Investment Themes

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U.S. Yield Curve Moved by Europe

Understanding the Value Spectrum

How the Liquidity of S&P 500 Investment-Grade Bonds Compares Against Non-S&P 500 Bonds

When Market Timing Is Unusually Pointless

How to Address Retirement Income in Investment Policy Statements

U.S. Yield Curve Moved by Europe

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Kevin Horan

Director, Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The U.S. Treasury yield curve, as represented by the S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Current Indices, ended June 14, 2017, tighter (lower in yield) than the previous day.  The importance of June 14 is that it was the day on which the U.S. Federal Reserve raised the target rate by 25 bps, from 1% to 1.25%.  The following day, the yield curve increased, but only by an average of 2 bps.

The yield on the two-year bond, as measured by the S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Current 2-Year Index, remained consistent and actually ended June at 1.37%, only 1 bp higher than the day after the rate hike.  As shown in Exhibit 1, the spread between the 2-year and the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond trended downward for most of June.  The yield of the 30-year bond was 2.86% the day prior to the rate hike and moved as low as a 2.70% on June 26, 2017, before moving back up to close the month at 2.83%. The result of this was a flatter yield curve for most of June and can be seen in Exhibit 2 as the comparison between the yellow and navy yield curves.

Exhibit 1: 2-year versus 30-year U.S. Treasury Spread

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of July 10, 2017. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes.

Exhibit 2: Yield Curve

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of July 10, 2017. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes.

The pivotal point for the U.S. Treasury curve happened on June 27, 2017, and the influence on valuation came not from the U.S., but from Europe.  Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), made comments in regard to the ECB’s ability to adjust its policy tools of sub-zero interest rates and bond purchases as the economic condition improves in Europe.  Draghi’s comments resulted in higher yields and speculation that the ECB and possibly others were poised to start withdrawing monetary policy stimulus.

Since June 27, 2017, yields across the curve have continued to rise (see Exhibit 2) and the curve flattening has ended.

Exhibit 3: Index Data

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Data as of July 10, 2017. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Table is provided for illustrative purposes.


 

 

 


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

Understanding the Value Spectrum

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Aye Soe

Managing Director, Global Head of Product Management

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Value investing, made famous by Benjamin Graham in his book Intelligent Investor nearly 70 years ago, is possibly the most well-known investment strategy.  Although the strategy may appear simple at first glance—buying securities with prices that are trading at discount multiples than their fundamental values—it can be tricky to implement.  For example, value can be captured via different metrics including, but not limited to, book-to-price ratio, earnings yield, dividend yield, and cash flow-to-price ratio.[1]  Market participants must decide which value metrics closely align with their investment view.  In addition, returns from value strategies can differ meaningfully, depending on the stock selection process and portfolio construction.

We can highlight the last point using two value indices formed from the same underlying domestic large-cap universe, the S&P 500 Value and S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index.  The index mechanics of both indices are outlined in Exhibit 1.  Also important to note is the weighting mechanism employed by the two indices.  The S&P 500 Value simply weights securities by market cap, whereas the selection process and the weighting scheme of the S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index assigns higher weights to those securities with bigger value attributes.

Since the metrics used to capture value premium are identical for both indices, our analysis evaluates the impact of security selection and weighting mechanism.  In Exhibit 2, we show the annualized risk/return profiles of the two value strategies since Dec. 31, 1994.  In this period, the S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index delivered higher returns but with higher volatility than its broader, market-cap-weighted counterpart.

Based on the index construction and the risk/return profiles, we can conclude that the two value indices serve different purposes for the investment community.  The S&P 500 Value can be viewed as a broad-based value benchmark, representing an entire opportunity set and returns of value style investing.  On the other hand, the S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index is more representative of a high conviction, more concentrated value strategy.  In that light, it is worthwhile to compare the returns of the value indices to those of actively managed large-cap value managers.  Exhibit 3 compares the returns of actively managed large-cap value mutual funds to the two value indices.[1]

Across all measurement horizons, more than half of the active large-cap value funds have trailed the two value indices.  It comes as no surprise that the percentage of active value funds underperforming the S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index tends to exceed those underperforming the broad-based S&P 500 Value across all time periods,[2] given that the former has outperformed the latter across all measurement periods.

Exhibit 4 highlights the return dispersion among large-cap value managers from year-end 1994 through May 2017.  Returns among active value strategies vary quite meaningfully, reflecting the differences in managers’ approaches to value definition, stock selection, and portfolio construction.  For example, the return spread per year on an annualized basis over the 15-year period amounted to 1.57%.

Value investing, although considered a timeless investment strategy, may not be as straightforward as it seems.  Market participants aiming to implement the strategy should carefully consider the metrics used to capture the factor, constituent selection process, and strategy construction.

  

[1] We use the Center for Research and Security Prices (CSRP) mutual fund database as the underlying data source for actively managed large-cap value managers’ returns.

[2] The three-year figure is the only exception but the difference in the percentage of managers underperforming the benchmark amounts to only 0.63%.

[1] Depending on the type of metrics used, value portfolios can potentially have different performance.

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

How the Liquidity of S&P 500 Investment-Grade Bonds Compares Against Non-S&P 500 Bonds

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Dennis Badlyans

Associate Director, Global Research & Design

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Liquidity may be defined as the ability to buy or sell a bond within a reasonable period of time and at a reasonable price.  A simple way to compare two bonds is through the use of Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) daily volume data.  The data represents the daily aggregation of each reported trade throughout the day.  The existence of reported volume data can be indicative of the frequency of trading.  For example, if a bond has volume data for 20 of the last 22 trading days, then it trades relatively frequently—nearly every day.  The volume data itself can also indicate the size in which it trades daily.  For two bonds, we can compare the turnover rate, defined as the total volume traded in 22 days as a percentage of the amount outstanding.  For example, a bond may be considered more liquid relative to another one if a larger portion of its total outstanding is traded over a one-month period.

In addition to considering volume and frequency, the daily price change or bid-offer spreads can be key indicators, particularly over periods of acute stress.  If a large holding of an asset is sold quickly but at a significant loss, it may not be liquid.  More granular data, such as intraday trade details (size and bid-offer spread), could help improve the analysis of relative bond liquidity.

In this post, we focus on the simpler approach of comparing frequency and turnover to assess relative liquidity.  We compare the S&P® 500 Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index to U.S. investment-grade (IG) corporate bonds excluding the S&P 500 issues.

The constituents in the S&P 500 Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index trade more frequently than the U.S. IG corporate bonds ex-S&P 500.  Over the past two years, on average, 64% of the bonds in the S&P 500 Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index traded every day versus 39% in the U.S. IG corporate bonds ex-S&P 500 (see Exhibit 1).  Over the same period, 96% of the bonds in the index traded at least once each month versus the U.S. IG corporate bonds excluding the S&P 500 at 88% (see Exhibit 2).

The constituents of the S&P 500 Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index turn over about 30% faster than other U.S. IG corporate bonds.  Despite an improvement in trading volume for the non-S&P 500 bonds since 2008, turnover still lagged the S&P 500 bonds.  Exhibit 3 shows the trend in volume as a percentage of amount outstanding (turnover rate).  Most recently, it would take about 22 months (4.5% per month) to turn over the entire USD 3.8 trillion S&P 500 Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index universe, while it would take eight months longer (2.7% per month) to turn over the USD 0.89 trillion that makes up the U.S. IG corporate bonds excluding the S&P 500.

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

When Market Timing Is Unusually Pointless

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Hamish Preston

Associate Director, U.S. Equity Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Among the many themes to have emerged in U.S. markets during the first six months of 2017, low volatility in equities and changes in the global interest rate environment—some realized and some anticipated—were particularly important drivers.  In a similar vein to our summary on Europe, here are some thoughts on these trends.

The potential rewards from market timing were extremely low.

When the market swings wildly from one day to another, the rewards available from successful market timing can be significant.  But when volatility is low and the market grinds upward, it is difficult to beat a strategy that remains fully invested and minimizes trading costs.  In the first half of 2017, equity markets across the world were characterized by low volatility, both in realized terms and in implied measures such as VIX®.

The trend for lower volatility was exemplified by the U.S., where the standard deviation of daily price movements in the S&P 500® was a measly 0.44% between January and June 2017.  In fact, only 1963 and 1964 saw lower numbers at the end of June in a record stretching back to 1929 (see Exhibit 1).

Low correlations between S&P 500 constituents go a long way in explaining the near historic lows in daily volatility over the first half of this year.  In any case, the relatively tight range of daily returns of the S&P 500 over the first six months of 2017 meant that market timing strategies would have found it even more difficult than usual to deliver excess returns.

Central bankers’ speeches weighed on dividend strategies.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s decisions to increase interest rates and speeches from Mark Carney and Mario Draghi that suggested the possibility of sooner-than-expected rate increases at the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, respectively, appeared to weigh on the performance of dividend strategies.  None of our U.S. dividend strategy indices managed to beat the S&P 500’s 9.3% year-to-date total return for the period ending on the June 30, 2017, and the S&P 500 High Dividend Index underperformed by 6.11%.

As Exhibit 2 shows, dividends seemed to explain much of this relative performance.  Year-to-date returns of strategies with higher yielding stocks performed worse than their lower yielding counterparts, although the S&P Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index proved to be the slight exception.

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

How to Address Retirement Income in Investment Policy Statements

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Carlos Panksep

General Manager

Centre for Fiduciary Excellence

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Recently, the US Department of Labor (DOL) turned its attention to the adequacy of a retirement plan participant’s account balance, stimulating two debates about how to improve participant outcomes.[1] The first debate concerns how to help participants measure their “retirement readiness” in terms of income replacement at retirement. The second centers on whether there are retirement income-oriented investment strategies that can serve participants better than traditional strategies, which typically focus on capital accumulation.

How Did We Get Here?

In 2010, the DOL noted that defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors offer no promise about the adequacy of a participant’s account balance at retirement or of the available income stream, and that DC plans typically only make lump sum distributions available. Then, in 2013, the DOL expressed its intention to pass regulations that would require DC plans to describe participants’ total benefits accrued, including a projected account balance at their normal retirement age and a lifetime income stream illustration. The proposed regulations would also require DC plans to provide methodologies for calculating these benefits.

With respect to the first debate, a variety of tools and services are currently available to measure retirement readiness at the plan level. Some also allow measurement of individual participant retirement readiness, requiring advisors to work one-on-one with participants to evaluate their retirement income needs, projected retirement income based on current resources and contribution rate, and any increase in plan contributions necessary to address any shortfall.

Regarding the second debate, plan sponsors and their advisors should consider measures to address participant retirement readiness and investment options that provide some measure of guaranteed retirement income. Nothing requires plan sponsors to adopt any of these concepts, but from a best practice perspective, these opportunities bear consideration.

Making IPS Changes

For fiduciaries, care should be taken to ensure conformity with relevant prudent practices. Specifically, advisors and plan sponsors should consider evaluating what changes are required to the Investment Policy Statement (IPS) whenever making changes to the nature of services or investment vehicles that will be used by a plan sponsor or offered to participants. The advisor and plan sponsor client should consider adopting IPS provisions appropriate to the new products and services and income-focused investment options to be included in the investment menu.

Benchmarking Progress

The S&P Shift to Retirement Income and Decumulation (STRIDE) Indices combine a target date glide path with a new risk management framework to serve as a benchmark for investors saving to fund consumption in retirement, reflecting a transition from wealth creation to inflation-adjusted retirement income. As such, they can be used to evaluate target date retirement income strategies that follow a liability-driven investing philosophy. The S&P STRIDE Indices also include a monthly cost of retirement income for each retirement cohort, which can be used to translate account balances to estimated retirement income. By using the S&P STRIDE indices as a benchmark, those who adopt retirement income provisions into an IPS receive an appropriate yardstick against which they can gauge their progress.

The challenges facing a DC plan participant are complex, dynamic, and multi-faceted. Solving these challenges begins with plan sponsors, consultants, and advisors who must develop a sound IPS and enable a framework that manages the risks participants face.

[1] See the DOL’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on lifetime income illustrations: Pension Benefit Statements, 78 Fed. Reg. 26727 (proposed May 8, 2013)

Disclosures

The S&P STRIDE INDEX is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC or its affiliates (“SPDJI”) and has been licensed for use by Dimensional Fund Advisors LP (“Dimensional”). Standard & Poor’s® and S&P® are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC (“S&P”); Dow Jones® is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC (“Dow Jones”); these trademarks have been licensed for use by SPDJI and sublicensed for certain purposes by Dimensional. Dimensional’s Products, as defined by Dimensional from time to time, are not sponsored, endorsed, sold, or promoted by SPDJI, S&P, Dow Jones, or their respective affiliates, and none of such parties make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in such products nor do they have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of the S&P STRIDE Index.
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP receives compensation from S&P Dow Jones Indices in connection with licensing rights to the S&P STRIDE Indices. It is not possible to invest in an index.

 

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