At times, over 50% of fixed income managers outperform their benchmark indices. Understanding the drivers for that is important for manager selection, but far too often it's attributed to the wrong causes. It's time to pulp the fiction and instead recognise the roles that non-benchmarked investors and new issue premiums play.
US inflation was lacklustre in 2017, despite falling unemployment. This combination was very supportive for equities. In 2018, a key risk is that we see a similar wage pick-up in the US to what we’ve already seen in Central and Eastern Europe, where labour markets are also tight. As a result, we believe there are potential benefits in holding US dollar and US inflation exposure in portfolios to help mitigate the risk of higher interest rates undermining equities and other risk assets.
In pricing fixed income securities, a lot hangs on the difference between the mean, median and mode. Markets reflect a probability-weighted average of potential outcomes (i.e. the mean); policymakers typically focus on the single most-likely outcome (i.e. the mode). Thinking carefully about the difference has important implications for how we view interest rate risks.
When making decisions, data on similar past decisions and their outcomes provide a useful starting point as a ‘base rate’. Too often though people ignore them or give them too little weight. Base rates of the historic performance of active fund managers provide an insight into the potential benefits and costs of choosing them in different asset classes.
US wage inflation remains subdued. Many believe this is due to workers' fears about automation and offshoring. Yet US consumers believe jobs are 'easy to get' and companies struggle to find labour. This contrasts with Germany in 2004 when the EU expanded eastwards. So second-round effects from low oil prices and ageing demographics appear more plausible explanations.