May 6, 2020

S&P 500 Dividend Futures: Divining Time To Recovery

In 2019, the S&P 500® companies in aggregate paid a record $485 billion in dividends.  This year, the figure could be closer to $415 billion, and it could be another seven years before they recover to 2019 levels, according to futures prices.  Dividend futures, that is. Index futures based on the level of the S&P…

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Mar 20, 2020

29 Days Later

On February 19th, the S&P 500® closed at an all-time high of 3386; last night, exactly one month later it closed at 2409, a 29% decline from the high.  Let’s take a moment to reflect on what’s happened over the last month. We should first start by putting the decline into historical context. The peak-to-trough…

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Mar 19, 2020

With VIX Above 80, Expect 5% Daily Swings in the S&P 500

Volatility – it is sometimes said – takes the elevator up but takes the stairs down.  Like seismic activity, volatility can rise precipitously, but tends to decay more slowly; aftershocks and tremors continue to roil markets after any major repricing occurs.  The practical consequence is that, once the markets become volatile, they tend to remain…

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Mar 16, 2020

The Darkest Hour

“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth” -Thomas Fuller The bull market is over.  After 11 years of impressive and relatively steady gains, last week the S&P 500® slid into bear market territory, marking the end of the glory of the 2010s and the start of a new regime.  Volatility is back with…

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Jan 7, 2020

From “Hard to Beat” to Nigh-On Impossible

Our SPIVA® reports have shown, year after year, that market-cap weighted benchmarks are, to put it kindly, hard to beat.  However, in 2019 a range of circumstances made “hard to beat” become nigh-on impossible for the S&P 500®. In general, there are three common ways by which an active portfolio can outperform its benchmark: over…

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Oct 24, 2019

The Road Less Traveled

It is a truth universally acknowledged that liquidity is critical to market health; typically when liquidity falls, volatility rises.  The Financial Times recently cited claims that the increased use of passive investment vehicles had caused trading volumes in individual S&P 500 constituents to decline.  Should we be alarmed? In reality, the notion that single-stock traders…

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Oct 14, 2019

Unicorns: Only in Fairy Tales

“A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is” -Description of company marketed during the South Sea Bubble (1720) Private companies, particularly those hailing from Silicon Valley and combining just the right mix of buzzwords, have captured both headlines and investor attention.  The media report breathlessly on…

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Sep 12, 2019

Illustrating the Value of Liquidity

Let’s suppose for a moment that you are given a choice between two hypothetical exchange traded funds (ETFs) tracking the same index.  Fund A has an annual management fee of 0.4% while Fund B has an annual management fee of 0.1%.  At first glance, Fund B seems like the better option: it offers similar performance…

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Jun 26, 2019

A Changing Stride for an Ageing Bull

  Taking a cue from Frank Sinatra, the S&P 500® was riding high in April, shot down in May, and got back on top in June.  But the current bull run is feeling its age, and we may be witnessing a change in its stride.  Coming into the end of the quarter (all figures are…

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Jun 3, 2019

A Look at Index History Part 2

This is more an eyewitness account than an analytical review of the growth of indexing since I joined S&P in 1982. The growth in indexing in the 20 years from S&P 500 futures in 1982 to the bottom of the tech bear market in 2002 was just a warm up. Two trends encouraging index growth…

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