One asset class has rebounded to new all-time highs — U.S. small cap stocks.
After a bullish 2017 and hopes of a continued global equity melt up, 2018 has instead reintroduced market volatility. Despite global market volatility, U.S. small cap stocks have rebounded to new all-time highs.
Factors influencing the success of U.S. small cap stocks
I’m not sure Yogi Berra is big source of investment knowledge for most investors. But, that doesn’t mean his words of wisdom, “déjà vu all over again,” don’t apply.
Today’s Wall Street Journal included an article titled, “Value Investors Face Existential Crisis After Long Market Rally.” It discussed the “rut” that value investing has experienced since 2009. No arguments there. Value stocks are down about 1% year-to-date while growth stocks are up nearly 8%. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite Index, which holds many of the favorite tech names among growth investors, is at its all-time high.
A Familiar Scenario
But as I sipped my morning coffee and read further, I didn’t ask myself how we should change our current value approach (for the portion of our portfolios dedicated to value investing) to match the current environment. Instead, I found myself thinking about earlier in my career, the late 1990s. Tech ruled the day from 1995 through 1999, and value investors lagged back then too.
Janiczek® Wealth Management is pleased to announce we have once again been named among the TOP RANKED WEALTH MANAGERS IN DENVER COLORADO by AdvisoryHQ. This ranking adds to a long list accolades going as far back as 2001 and as recent as 2018, including:
- Financial Times
- Worth Magazine
- Mutual Funds Magazine
- CIPA (best Business/Finance Book of the Year)
While the S&P 500 remained near its all-time high, the recent massive selloff in the technology sector went mostly unnoticed. But for investors who follow the so-called “FANG” stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) the hit was painful: About $60 billion in value was wiped out in just one afternoon, representing the largest selloff in nearly 2 years.
The wipeout was a function of just how big these companies have become and the position they are in with new tax reform looming. Tech companies are expected to receive little benefit given its already-low average tax rate of 18.5% (below the 20% proposed rate).
This has caused investors to rotate out of the tech stocks and into the financial services sector, which stands to benefit more from a corporate tax rate that would drop from the current 35% to 20%.
Interestingly, the S&P 500 was relatively unaffected while this rotation into financials and out of tech ensued. The index’s volatility actually remained low, as did correlations among the S&P 500’s member stocks.
In other words, the diversity offered by the S&P 500 Index allowed for the index too remain relatively unscathed by the trading within the tech and financial sectors, a key reminder to investors that having proper exposure across the markets continues to be important with the S&P 500 near its all-time high.
Does intelligence equate with investment management success?
What might it take to succeed in investing? Intelligence alone? You have to be intelligent to get into Mensa. They only accept applicants with IQs that place them in the top 2 percent of the population. One might expect that if Mensa members formed an investment club, their returns would exceed market averages, or at least match them. In actuality, between 1986 and 2001, while the S&P 500 was returning a robust 15.3% annually, the Mensa Investment Club had average returns of 2.5% per year.
How did these geniuses and near geniuses manage such poor results in such a strong market? Their basic problem was a lack of discipline. Instead of using their intellects to determine a sound investment approach and sticking with it, they got sidetracked into exploring trendy new tools and theories of how to predict market trends. When one strategy didn’t work they tried another. They made frequent trades, thus increasing their transaction costs. In short, they provided a perfect example of Warren Buffett’s comment: “Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with the 130 IQ.” Common sense and discipline will beat erratic genius every time.
Being a resident, I have experienced Denver’s hot housing market first hand. All residents can attest to the fact real estate has a short shelf life in this town. An influx of out of state buyers who regularly comes in with cash to quickly buy up our already low housing inventory. I have always wondered where this cash is coming from. Are buyers liquidating investment assets to purchase a home in Denver under assumptions of continued year over year real estate appreciation?
As I discussed in my last blog, investor participation in the stock market is at an all-time low. Does this mean investors are stock piling hordes of cash for future use? No. We know people are still investing with hopes of better returns than what is earned in their savings accounts. So, who are the recipients of these funds? According to Gallup, real estate is the current preferred driver of net worth. When looking at the chart below, I would have to say that Americans’ view of the stock market as the best long-term investment option is changing.
Over the past few years there has been a steady increase in real estate investing. Thirty-five percent of Americans now choose real estate over stock and mutual funds. Both asset classes suffered catastrophic losses during the great recession and both have now recovered to well above their pre-crash highs. But Americans now seem to have more confidence in real estate than the stock market. I hope they understand the risks associated with direct real estate investing; illiquidity, expensive to exit, high entry price… but that’s for a later discussion.
In 2017 thus far, the only thing more dominant than the L.A. Dodgers may be large cap growth investing.
Through July, large cap growth is up over 17%, beating the S&P 500’s impressive 12% return. At the other end of the spectrum, small cap value investors have seen a minuscule 1% return, as seen in the chart below. But there’s something eerily familiar about these year-to-date results …
With the U.S. markets hitting record highs, one would assume more adults would be participating in the stock market when compared to previous years. Since the last financial crisis, we have not experienced an increase of stock market participation. The equity markets continue to march forward and the participation in these gains has not. Per research published by Gallup, a little more than 52% of Americans’ currently have money invested in the stock market. As you can see in the below graph, this matches the lowest ownership rate since 1999. During the high in 2007, nearly 2 out of 3 adults had money invested in the stock market. Did big losses experienced in 2008-09 change Americans’ sense of confidence in the stock market?
Ready for the next market correction? Today’s drop rekindles questions of whether this bull market is finally over. To be sure, stocks are up over 7% in the first 4 months, extending the 8-year run from the 2009 low.
But the bull market run has resulted in some expensive prices. Regardless of whether one uses multiples relative to sales, book value, trailing earnings, or normalized earnings, stocks aren’t cheap. The Shiller P/E ratio, which compares stock prices to normalized earnings over a 10-year cycle, is at its third highest dating back to 1887. The top two instances were 1929 (before the Great Depression) and 1997 (during the Tech Bubble).
Passive indexing has long been popular among the smaller investors. But wealthy investors often pursue more active strategies, either with active managers or on their own. After all, they didn’t accumulate their wealth by sitting back and doing what everyone else does, right?
But the evidence against active management is strong, with the most managers failing to beat the index over time. So why do wealthy investors tend to shun a passive approach to managing their money?