side, we have seen many movements since the vote.  Exhibit 2 shows the percentage change of the spot prices against the U.S. dollar between June 22-23, 2016, and June 23-24, 2016.

Capture

In all cases, Thursday’s close presented an appreciation of most currencies against the U.S. dollar; Mexico’s currency benefited the most, with an appreciation of 1.14%.  However, one day later, it was the most negatively affected of the currencies in Exhibit 2, closing with a depreciation of 3.01%—at midnight local time, it was down more than 7%.

In contrast with currencies, real rates, as measured by the regional components of the S&P Global Emerging Sovereign Inflation-Linked Bond Index, had varying movements between each country.  Exhibit 3 shows the daily returns of the inflation-linked indices of each country, with Chile and Colombia flat, Mexico with positive returns on both days, and Brazil and Peru with losses on Thursday and gains on Friday.

Capture

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

The S&P 500® Dynamic Gold Hedged Index Increased in Reaction to Friday’s Brexit Vote

Contributor Image
Tianyin Cheng

Senior Director, Strategy and Volatility Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Gold often rallies in times of intense market turmoil, as the safe-haven asset is perceived as a hedge against economic and financial risk.  This was one of the rationales for constructing the S&P 500 Dynamic Gold Hedged Index.  What happened on Friday, June 24, 2016, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the strategy in terms of providing diversification when it is most needed.  On that single day, the S&P 500 (TR) returned -3.59% (the 50th largest single-day drop in the past 30-year period), while the S&P 500 Dynamic Gold Hedged Index returned 0.91%.  Would this happen again if Trump were elected president of the U.S. in November?  That would be interesting to see.

Capture

In addition to the potential diversification benefit, the S&P 500 Dynamic Gold Hedged Index could possibly protect portfolio returns from the effects of currency devaluation.  This is especially relevant with the current market conditions, as some market participants might conclude that central banks could respond to the Brexit vote by adding more monetary stimulus.  In the immediate aftermath of Brexit, the Bank of England said it was well prepared and ready to provide an additional GBP 250 billion in liquidity.

Another thing to note is that the S&P 500 Dynamic Gold Hedged Index is designed to reflect the strategic overlay approach that may provide a more efficient way to gain exposure to gold.  The approach pairs a core investment (the S&P 500) with a portfolio hedge applied through a derivative instrument (gold futures).  With this approach, market participants do not need to cut their equity exposure in order to increase their holdings in gold.  As a simple illustration, if a market participant sold 50% of their S&P 500 holdings and bought into GLD ETF, this 50/50 portfolio ETF would have generated a return of 0.66% Friday, June 24, 2016, 25 bps lower than that of the S&P 500 Dynamic Gold Hedged Index, and this does not include transaction costs.

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

Navigating Brexit

Contributor Image
Tim Edwards

Managing Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Despite some warnings from volatility gauges, the market had “priced in” a vote for remain from the UK’s population.  This has made for some dramatic headlines, and large movements since the vote to leave the EU was announced.  As the market scrambled to make sense of the political chaos, three key themes have emerged from the market’s reaction.  

  1. Higher Volatility

The past few days have seen a rapid repricing in European markets, causing volatility to increase.  While volatility tends to rise precipitously, it tends to fall much more gradually.  Moreover, the political crisis triggered in the UK by the Brexit vote, and the general record of the EU in solving difficult negotiations, provides grounds to suppose this time will prove no exception.Pic 1 BrexGiven the general sentiment, it is notable that the UK’s equity market is not far at all from where it was only three months ago, at least, in pound sterling terms.  One reason that the market has held up so well is due to the fall in the value of the British pound: for the large multinationals that make up a significant proportion of the local exchange, a cheaper pound inflates the relative value of their considerable foreign revenues.  The chart above shows a very different picture for investors calculating their returns in a different home currency.

  1. The Pound and the Euro are the battlegrounds

Much of the trading activity around the UK’s referendum and its putative consequence has focused on the pound sterling.  This is both a European and UK crisis; both currencies have come under pressure.  For international investors, the use of currency hedged equity indices can mitigate the volatility of investments that arise from such fluctuations.  As the chart shows, European or U.S. investors in the UK markets could have more or less mimicked the returns of local investors during  the period.  However, those who did not hedge the currency faced material losses:Pic 2 Brex

And in a broader environment where central banks globally continue to face the temptations of a race to debase, currency hedging offers a way to limit the impact of macro-economic policy missteps, too.

  1. Higher Dispersion among Sectors than Countries

Along with volatility, dispersion is also rising.  However, at least for the moment, the changing economic outlook and opportunity set has driven a wider spread of dispersion among sectors than countries.  Wherever they are based, European Financials face the potential for material disruption from a Brexit, while Energy companies and Consumer Staples have so far been largely untroubled.  If this trend were to continue, then the opportunistic investor should calibrate their views to which sectors might benefit, rather than which countries.

Pic 3 Brex

Should I stay or should I go?

Of late, Europe’s political class has maintained a far-from spectacular record in the speedy resolution of crisis.  Faced by a market whipped by political uncertainty and facing an interminable period of months and perhaps years before a definite outcome, investors may be tempted to avoid Europe and the UK altogether.  Indeed, as the recent steep falls demonstrate, many already have.

Those who remain might well prepare for higher volatility, and might consider currency hedged versions of investments where appropriate.  Finally, and despite the seeming importance of national distinctions to current events, so far it has mattered less whether stocks are based in the core, periphery or edge of Europe.  Investors may be wise to keep a closer eye on sectors, than countries.

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