Sign up to receive Indexology® Blog email updates

In This List

Rieger Report: Munis with Equity Like Returns!

Financials Gain More Prominence in Latest Low Vol Rebalance

Strong USD Sukuk Issuance in 2017

Is There an Optimal Strategy for Withdrawing Funds From a 401(k) Savings Account?

Whether the Market Is Overvalued or Not, It Can Pay to Rebalance

Rieger Report: Munis with Equity Like Returns!

Contributor Image
J.R. Rieger

Head of Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Sectors of the boring municipal bond market have seen equity like returns in 2017. However, it is the downtrodden segments of the muni market in the last several months of 2016 that have created the opportunities to generate these “equity like returns.”

The S&P Municipal bond Tobacco Index, down over 6.7% in the last three months of 2016  has recorded a total return of 14.4% year-to-date.  Tobacco settlement bonds are the target of refundings as the high interest rates on older debt can be replaced with lower cost debt via the refunding mechanism helping to drive returns.

Long municipal bonds tracked in the S&P Municipal bond 20 Year High Grade Index were down over 9% in the last three months of 2016.  Long bonds have seen strength across asset classes in 2017 and municipal bonds are going along as this index has a 9.8% total return so far in 2017.

General obligation bonds tracked in the S&P Municipal Bond Illinois G.O. Index have also seen volatility as they have recovered by returning 8.34% so far.  The last three months of 2016 this segment was down over 5% in return.

The S&P Municipal Bond High Yield ex-Puerto Rico Index down nearly 4.5% in the last three months of 2016 has rallied back with a total return of 8.34% in 2017.  Puerto Rico still weighs heavy on the muni market as the S&P Municipal Bond Puerto Rico G.O. Index is down 8.84% so far.

Table 1: Select indices and their year-to-date returns as of August 18, 2017:

* Consists of tobacco settlement bonds. Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of August 18, 2017. Table is provided for illustrative purposes. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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

Financials Gain More Prominence in Latest Low Vol Rebalance

Contributor Image
Fei Mei Chan

Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Volatility has been generally subdued so far this year.  In the latest rebalance, the S&P 500® Low Volatility Index’s most significant sector shift was to Financials (adding 5% to bring the sector to 21% of the index).  Allocation in the remaining sectors did not deviate too far from the last rebalance. Technology’s weight, which increased significantly after May 2017’s rebalance, declined 1% but is still more than one-tenth of the index.

The methodology for the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index screens for constituents at the stock level, but using S&P 500 sectors as a proxy is often helpful in gaining a better understanding.  The trend of declining volatility persisted in all but the Telecom sector (see chart below).  Not surprisingly, Financials was among the sectors that declined the most in volatility.

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

Strong USD Sukuk Issuance in 2017

Contributor Image
Michele Leung

Director, Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

The U.S. dollar-denominated, investment-grade sukuk market that the Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return Index (ex-Reinvestment) seeks to track has continued to expand.  As of Aug. 10, 2017, the Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return Index (ex-Reinvestment) tracked 73 sukuk with a market value of USD 74 billion, which represented a growth of 20% YTD.  A total of 11 sukuk with a total outstanding par of USD 19 billion were added to the index so far this year, which surpassed the USD 16.75 billion of new additions in 2016.

As tracked by the index, new sukuk issuances came from countries like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Oman, and Hong Kong. Saudi Arabia debuted its first U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk and attracted strong investor demand; it raised USD 9 billion in sukuk, equally split into 5- and 10-year tranches.  Other returning issuers like Indonesia and Oman raised USD 3 billion and USD 2 billion, respectively.  Hong Kong also came back to the market and launched a 10-year sukuk, which extended the yield curve from its two previous five-year sukuk.

The longer-maturity sukuk continued to outperform; the Dow Jones Sukuk 7-10 Year Total Return Index jumped 6.31% YTD as of Aug. 10, 2017. This trend has been consistent in the past few years (see Exhibit 1).  The Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return Index (ex-Reinvestment) increased 3.78% YTD, while the Dow Jones Sukuk Higher Quality Investment Grade Select Total Return Index gained 3.50% YTD.

Exhibit 1: Total Return Performance of the Dow Jones Sukuk Maturities-Based Subindices

 

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

Is There an Optimal Strategy for Withdrawing Funds From a 401(k) Savings Account?

Contributor Image
Peter Tsui

Director, Global Research & Design

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Conventional wisdom tells us to maximize our contributions to a 401(k) account and to grow the balance as much as possible for retirement.

However, we may not have considered the decumulation side of retirement income.  If one waits till reaching the age of 70 ½, when the 401(k) balance is larger, he/she may face a large annual tax bill waiting, as the law requires withdrawals of a certain minimum amount from the balance.  The withdrawals are treated as ordinary income and as a result may end up in a higher marginal income tax bracket.

There are two age-related rules governing the withdrawals from one’s 401(k) plan and the traditional Investment Retirement Account (IRA).  The first one is the rule of 59 ½, which stipulates that, generally, for participants under the age of 59 ½, they must pay a 10% additional tax on the distribution from the account.  After reaching the age of 59 ½, participants can receive distributions without having to pay the 10% additional tax.

The second age-related rule is the rule of required minimum distributions (RMDs).  Individuals are required to begin lifetime RMDs from their IRAs no later than April 1 of the year after they reach the age of 70 ½.  This is in contrast with RMDs from employer-sponsored plans, which, in most cases, may be postponed until after the employee retires or reaches age 70 ½, whichever happens last.  One may have to pay a 50% excise tax on the amount not distributed as required.

Thus, there is an 11-year window during which withdrawals from such retirement savings accounts can be made, but are not required.  Against that background, an optimal strategy may be to smooth out one’s retirement income from all sources in such a way that the marginal income tax rate is at the lowest possible level.  In the event that one wants to delay receiving social security benefits until age 70 (in order to max out the social security benefits), tapping into a 401(k) or IRA to provide interim stopgap income could be considered.

RMD is based on life expectancy, and at 70 it is 3.65%.[1]  For the full table and all the details related to RMD, please consult IRS Publication 590-B.[2]

In 2014, the U.S. Treasury and the IRS amended the RMD regulations in such a way that the part of the account balance that is subject to the RMD can be allowed to purchase a qualifying longevity annuity contract (QLAC) , as documented on page 10 of our paper “Rethinking Longevity Risk: A Framework to Address the Tail End.”  Thus, by purchasing a QLAC which begins to pay the amount contracted no later than at age 85, one can defer the tax burden on one’s retirement assets for up to 15 years and have a guaranteed lifetime income starting at or before age 85.

[1] For an RMD calculator, see http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/retirement/T032-S000-minimum-ira-distribution-calculator-what-is-my-min/index.php

[2] See https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p590b.pdf

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

Whether the Market Is Overvalued or Not, It Can Pay to Rebalance

Contributor Image
Philip Murphy

Managing Director, Global Head of Index Governance

S&P Dow Jones Indices

two

Current valuations of U.S. stocks inevitably lead to debate over their prospects for future returns, earnings sustainability, and whether we are in the midst of a stock market bubble.  Some measures indicate the market is richly valued by historical standards, but no one knows what the future holds.  However, one thing is clear—the potential value of rebalancing defined contribution retirement accounts.  As discussed in a recent PlanSponsor article by John Manganaro,[1] record 401(k) balances and equity performance could be skewing retirement accounts to higher equities allocations.  Plan participants can take advantage of automatic rebalancing if their plans offer it, or rebalance themselves if they have not done so recently.  Of course, rebalancing may result in transaction costs, so it should be assessed in light of the costs and benefits.

Retirement accounts that have not been rebalanced in a significant period of time would probably be good candidates for review.  For example, if never rebalanced, a portfolio that allocated 70% to the S&P 500 and 30% to the S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index as of June 2012 would have over 80% of its weight in stocks as of the end of June 2017.

Suppose your target allocation in 2012 was 70% stocks and 30% bonds.  Your account would be overweight in equities by over 10% if your target were still 70%.  But if you are approaching retirement, perhaps your new target is a lower stock allocation, such as 60%.  That would mean your account is more than 20% overweight in stocks.  That could represent a lot of unintended risk if you don’t take the time to rebalance.

Many of the challenges in achieving investing success come down to discipline.  Avoiding overreactions when markets soar or dive, diligently saving, being aware of costs, diversifying within and across asset classes, and sticking to a reasonable investment policy that includes periodic rebalancing will go a long way toward reaching success.  With automatic rebalancing and the prevalence of target date funds in 401(k) plans, many plan participants can automate these steps.  But for those who do not or cannot, it is wise to monitor investment allocations and rebalance when actual allocations differ substantially from one’s investment policy.

[1] http://www.plansponsor.com/Record-Balances-May-Skew-DC-Accounts-Towards-Equity/

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