Before we leave for Dublin in a few hours we want to report making some major strategy changes. These were done during the last two weeks. Cumberland clients will see them in their reports. Here are the bullets:
We have instituted a cash reserve in the US managed accounts. The target is 10% with a variance of 2% depending on the separate account size and special needs. This is a change from a fully invested position. We had been fully invested in the US markets for many months. Some accounts have higher cash reserves now because we are taking our time in redeploying monies into the stock market.
We have instituted a cash reserve in international accounts. The target is 5% with variance depending on account size and special needs. We still like the global mature markets and the emerging markets but wish to put some profits in the bank. The bias is toward higher cash and slow redeployment just as in the US domestic accounts.
We have taken the energy weight to market weight or a little under. This is a major change from a very heavy over weight position. We have had substantial profits from our four year over weight in energy and wish to put some of those profits in the bank. Furthermore, we believe that the oil and gasoline sector are now discounting a mountain of bad news and risks. True there could be a major event ahead (hurricane or war) but also true that the market now has a huge fear risk premium which may subside. We see a lower oil price in the fall and not a higher one.
Total return bond targets remain at market neutral or shorter duration when compared with benchmarks. We have been in this mode for a while and it has certainly helped the account’s performance.
Many reasons are behind these changes and we will be discussing them over the next month or two. We wanted to get the trading done first.
We will only address one reason now. That one is the change in interest rates.
The world’s central banks are all raising rates or are on hold. Not one of them is cutting rates. Higher rates mean the discounting mechanism for stocks is under pressure. Higher rates also mean that pressure is building on credit and banking and financials. We are coming off a period of very narrow credit spreads. They have stopped narrowing and some are widening.
We also see shorter term interest rate indicators worsening Look at the TED spread as an example for those who have done the professional work on it and understand it. Also look at the TIPS-nominal spread and note how the real interest rate is rising around the world and particularly in the US.
Higher real rates may provide a future opportunity for us to lengthen bond maturities. It is too soon to do it now. We are getting ready to do that and are building a cash reserve in bond accounts for that purpose. When risk less cash earns 5%, all other investments must compete against it on a risk adjusted return basis to warrant deploying money in them. Right now that is tough test for some of them to pass.
Ok. We are off to Dublin for the GIC conference. There are 12 seats left at this very informative meeting. Anyone who can get there on short notice or any of European readers is most welcome while there is still room. To register call 215-898-9453; the speaker’s line up are below.
While I am away, you can reach the following colleagues to discuss the strategy change and your portfolios. Use our 800-257-7013 or email to reach Peter Demirali at extension 322, Matt Forester at 313, John Mousseau at 307, Carol Mulcahy at 316, Terri Pantalione at 315 or Bill Witherell at 338.
I will have black berry for email in Ireland. The Dublin program follows:
Global Interdependence Center (GIC)
GIC Abroad in Ireland
in partnership with the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland
and the Irish American Business Chamber and Network
11 – 12 June, 2007
CONFERENCE VENUE: Morrison Hotel, Lower Ormand Quay, Dublin 1
Monday, 11 June
08:30 – 09:00
Registration / Coffee and Tea Service
09:00 – 09:15
by David Kotok, GIC Program Chair
09:15 – 11:45 (coffee break from 10:15 – 10:30)
“Monetary Policy Perspectives”
A panel discussion moderated by
Kathleen Hays, Anchor & Journalist, Bloomberg TV
John Hurley, Governor of the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland
Sandra Pianalto, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
Charles Goodhart, Financial Markets Group, London School of Economics Professor Emeritus; former member of Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Group