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Inflation: Benign for Now

Introducing the Persistence Scorecard for Latin America

Why Indices Matter to SMSF Trustees

The Effects of U.S. Regulation on the S&P GSCI Biofuel

Starting on the Right Foot: Preparing Accurate ESG Disclosures

Inflation: Benign for Now

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Kevin Horan

Director, Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Having broken through 2% in January 2018, the 10-year U.S. Treasury breakeven rate (as measured by the difference between the S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Current 10-Year Index and the S&P U.S. TIPS 10 Year Index) has continued to increase, reaching a YTD high of 2.18% on April 23, 2018.

As of May 14, 2018, the breakeven level sat at 2.16%. These levels have not been seen since late August 2014. A rise in oil prices to around USD 70 per barrel has boosted inflation expectations, but not to the point of being “runaway” levels. A weak U.S. dollar has pushed oil prices up more in the U.S. than in other countries.

U.S. consumer prices rose less than expected for April 2018 (0.1% versus the prior 0.2%, Core CPI month-over-month), leading to speculation that the Fed will be gradual in its future rate increases. Two additional rate hikes have been the market’s expectation for 2018.

Though the U.S. Jobless Claims number was unchanged at 211,000, continued tightening in the labor markets, wage growth, and GDP (2.9%) growth will likely have an impact on inflation.

Housing prices continue to climb as the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price NSA Index reported an increase of 0.7% for the end of February 2018. Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Francisco continue to report the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities. All of the cities reported increases before and after seasonal adjustment, and the index has eclipsed its July 2006 peak by 0.1%.

For now, the inflation picture seems to be a slow rise, with the breakeven rate hovering around the current level of 2.16%.

Exhibit 1: Breakeven Inflation Rate

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Data as of May 14, 2018. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes and reflects hypothetical historical performance. The S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Current 10-Year Index was launched on Sept. 13, 2013. The S&P U.S. TIPS 10 Year Index was launched on Sept. 3, 2013.

 

 

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

Introducing the Persistence Scorecard for Latin America

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Phillip Brzenk

Senior Director, Strategy Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Following similar studies performed by S&P Dow Jones Indices on active funds in the U.S. and Australia, we introduce the Persistence Scorecard to the Latin America region. The two aforementioned studies have demonstrated that top-performing active funds have little chance of repeating that success in subsequent years. To determine if similar conclusions can be made in Latin America, we examined active funds in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.

The Persistence Scorecard: Latin America Year-End 2017 presented two key statistics. First, the performance persistence of top-performing active funds that remained in the top-quartile or top-half rankings over consecutive three- and five-year periods was measured. Second, transition matrices showed the movements of funds between quartiles and halves over two non-overlapping, three-year periods. The transition matrices also tracked the percentage of funds that later were merged or liquidated during the study period.

Exhibit 1 measures the performance persistence of the top quartile of funds based on performance in 2013 (Year 0). The performance of these funds was compared with the respective universe for each of the next four years to determine if they were able to sustain top performance.

Across all categories, few funds were able to maintain top-quartile status over the five-year horizon. After just one year, the most successful category was Brazil Equity, in which 56% of funds stayed in the top quartile. While this was the most successful category, it also meant that nearly half of the funds that were top performers in 2013 were unable to maintain their performance after just one year. By year three, several categories had zero remaining funds in the top quartile, and by year four, five of the seven categories had zero remaining funds. These results showed that regardless of fund category, active managers were unable to persistently produce top results.

In Exhibit 2, we separated each country’s equity category into quartiles based on an initial three-year performance period (2012-2014). The performance of the subsequent three-year period (2015-2017) was then measured for each fund to obtain two non-overlapping periods of performance. Looking at these two periods, we used a transition matrix to show the movements between quartiles from the first period to the second period.

In Brazil, 60% of the funds that were in the first quartile for the first period ended up in the first or second quartile in the second period. For the second through fourth quartiles in the first period, more funds ended up merging with another fund or liquidating than sitting in one of the four quartiles (darker shades of blue signify higher frequency). In Chile, more funds shut down than resided in any of the four quartiles by the end of the second period. For the first quartile in the first period, funds that survived remained top performers in the second period, but the overall majority of funds (60%) ended up no longer being in existence. No clear trend was observed in Mexico. More funds in the top quartile in the first period transitioned to the bottom quartiles in the second period than remained in the first quartile or moved to the middle quartiles. Funds in the second and third quartiles generally moved up to the first quartile in the second period, while most funds in the fourth quartile continued to show poor performance. In essence, the results in Mexico were a coin flip.

The initial scorecard for Latin America echoed results found in the other regions—the vast majority of top performing funds were not able to deliver top performance in future years.

To see the full results, the scorecard can be found here.

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

Why Indices Matter to SMSF Trustees

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Stuart Magrath

Senior Director, Channel Management, Australia and New Zealand

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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I spent a recent weekend at the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF) Expo talking to SMSF trustees about indices. While I often spend Monday through Friday talking indices, to spend Saturday and Sunday chatting about indices was something new. The SMSF Association hosted the first SMSF Expo in Australia, attracting over 1,500 people over the three-day Expo. SMSFs represent about one-third (or AUD 721 billion) of Australia’s total superannuation asset pool of AUD 2.3 trillion, as of Dec. 31 2017.[1] These funds enjoy much greater flexibility in terms of investment choices, including the ability to borrow and leverage. There are over 1.24 million SMSF trustees in Australia.

The most common question asked of me at the Expo was, “What does S&P Dow Jones Indices offer to SMSF Trustees?” My answer was that we primarily give away education, and from that point, I launched into sharing the findings from our SPIVA® Australia Year-End 2017 Scorecard, as well as the findings from the Persistence of Australian Active Funds: March 2018. With SPIVA, I always find it helpful to start with the infographic that shows the SPIVA phenomenon is not just something that occurs in Australia, but that in many markets, active managers find it hard to outperform their respective benchmarks.

After sharing the SPIVA and persistence findings, it was an easy segue to handing a trustee the ticker sheet of all ETFs in Australia and New Zealand that track an S&P DJI index. Armed with the research and ticker sheets, trustees who had not as yet invested in ETFs were then in a position to consider how these vehicles could form part of their portfolios.

But it wasn’t only SMSF trustees who attended the Expo. There were also financial advisers, many of whom are converts to the ETF cause, but had never met anyone from an index provider and were thrilled to know that there are myriad resources available to share with clients. It’s always satisfying to talk to advisers and trustees who advocate passive investing, but the real thrill at events of this nature is when you are explaining passive investing and indexing, sharing SPIVA or persistence results, and you see the dawn of realization on the faces of the people you are speaking with as they get why passive investing is growing and how easy it is for them to access passive investment vehicles.

[1]   Source: APRA, Quarterly Superannuation Performance December 2017

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

The Effects of U.S. Regulation on the S&P GSCI Biofuel

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Marya Alsati

Product Manager, Commodities, Home Prices, and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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On July 9, 2007, S&P Dow Jones Indices launched the S&P GSCI Biofuel, which aims to provide market participants with a reliable and publicly available benchmark for investment performance in the feedstock commodities used in the production of biofuels. The index includes Chicago wheat, corn, soybean oil, and sugar.

Biofuels are produced utilizing biological processes, are renewable, and are intended to replace fossil fuels such as gasoline for transportation, which is not renewable. Biofuel was first used as fuel in a diesel engine in 1898. In 1918, blended gasoline was first invented and was used extensively during World Wars I and II due to oil shortages. The Clean Air Act was signed by Nixon in 1970, and in 1992, the Common Agricultural Policy allowed land to be designated for the planting of crops for biofuel production. In 2001, E15 (or 15% ethanol/85% oil fuel) was officially allowed in the U.S., and in 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandated the increase of ethanol usage in the U.S. Exhibit 2 depicts the subsequent U.S. regulatory implementations as they related to the performance of the S&P GSCI Biofuel.

As seen in Exhibit 2, the S&P GSCI Biofuel tended to perform better during and subsequent to the implementation of new regulatory environments that supported the production and utilization of biofuel.

Exhibit 3 drills into the performance of the index during the month of May 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was considering allowing exported ethanol to count toward the volumes mandated under the nation’s biofuels law, a move that could benefit both the oil and corn industries in the U.S.[i]

The S&P GSCI Biofuel increased 0.9% on the day of the announcement (May 8, 2018), while the S&P GSCI Unleaded Gasoline declined by 1.1%.

Exhibit 4 depicts the annual correlation between the S&P GSCI Biofuel and the S&P GSCI Unleaded Gasoline. While the indices had a correlation of 0.2 for the entire period evaluated, the annual correlation levels fluctuated.

It can be seen that the correlation between the two indices was low or reflective of the entire period correlation during the “regulatory years” (2007, 2010, 2011, and 2018). The highest correlation levels were during 2008, when all commodity prices experienced a sharp downturn as a result of the credit crunch and sovereign debt crisis, and in 2016, when petroleum prices benefited from robust demand and biofuels strengthened as a result of increasing the Renewable Fuel Standard targets.[i]

[i]   Source: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=29132

[i]   Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-biofuels/trump-to-soon-propose-sweeping-changes-to-biofuel-laws-source-idUSKBN1IC263

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

Starting on the Right Foot: Preparing Accurate ESG Disclosures

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Erik Christianto

Business Development and Account Manager for Corporate Business

Trucost, part of S&P Global

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As part of a series of articles on ESG disclosure, Trucost describes the importance of accurate ESG disclosure for reporters and readers.

By the time this blog is up, some seasoned ESG reporters in Southeast Asia will have published their sustainability reports; another group will be finalizing their reports; while the rest will still be in the process of preparing their disclosures. For the latter group, my advice to you is not to rush, start on the right foot, and prepare accurate disclosures.

Many first-time reporters are frustrated by the amount of new and sometimes unfamiliar ESG metrics they need to start monitoring. While some stock exchanges, such as SGX, HKEX, and Bursa Malaysia, have suggested specific materiality and reporting frameworks to streamline the process, many companies still struggle to understand and adopt the concepts. This often results in companies inadvertently publishing inaccurate data in their reports. In return, stakeholders who rely on these ESG data for decision-making suffer from misinformation.

In fact, inaccurate reporting also occurs among more seasoned reporters. Taking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions disclosure for example, Trucost research found that, on average, 7% of companies underreport GHG emissions globally. If a power producer in Singapore affected by the new carbon tax made the same mistake, the investment community could be misinformed about the company’s financial exposure.

An accurate disclosure reflects well on a company’s governance, such as the internal data collection and reporting system that is in place. Plus, with an accurate disclosure, companies can confidently make important business decisions based on the information gathered. For example, a company can develop a reliable benchmark and establish quantifiable targets.

For readers of the sustainability report, such as investors, shareholders, and regulators, an accurate disclosure allows them to fairly assess the company’s performance. Investors and shareholders can draw trends, make their own analyses, and inform capital allocation decisions. According to the Global Sustainable Investment Review 2016, more than a quarter of all professionally managed assets were managed under responsible investment strategies, an increase of 25% since 2014. Finally, regulators can also rely on the information to set a country-wide target or policy.

As an ESG analytics firm, Trucost integrates reporters’ sustainability information into our research to develop essential intelligence for businesses such as investors, asset managers, and corporates.

How Can Companies Report Accurate Data?

Companies can ensure that they report accurately by always asking whether their data is representative and reliable: Can I rely on this data? Can I make business decisions based on this data?

One of the ways Trucost can help companies achieve this is by adopting a consistent reporting methodology based on best practice guidelines and standards.

Selecting a consistent reporting or accounting methodology is also important because many ESG metrics are derived information, with multiple acceptable reporting methodologies. The WRI/GHG Protocol, for example, accepts four different accounting methods to estimate Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services. Another example is the injury frequency rate, for which there are two acceptable formulae: rate of occurrences of injuries can be measured over a period of 1 million working hours (Singapore/UK[1]) or over 200,000 working hours (U.S.[2]) These methodologies also provide guidance to reporters on data collection and advice on alternative approaches when preferred primary data is not available. Hence, consistency adopting a reporting methodology can ensure not only accuracy but also comparability of data.

Preparing an ESG or sustainability report for the first time is not easy. It requires time, investment, and resources to establish a solid foundation. However, if companies can start on the right foot and ensure the right information is collected, both companies and readers stand to benefit from the accurate reporting.

[1] Source: Health and Safety Executive

[2] Source: United States Department of Labor

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