A Strong Start to the Second Half of the Year
Investment Manager Research | Market Commentary August 10, 2020
• Long-dated treasury yields fell to all-time lows, yet risk assets rallied for the fourth straight month bringing year-to-date returns into positive territory for many segments of the equity market.
• GDP experienced its largest quarterly contraction since 1946 yet economic indicators released in July reflected a sharp rebound in third quarter economic activity.
• With fiscal policy stimulus expiring at month-end, the focus will be on policy makers agreeing on an extension of unemployment benefits.
The broad-based rally in risk assets continued for the fourth consecutive month, bringing many segments of the U.S. equity market back near all-time highs. Investors’ attention focused on economic data that reflected a sharp improvement in activity and better-than-expected earnings data, overlooking rising COVID-19 infection rates in portions of the United States. Most Central Banks left monetary policy unchanged yet current policy measures remain highly accommodative as open-ended asset purchase programs remain in place, which have helped anchor long-term rates near all-time lows. Meanwhile, the European Union reached an agreement on an $857 billion stimulus package through collective debt issuance, resulting in grants to member countries hit hardest by the pandemic.
Returns were broadly positive across fixed income sub-asset classes. The Barclays Aggregate advanced 1.5 percent driven by the 10-year treasury yield falling to 0.55 percent – one basis point above the all-time low reached earlier in the month. Meanwhile, the 10-year TIPs yield hit a record low of negative 0.97 percent, signaling rising inflation expectations. Corporate credit spreads narrowed back near historical averages, leading to a 4.7 percent gain for U.S. high yield debt and bringing the year-to-date return for the asset-class back into positive territory. Unhedged international developed government bonds returned 3.1 percent, outperforming a comparable portfolio of U.S. dollar hedged bonds as the dollar hit its lowest level since May 2018.
Similar to fixed income, gains were broad-based across global equity markets. In the U.S., large-cap stocks advanced 5.6 percent, outpacing their small-cap peers. The recent gains of broad-based market indices mask the wide divergence in returns by investment style as growth stocks once again outperformed value, bringing the year-to-date return for large-cap growth stocks to 18.3 percent – a 31.2 percent higher return than their value counterparts. A historically large percentage of companies beating earnings expectations drove equity market gains, despite estimates for a 45 percent contraction in earnings – the largest decline since 2008. Outside the U.S., developed international and emerging market equities returned 2.4 and 9 percent, respectively.
Within real assets, MLPs and U.S. REITs returned -3.6 and 4 percent, respectively. The most significant news was gold rallying to an all-time high intra-month. Gold returned roughly 30 percent year-to-date, reflecting the fall in the U.S. dollar and real yields and rising inflation expectations.
The preliminary estimate of second quarter GDP reported a 32.9 percent annualized decline 1. To put that into perspective, since 1950, the next largest decline in GDP was the 10 percent GDP contraction in the first quarter of 1958 1. The weakest sector of the economy in the second quarter was consumer spending on services, with recreation down a 93.5 percent annual rate and food services and hotels down an 81.2 percent annual rate 2 .
But that’s not all! Business fixed investment dropped at a 27 percent annual rate while home building fell at a 38.7 percent annual rate 2. Outside the U.S., the Eurozone economy shrank 15 percent year-over-year 3, while China’s economy grew by 3.2 percent year-over-year following a 6.8 percent contraction in the first quarter 4 .
1Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, FRED Economic Data, Real Gross Domestic Product. Retrieved from https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GDPC1
2First Trust, First Trust Economic Blog, “The First Estimate for Q2 Real GDP Growth is -32.9% at an Annual Rate.” Retrieved from https://www.ftportfolios.com/Blogs/EconBlog/2020/7/30/the-first-estimate-for-q2-real-gdp-growth-is–32.9percent-at-an-annual-rate
3Trading Economics, Euro Area GDP. Retrieved from https://tradingeconomics.com/euro-area/gdp
4Trading Economics, Euro Area GDP. Retrieved from https://tradingeconomics.com/china/gdp-growth-annual
Global Equity Style Total Return data: U.S. Large Cap Value: Russell 1000 Value Total Return, U.S. Large Cap Blend: Russell 1000 Total Return, U.S. Large Cap Growth: Russell 1000 Growth Total Return. U.S. Small Cap Value: Russell 2000 Value Total Return, U.S. Small Cap Blend: Russell 2000 Total Return, U.S. Small Cap Growth: Russell 2000 Growth Total Return. Developed ex U.S. Large Cap Value: MSCI World ex USA Large Value USD Net, Developed ex U.S. Large Cap Blend: MSCI World ex USA Large Cap USD Net, Developed ex U.S. Large Cap Growth: MSCI World ex USA Large Growth USD Net. Developed ex U.S. Small Cap Value: MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Value USD Net, Developed ex U.S. Small Cap Blend: MSCI Daily TR Net Small Cap World ex USA USD, Developed ex U.S. Small Cap Growth: MSCI World ex USA Small Growth USD Net. Emerging Markets Large Cap Value: MSCI Emerging Markets Large Value Net Total Return USD Index, Emerging Markets Blend: MSCI Emerging Markets Large CapNet Total Return USD Index, Emerging Markets Large Cap Growth: MSCI Emerging Markets Large Growth Net Total Return USD Index. Emerging Markets Small Cap Value: MSCI Emerging Markets Small Value Net Total Return USD Index, Emerging Markets Small Cap Blend: MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap-Net Total Return USD Index, Emerging Markets Small Cap Growth: MSCI Emerging Markets Small Growth Net Total Return USD Index
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