Newsletter | April 2023




Investment perspective

The month of March was most eventful for capital markets. Three US banks collapsed following a run on their deposits and the Swiss government forced through the takeover of the 167 year-old bank, Crédit Suisse, by its rival UBS. This banking turmoil triggered a fall of equity markets and a plunge of bond yields. Markets also quickly repriced their expectations relative to the Federal Reserve’s hiking cycle, with rate cuts being anticipated for the second-half of 2023, once again. US federal authorities intervened quickly to protect both insured and uninsured deposits at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank to restore calm in the markets. The merger of CS and UBS also contributed to remove some market stress even if Deutsche Bank found itself under heavy selling pressure for a brief period. The second half of March saw global equity markets rebound strongly and end the month with modest positive returns. The best performing asset in March was gold which benefited significantly from lower real bond yields and a weaker US dollar to appreciate by 7.8%.

A high level of volatility has been observed in bond markets for some time now, as a result of the fast pace of monetary tightening since early 2022. The moves that took place in March, however, proved to be even more extreme. The yields of 2-year and 10-year Treasuries collapsed from early-March levels of 5.06% and 4.08% to closing lows of 3.77% and 3.38%, respectively, a most significant shift of the US yield curve. By the end of March, expectations for the end-year level of the Fed’s fund rate had also dived to 4.35%, compared to an early-March level of 5.55%. In the Eurozone bond markets, comparable trends as in the US were observed, even if to a lesser degree; markets are now pricing in a end-year ECB policy rate of 3.4%, in contrast to 4% at the beginning of March.


Investment strategy

Our defensive portfolio asset allocation was maintained through March. We were close to being able to increase our fixed income allocation as bond yields kept on rising, but their sudden drop has prevented us from making this move so far. We had also got very near to our first target on the EUR/USD parity, with the objective of decreasing our dollar exposure. Then again, the unexpected banking turmoil trig-gered a reversal of the prevailing trend, taking away the opportunity to sell the US currency. We admit being some-what puzzled by the ongoing confidence of equity markets in view of the signals sent out by the bond markets. Were the Fed to cut rates this year, as currently priced in by markets, it would be due to a deeper slowdown of the economy, not the best framework for equities. That is one of the reasons why we have kept our underweight allocation towards equities.

The past month was a mixed bag for alternative strategies, but we continue to view them as an integral part of the port-folios. This is also the case for gold which has continued to provide real diversification and to behave more like a long duration asset, bringing defensive qualities to portfolios.



Portfolio Activity/ News

March was a modestly negative month for the portfolios as equity, fixed income and alternative asset classes all posted negative returns. US and European value funds were the largest detractors in the equity allocation, whereas the global technology fund produced a strong contribution as growth stocks outperformed. Our underweight duration exposure and our preference for credit strategies meant that most bond funds ended with limited monthly changes, except for the emerging market corporate debt fund which experienced a larger drawdown. The brutal reversal of bond markets also proved costly for trend-following strategies, in reason of their very short positioning on rates. In contrast, the discretionary global macro strategy performed very well. For non-USD denominated portfolios, the depreciation of the dollar also translated into a negative contribution for the portfolios.

In March two new funds were added to the model portfolios. The first one is a US value fund which replaced our previous US value one. The reasons for this change were an under-whelming performance of the prior fund recently, as well as an overweight exposure to the energy sector within the new fund. We also trimmed our discretionary Global Macro and trend-following CTA strategies to make room for a systematic Global Macro strategy based on fundamental and price-based indicators. The fund combines carry, fundamental, trend-following and value/reversion strategies, and displays a remarkable track-record over an extended number of years.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | March 2023




Investment perspective

The early-year optimism in financial markets gave way to renewed concerns over inflation and even tighter monetary policies, triggering a significant drop of bond markets. As often observed in 2022, the volatility in bond markets rose noticeably and impacted the momentum of other asset classes. The yields of 10-year Treasuries ended the month 41bps higher at 3.92% with those of Bunds with a similar maturity climbing by 37bps to 2.65%. While European equity markets proved to be resilient, as the Euro Stoxx 50 Index edged 1.8% higher, emerging market and US ones gave back a large portion of their January gains; the MSCI EM Index fell by 6.5% and the S&P 500 Index lost 2.6%. In this context, the US dollar benefited from the widening of the interest rate differential between Treasuries and Bunds, and from its safe haven status, to record a solid performance against other major currencies. A strong dollar and higher real interest rates meant that gold saw its early-year gains being erased, while other commodity prices also dropped.

Early-year market confidence over the decline of inflation appears to have been replaced by concerns that it will be more sticky and remain higher for longer than previously anticipated. This change of outlook was triggered by the publication of inflation data which was above forecasts, on both sides of the Atlantic, and was reflected by the steep rise of inflation expectations. The correction of bond markets in February means that they are more closely aligned now with the outlooks of the Federal Reserve and the ECB, with an implicit admission that policy rates will end up at much higher peak levels than previously expected. Markets are now pricing in peak policy rates of 5.5% in the US and 4% in the Eurozone, compared to January 2023 lows for peak rates of 4.7% and 3.05% respectively.


Investment strategy

We maintained our defensive asset allocation in February. Thanks to an underweight allocation towards equities and a low duration of the fixed income exposure, the drawdown of portfolios was not too deep. In last month’s newsletter, we had reiterated our scepticism about the markets’ optimistic outlook over a pivot by the Fed in the second half of 2023 and were therefore not surprised by the retreat of equity markets in view of rising bond yields. We believe that equity risk premiums are not attractive at this stage, leading us to remain cautious, especially in view of concerns over profit margins and the path of earnings.

We are closely observing the level of European bond yields as we are approaching a point where we would likely increase the duration of the portfolios. The latest developments in bond markets also mean that the recent appreciation of the US dollar has stalled. As we did not reach our first target on the EUR/USD parity, we have not yet reduced our dollar exposure for non-USD denominated portfolios.



Portfolio Activity/ News

February was a negative month for the portfolios as both the equity and fixed income asset classes were detractors, while hedge funds produced only a marginal positive contribution. For non-USD denominated portfolios, the appreciation of the dollar provided a welcome positive contribution. Some of January’s best performing funds fared the worst during the month under review; the metal mining fund and Chinese equities were the largest equity detractors, whereas emerging market corporate bonds and the long duration investment-grade fund were the biggest fixed income ones. European Value and cyclical equities provided the best contributions within the equity asset class and the short duration European high yield fund generated the only positive fixed income contribution.

In February two new funds were approved by our investment committee. The first one runs a systematic Global Macro strategy based on fundamental and price-based indicators. The fund combines carry, fundamental, trend-following and value/reversion strategies, and displays a remarkable track-record over an extended number of years. The second fund is a concentrated US Value fund, which seeks to invest into great businesses trading at a “bargain”. Since its inception in 2008, the strategy has outperformed both its Value bench-mark and the broader S&P 500 Index.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | January 2023




Investment perspective

 Financial markets got off to a very positive start in 2023 as investors took the view that the likelihood of a soft landing was rising despite the hawkish tone from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. In this risk-on environment, the vast majority of equity markets posted above-average monthly gains, long-term bond yields decreased, credit spreads tightened, and the US dollar continued to depreciate. The MSCI World index in local currencies climbed by 6.4%, with the Euro Stoxx 50 index rising by 9.7% and the Hang Seng index by 10.4%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped by 36bps to 3.51%, with US and European high yield credit spreads contracting by 49bps and 68bps respectively. Other strong gains were also observed on industrial metals, as a result of the anticipation of renewed demand from China, and on the price of gold. Maybe a little surprisingly, oil prices ended the month lower, despite the boost from the reopening of China, while gas prices continued to slide at a fast pace. 

At the time of writing, the Federal Reserve has just hiked its Fed fund rate by 0.25%, as fully anticipated. The more relevant outcome of the FOMC meeting were the comments by the Fed’s chair, Jerome Powell, on the future path of the Fed’s policy. Powell repeated that more rate increases were needed and that rate cuts in the second half of the year were unlikely. This goes against markets’ expectations for two rate cuts by the end of 2023. What was more surprising was that Powell did not push back more against the recent easing of financial conditions, leading markets to extend their early-year rally, with equities ending the trading session higher and bond yields declining. The ECB and the Bank of England also matched market expectations by hiking interest rates by 0.5%. The ECB signaled its intention to raise interest rates by another 0.5% in March and will then evaluate its policy depending on data. As was the case after the Fed’s decision, markets are continuing to rally, with bond yields dropping quite noticeably. 


Investment strategy

At the onset of 2023, our asset allocation is composed of an underweight equity exposure, an allocation to fixed income which is close to neutral and an overweight exposure to hedge funds. Taking account of the strong performance of equities in January, we are sticking to this asset mix for the time being. We fear that markets could be overconfident in their dovish outlook relative to monetary policies and to the path of earnings. With bonds offering positive yields once again, we believe that it makes sense to hold more balanced portfolios and no longer to rely just on the equity asset class to generate portfolio performance. It is also reassuring that the current valuations of some of the traditional assets offer a better starting point for future portfolio returns than a year ago, when only a few of them could be considered cheap. Global value stocks, emerging and European equities, as well as investment grade credit are some of the assets that offer attractive valuations.

For non-USD denominated portfolios, our allocation to the US dollar remains underweight but we prefer to wait before reducing it further. From a medium to long-term perspective we would expect the dollar to depreciate but it continues to offer defensive qualities were markets to turn.



Portfolio Activity/ News

January was a strong month for the portfolios. With both bond and equity markets rising simultaneously, the majority of funds contributed to the performance, as to be expected. European Value equities, the metal mining fund, the global technology fund, Chinese equities, and the US Value fund provided the best contributions within the equity asset class. The only equity detractor was the healthcare fund, as the more defensive sectors such as healthcare, consumer staples and utilities ended the month lower. The best performers in the fixed income asset class were emerging market corporate bonds and the long duration investment-grade fund. In the alternative space, the Global Macro fund provided the best contribution, whereas one of the long/short equity funds, with a barely positive net exposure currently, ended the month with a small loss. The other hedge funds provided only marginal contributions.

Following a tough year for many strategies, we are confident that active managers will be able to generate more alpha in 2023. We would expect market dispersion to be high and to represent a favourable environment for good stock pickers. This extensive dispersion should also be helpful for hedge fund managers, and we are comfortable with our overweight exposure to these alternative strategies.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | December 2022




Investment perspective

November was a strong month for capital markets, as both equities and bonds performed well. For once, emerging markets’ equities outperformed those of developed ones; Chinese equities rallied massively due to a dramatic shift of investor sentiment in the wake of the end of October selloff. The MSCI EM index climbed by 14.6%, compared to a 5.5% gain for the MSCI World index in local currencies, whereas the Euro Stoxx 50 index gained 9.6%. These equity gains were accompanied by another negative month for the US dollar; the 5% monthly drop of the dollar index was effectively its worst since September 2010, and this move contributed significantly to the overall improved market sentiment. The decline of long-term bond yields was another supporting factor for risk assets; the yields of 10-year Treasuries and Bunds declined by 44bps and 21bps to 3.61% and 1.93%, respectively, resulting in increasingly inverted yield curves. Credit and emerging market debt spreads continued to contract at a fast pace. Significant moves were observed in the commodity space also, with the price of gold rising strongly whereas oil prices dropped by more than 6% on concerns about weaker demand.

As in October, one of the drivers for the stronger markets was the narrative that the Federal Reserve was likely to slow the pace of its interest rate hikes. The US central bank is widely expected to rise rates by 50bps at its December meeting following a string of 75bps increases. The fact that the latest inflation data in the US have been below expectations has contributed to the market’s optimism relative to the path of the Fed’s policy. The market could, however, be at risk of underestimating the terminal Fed fund rate in view of the very resilient job markets, and the fact that the Fed will want to avoid making a mistake by ending its hiking cycle prematurely.


Investment strategy

The recent rebound of equity markets has obviously been most welcome for the portfolios, but we are reluctant to add to our current equity allocation and we maintain our modest underweight positioning. In our opinion, markets could be overconfident that central banks will soon be ending their hiking cycle. The upcoming economic slowdown could also be accompanied by a declining growth of earnings, as margins contract from record highs, hence our caution.

On the other hand, we think that bond markets offer a more attractive risk/reward at present, and we will be increasing some of our exposures. Investment-grade credit, and funds having the flexibility to manage both duration and credit quality are our current top picks. These funds can allocate to some of the more attractive segments of the bond markets, in areas such as subordinated bonds of investment-grade companies, corporate credit and financials, and corporate hybrids.



Portfolio Activity/ News

November was a positive month for the portfolios thanks to the strong returns of equities and also of bond markets. The best contributions were provided by Chinese and emerging equities, metal mining companies, the European value fund, emerging market corporate bonds, the technology fund and long duration investment-grade bonds. For portfolios with an exposure into gold, it proved to be a rewarding month as the precious metal climbed by 8.3%, as it benefited from lower real bond yields and the weaker dollar. The number of detractors was low. The depreciation of the dollar hurt portfolios not denominated in USD, as did the drop of the trend following CTA strategy, US small caps and the multi-thematic fund.

We were pleased to observe the massive rebound of our Chinese equity fund in November. In last month’s newsletter, we had highlighted why we believed it still made sense to be exposed to Chinese equities, and the recent upside move just shows how difficult it can be to predict trends. It also shows how sentiment is continuing to drive the markets, with the shift in China’s Covid stance towards a loosening of some restrictions contributing to boost market sentiment.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | November 2022




Investment perspective

Following a dreadful September, the month of October provided much welcome relief for investors thanks to a rebound of developed markets’ equities. One of the main drivers for this rally was the perception that key central banks might be getting closer to slowing the pace of their rate hikes following the decisions by the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise interest rates by less than expected. The rise of equities was accompanied by a pause of the US dollar rally, tighter credit spreads, and an upwards move of the US yield curve. A significant underperformance of emerging market equities was also observed, as they recorded a monthly drop, largely as a result of Chinese equities plunging further from already depressed levels. In terms of investment style, Value outperformed Growth, and energy was the best performing sector, supported by rising oil prices. October also provided a much needed return to calm for UK assets after the replacement of Liz Truss, who became the shortest serving UK prime minister, by the former chancellor Rishi Sunak. The UK yield curve shifted down materially, with 2-year and 10-year Gilt yields dropping by 95bps and 58bps, respectively, whereas the pound recovered some of its recent losses. 

With more than 80% of the S&P 500’s market cap having reported, earnings have beaten estimates by 3.6%, with 66% of companies topping projections. Earnings per share growth is on pace for 5.9%, assuming the current beat rate for the rest of the season. Even if the beat rate was inferior to those of the previous quarters, amid lowered earnings’ expectations, companies’ results proved to be supportive for equity markets overall. What was quite striking was that equity markets continued to rise even if the share prices of some of the US mega-caps, including Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Meta, were badly hit by a set of disappointing reportings. 


Investment strategy

At the time of writing this newsletter, the Federal Reserve has just announced another 75bps rate hike, as expected by the markets. What was less anticipated was the tone of Jay Powell’s press conference; equity markets had been rallying on the assumption that the Fed could be approaching the end of its hiking cycle and could even cut rates next year. Fed chair Powell made it clear that the US central bank still had work to do, and that real interest rates had to turn positive, implying that markets’ expectations were too optimistic in relation to future Fed fund rates. We were not in the camp expecting the Fed to turn more dovish, and this explains why we had not increased our equity exposure. In reason of the deterioration of the global economy, restrictive monetary policies, and a risk of further earnings’ downgrades, we have maintained our equity underweight.

It has been a disappointing month for Chinese equities, but we continue to believe that an exposure to the country still makes sense despite the ongoing headwinds. Overly cheap valuations, a significantly underweight positioning by foreign investors, and the prospect of some policy support are just some of the main reasons why we remain invested.



Portfolio Activity/ News

October was a positive month for the portfolios thanks to the rebound of developed markets’ equities. US and European Value funds, metal mining equities, the Healthcare fund, and US small caps provided the best contributions. The positive return of portfolios was, however, dented severely by the exposure to Chinese equities, and to those of emerging and frontier markets. The overall contribution of fixed-income was negative due to the declines of emerging market debt and the long duration investment-grade fund, even if convertible bonds did provide some positive returns. The overall contribution of the alternative exposure was neutral, with the recently added L/S US small cap fund continuing to perform well. For portfolios not denominated in USD, the depreciation of the US dollar was a detractor.

In October, we added a high yield bond fund to our list of approved funds. The particularity of this fund is that it is managed based on a fixed maturity approach, with the fund ending at the end of 2026. This means that all the underlying bonds will have maturities with a maximum of six months longer than the end of 2026.This approach is more defensive than a traditional bond fund, as risk factors such as credit risk, duration and volatility, decrease over time. We believe that the next months could provide a good entry point for the strategy, if credit spreads were to widen more.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | October 2022




Investment perspective

The early-month optimism of investors in September quickly gave way to severe market angst due to higher-than-expected inflation data and hawkish central banks. In a scenario often observed this year, yield curves moved up materially and equity markets tanked. The Local Currency MSCI World Index plunged by 8.5%, with US and EM equities underperforming and European ones faring somewhat better. The rise of bond yields was steep, and key bond indices dropped between 3% and 5%; 2-year Treasury yields climbed by 76bps to end September at 4.2%, with 10-year ones rising by 64bps to 3.8% after briefly breaching 4%. The moves on UK sovereign debt proved to be even more dramatic; 2-year and 10-year Gilt yields jumped by 122bps and 129bps, respectively, as markets reacted poorly to new UK government tax policies. The appreciation of the US dollar accelerated during the month, with the Japanese yen and the British pound finding themselves under particularly acute selling pressure; for the first time since 1998, Japan intervened in the currency market to support its currency, and it took an emergency statement by the Bank of England to help the pound to recover some of its losses.

As expected, the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 75bps in September to a 3%-3.25% range. The bank’s Chair Jerome Powell also delivered a more hawkish message, leaving little doubt that more outsized hikes would be announced at the upcoming meetings, leading to an end-2022 rate of 4.5%. The ECB also increased rates by 75bps last month, at the high end of market forecasts. The ECB is currently widely expected to rise rates by another 1.25% by the end of the year to a level of 2%. Markets are now anticipating the ECB’s policy rate to be increased to around 3% in 2023, a significant ramp up of expectations compared to only a few weeks ago.


Investment strategy

Following the reduction of our equity positioning last month, we did not change our asset allocation in September, with both equity and fixed-income asset classes remaining under-weight. In contrast, the exposure to alternative strategies is overweight and has contributed to limit some of the market volatility, and to preserve capital in these challenging market conditions. Our assessment is that markets are still struggling to correctly price in the path of monetary tightening, and the instability of bond markets continues to negatively impact all the other asset classes. The ongoing strength of the US dollar is another factor which is preventing any significant rebound of equity markets. In view of the extreme level of uncertainty on key issues, including geopolitical risks, rising interest rates, inflation, currencies and Chinese economic growth, visibility is extremely low, and forecasts are of little help.

In this environment, we try to filter out the short-term noise and prefer to invest over the long term, and not attempt to time the market. We continue to believe that well-diversified portfolios are the best way to navigate in the current market environment.



Portfolio Activity/ News

September was a brutal month for portfolios as both bonds and equities recorded steep losses. Alternative strategies outperformed long-only exposures significantly and, for portfolios not denominated in USD, the US dollar exposure was a positive contributor. The trend-following CTA strategy provided the unique positive contribution while other hedge funds were either flat or only marginally negative. The main detractors were the real assets fund, badly hurt by higher bond yields, Chinese and EM equities, the global technology fund, as well as various Value funds. In the fixed-income space, investment grade sovereign debt funds with a longer duration and EM bonds fared the worst, whereas credit funds with some flexibility managed to outperform their reference benchmarks strongly and to limit the impact of pronounced market drawdowns.

In September, we cut one of our Japanese exposures due to a risk management measure in view of the fund’s declining assets. For some portfolios, we replaced this position by a newly-approved long/short fund focused on US small and mid caps. This fund has a very limited net long exposure and has low levels of beta and correlation with the market. At a time when equity markets are very volatile, and dispersion is wide, this kind of strategy offers a differentiated source of performance and diversification within the portfolios.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | September 2022




Investment perspective

The positive sentiment observed in markets since mid-June ended in the middle of August. Equity markets were resilient to rising bond yields intially, but then gave back all of their gains to end the month much lower; the MSCI World Index in local currencies dropped by 3.6%, with European equities underperforming and EM ones holding up better. The rise of bond yields was steep, with European sovereign debt being the most negatively impacted; 2-year Bund yields climbed by 92bps to end August at 1.18%, with 10-year ones rising by 72bps. The size of these moves was reflected by the 4.9% monthly drop of the Euro Broad Investment-Grade Index, dragging it down to a year-to-date decline of 12.9%. The high correlation between bond and equity markets remains entrenched and the comments by Jerome Powell at Jackson Hole only reinforced this relationship. The month of August also saw the US dollar appreciate strongly, as investors turned to one of the only remaining safe haven assets.

Jerome Powell’s Jackson Hole speech was eagerly awaited by investors. The Fed chair spoke for less than ten minutes but that was long enough to trigger a significant fall of equity markets as the S&P 500 Index lost 3.4%. Powell emphasised the central bank’s resolve to hike interest rates to curb inflation. He said that the Fed “must keep at it until the job is done” and that this would bring “some pain to households and businesses”. He pushed back against the notion of raising rates and cutting them soon afterwards. Investors are also bracing themselves for a more hawkish European Central Bank. The ECB is widely expected to raise rates by a half percentage point at its next policy meeting on September 8, with some policymakers even pushing for a more aggressive move to raise rates by 0.75%.


Investment strategy

During our last investment committee, we decided to reduce our equity allocation to underweight. The strong summer rally of equities provided an opportunity to exit some of our positions at higher prices, with the objective to raise the level of cash and to contain some of the portfolios’ volatility. We have mostly, but not exclusively, acted on European positions as Europe remains the most fragile region. The energy crisis, inflation pressures and the increasing risk of a recession have led us to turn more cautious, especially as the recent rally was quickly losing momentum. The level of uncertainty on many issues remains high and, in certain cases, represents too much of a binary risk. The higher level of liquidity will provide more flexibility to rebuild positions if equity markets were to correct in the upcoming months.

Bond markets also still need to find an equilibrium level. The message sent by Jerome Powell means that yields are more likely to keep on rising and at risk of further hurting the prices of equities. As long as bond markets remain as volatile, it will be difficult for other asset classes to stabilise.



Portfolio Activity/ News

Following a good start, August ended up by being a negative month for the portfolios. With both equity and bond markets posting negative returns, there were only a limited number of positions ending August in positive territory. The best contributions were provided by frontiers markets’ equities, the metal mining fund, the trend-following CTA strategy, emerging markets bonds and equities, as well as high-yield bond funds. European Small Caps and other European equity funds, the global technology fund, and the European sovereign debt fund, due to its long duration, were the portfolios’ main detractors. For portfolios not denominated in USD, the US dollar exposure was a positive contributor.

Despite the negative performance observed in most markets in August, it was somewhat reassuring to note that emerging and frontier markets produced positive returns. At a time when it is challenging to find assets which are less correlated, the broad diversification within the portfolios enables to benefit from these different trends. The fact that Chinese authorities are attempting to stimulate their economy when developed markets are facing more restrictive conditions explains this contrast in terms of market performance.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | August 2022




Investment perspective

Following a painful month of June for both equity and bond markets, July looked much like a mirror month as both asset classes performed strongly. In fact, the rebound of markets had started in June already, when expectations relative to the Federal Reserve’s terminal fund rate and bond yields peaked. The decline of yields, combined with an overall reassuring reporting of 2Q earnings, helped equity markets to generate outsized gains, with the MSCI World Index in local currencies climbing by 7.9%. US equities outperformed, especially growth stocks, whereas emerging markets underperformed, largely due to the weakness of Chinese equities. The retreat of bond yields continued at a quick pace; 10-year Treasury yields dropped by 0.36% to end the month at 2.65%, with the equivalent Bund yields falling by 0.52% to 0.81%. Credit spreads also tightened significantly, whereas the US dollar’s appreciation came to a halt, at least temporarily, around the middle of the month.

With more than 75% of the S&P 500’s market cap having reported, earnings have beaten estimates by 4.7%, with 71% of companies topping projections. Earnings per share growth is on pace for 9.8%, assuming the current beat rate for the rest of the season. Even if the beat rate was a little lower than that of the previous quarters, companies’ results can be qualified as solid overall, and guidance has tended to be constructive. Investors reacted positively to the publication of the results of mega-caps such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft, further boosting the ongoing rally of equity markets. The FED press conference following the July 26-27 FOMC meeting was another supportive factor for equities; Chair Jerome Powell suggested that US rates were near their neutral level so that it was an appropriate time for the Fed to move to a strategy of data dependency.


Investment strategy

In our recent mid-year review, we wrote “Our assessment is that a lot of negative news has already been priced in, and market sentiment has become overly depressed”. While we will not pretend to have been anticipating such a strong rally of risky assets in July, it just goes to show how fickle markets have become, and how quickly they can turn around. It also shows that the cutting of exposures when market sentiment is at extreme lows can prove to be very costly. Historical data suggests that equity returns following bear markets, defined as a 20% drop, tend to be well above average over the next two years. That largely explains why we invest over the long term and do not attempt to time the market. We continue to believe that a well-diversified portfolio is the best way to navigate current market conditions, hence our positioning.

Like many we have been astounded by the speed at which some market trends have shifted this year. This reflects an extreme level of uncertainty which has resulted in prices overshooting and undershooting massively. It is still too early to believe we have reached a point of equilibrium following these violent swings so further volatility is to be expected in the months ahead.



Portfolio Activity/ News

July was a very positive month for the portfolios, with the vast majority of strategies producing monthly gains. The best contributions were provided by the global technology and multi-thematic funds, European Small Caps, US Value and US Growth, the Medtech & Services fund, as well as European and Japanese equities. The fixed-income asset class also contributed positively, thanks to declining risk-free bond yields and tighter credit spreads. Chinese equities, the trend-following strategy and L/S equities were the portfolios’ main detractors; the negative return recorded by the trend-following CTA strategy in July was to be expected considering the inversion of some well-entrenched trends. For non-USD denominated portfolios, the US dollar exposure was also a contributor.

In July we cut one of our more growth-orientated strategies in favour of more defensive ones. We effectively increased the allocation to the real assets and to the stable equity strategies. The objective of these moves is to reduce some of the portfolio’s volatility and to increase the exposure to less cyclical businesses and to assets offering a higher level of protection against inflation.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | June 2022




Investment perspective

May was an archetypal month of two halves for most asset classes. Global equities extended their early-year decline initially before staging a spectacular rebound. This helped the main indices to record flat monthly performances, even if growth and small cap indices were not able to make up all of their early-month losses. The yields of US Treasuries continued to rise fast until May 6 when they began to climb down from a peak level of 3.2% to end the month at 2.84%. It took longer for credit spreads to start contracting but, then again, the movement was swift, for US high yield bonds in particular. The US dollar ended May on a much weaker note after reaching a multi-year high. The trend that continued to be persistent was the appreciation of the prices of most commodities. With the EU’s agreement of new sanctions against Russia in the form of a partial oil embargo, oil prices climbed by close to 10% in May; low expectations for any further increase of OPEC production and the anticipation of a recovery in demand in China also contributed to this rise.

The high level of uncertainty on many issues continues to weigh on markets and on market sentiment. This has led certain well-followed indicators such as the Fear & Greed Index and the AAII Bull/Bear Index to drop to extremely negative readings. From a contrarian viewpoint, such depressed levels often precede equity rebounds and this proved to effectively be the case in May. Amidst all the doom and gloom hovering over the markets, the corporate sector appears to be a brighter spot. This has been reflected by the significant insider buying of shares by companies’ directors as well as an increase of equity buybacks from record levels observed the previous years. US business sentiment remains optimistic regarding demand even if supply chain and pricing issues remain the biggest concerns.


Investment strategy

Some of the latest market movements could be signalling that markets have already priced in a lot of negative news and maybe become too bearish. When looking at historical average stock drawdowns for US equities, the current trough has gone beyond the average non-recession selloff, according to JPMorgan’s quant team. When compared to the average selloffs during recessions, the current drawdown represents around 75% of prior recession bottoms. Were a recession to be avoided, the current market positioning might well prove to be overly defensive. This is reflected by the near record premium of US defensive sectors versus cyclicals. Rather than adopting such a lopsided defensive position, our allocation to equities continues to be well diversified across investment styles, regions, sectors, and market caps.

The past month saw a pause in the rise of US bond yields as well as a decline from peak expectations relative to the end-2022 implied Fed Fund rate. Were these expectations to be anchored around the current levels, this could provide some support for markets.



Portfolio Activity/ News

May was a negative month for the portfolios. Even if many global equity indices recorded flat monthly performances, several of our growth-orientated strategies finished in negative territory. Japanese equities, the multi-thematic fund, US small caps and equities of frontier markets were amongst the portfolios’ main detractors. Positive contributions were provided by the European and US Value funds, Chinese equities, the L/S equity strategy, as well as the global technology fund. Most of the bond positions ended with limited losses as US rates started to stabilize and credit spreads contracted towards the end of May. For non-USD denominated portfolios, the US dollar exposure was a detractor in view of the decline of the US currency from its May multi-year high.

We recently attended an event where many fund managers presented their strategies. Whereas equity managers tended to remain unsure about the next move in equity markets, bond managers proved to be more optimistic. Following extensive spread widening, the consensus was that the market now offers decent opportunities in view of much higher carry and solid fundamentals. They also highlighted the fact that refinancing needs remain very low as most companies have taken advantage of record low yields the past years to boost their balance sheets.

Download the Newsletter


Newsletter | May 2022




Investment perspective

The month of April was a brutal one for financial markets. In an environment where bond yields continued to rise at a fast pace, and the appreciation of the US dollar accelerated, equity and bond markets both ended the month much lower. The MSCI World Index in local currencies plunged by 7%, mainly due to the weak performance of US equities. The Bloomberg Global-Aggregate Total Return Index, a broad bond index, lost 5.5% and recorded its biggest monthly drop since its inception in 1990. 10-year Treasury yields rose by 60bps to end April at 2.94%, and Bund yields with a similar maturity moved up to 0.94%, an increase of 39bps; credit and emerging market debt were also impacted by a widening of spreads. The overall strength of the US dollar was reflected by a 4.7% depreciation of the EUR/USD parity to 1.055, a level last observed more than five years ago.

The main drivers of markets in April were the increasing hawkishness of the Federal Reserve, as well the reporting of first quarter earnings. Markets are now pricing in a 50bps rate hike in May, with same-size hikes also likely to be announced at the following meetings. With more than 80% of the S&P 500’s market cap having reported, earnings are beating estimates by 6.5%, with 77% of companies topping projections. These solid results have not prevented US equities from getting battered during the past month. Some of the darlings of the past years, which contributed largely to the strong outperformance of US equities relative to other regions, have been experiencing a significant derating. Investors have punished high-growth companies such as Netflix which saw subscribers fall for the first time in a decade. Soft guidance from Amazon, a supply constraints issue for Apple and disappointing earnings from Alphabet are just some of the reasons for the poor performance of these companies’ stocks in April.


Investment strategy

We are maintaining the current allocation of our portfolios amidst very depressed market sentiment. The Fear & Greed Index is in fear territory, whereas the AAII bull/bear Index is showing the highest level of pessimism since March 2009. Investors are facing massive uncertainty on a number of issues, and markets have become over reactive and prone to huge swings. At the time of writing the Federal Reserve has just hiked by 50bps, as fully expected, but US equities rallied by 3% after Jerome Powell ruled out the possibility of a 75bps hike at a forthcoming meeting. This move appears overdone but reflects the current level of noise across the markets and we prefer to look further ahead and not attempt to trade the market daily.The month of April was another very tough month for fixed-income assets, but we might be approaching a point where the timing looks more favourable for the asset class. A lot of adjustment in risk-free rates has already taken place in view of the expected tightening of central banks, and the outlook for credit remains supportive.



Portfolio Activity/ News

April was a negative month for the portfolios. With both the equity and fixed-income asset classes recording monthly losses, it proved to be a very difficult market environment. The main detractors were the multi-thematic growth fund, US Small Caps, the technology fund, Japanese and Chinese equities, and European Small Caps. The recently added global equity fund exposed to companies with stable returns was resilient as were some emerging market exposures. In the fixed-income asset class, the losses of our exposures were generally less than those of their reference benchmarks, even if the fund with longer duration was obviously badly hit by fast-rising rates.

On a more optimistic note, alternative strategies have continued to outperform and to fulfill their diversification role within the portfolios. Several hedge funds provided positive contributions, in particular the trend-following CTA strategy, thanks to its significant short exposure to rates. For non-USD denominated portfolios, the appreciation of the US dollar also contributed positively to the performance.

Download the Newsletter