24 Oct 2016

Prerequisites for Alternative Investments

One of the more popular categories of mutual funds over the past few years have been so-called ‘alternative’ funds.  Alternative investments, broadly defined, are strategies that seek returns that are uncorrelated from traditional investments like stocks and bonds. While alternative investments were once largely confined to private partnerships, they are now popular in mutual funds, or what the industry refers to as ’40 Act Funds.  Following the 2008 financial crisis, alternative… Read More

17 Oct 2016

Buffett’s Wild Ride

Warren Buffett is rightly considered the most successful investor of all-time.  Not only has his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, grown at a much higher rate than the overall market, he’s managed to earn exceptional returns for much longer than others who have also earned high returns. I was only able to pull data from 1987, but the last 29 years have been extraordinary for Buffett and his fellow shareholders.  Over this… Read More

3 Oct 2016

Two Lessons from the Third Quarter

Even though the first day of fall was on September 22nd this year, it’s only when we enter the fourth quarter that I start to think about the changing leaves, shorter days, corduroy pants, flannel sheets and raking the leaves. I do love summer, which I mentally compartmentalize into the third quarter and 2016’s was particularly enjoyable given the strong market performance across the board. The chart below includes the… Read More

30 Sep 2016

Liquidity When You Need It

This month’s ALM Insights is a return to one of my favorite topics, bond market liquidity. In the September 2013 issue I wrote Liquidity as a Risk Factor – which highlighted the impact that liquidity can have on expected return. I wrote on liquidity again in the June 2015 issue in Is Bond Market Liquidity Gone? – where I looked into how market liquidity can change over time. Well the… Read More

26 Sep 2016

Is the Grass Greener in Private Equity?

Private equity is in the news quite a bit, but finding the returns for this asset class is somewhat more challenging. There are a lot of stories about mega returns, but as they say at the University of Chicago, multiple anecdotes don’t make data. Until recently, I only had small windows into the world of private equity returns. First, when private equity management firms like Blackstone, KKR, and the Carlyle… Read More

19 Sep 2016

Is Inflation Creeping Back?

One of the big concerns coming out of the financial crisis was runaway inflation.  Central banks around the world were buying bonds on a massive scale, which is effectively equal to printing money. In 2010, a group of highly respected economists and investors, including Cliff Asness, Richard Bove, Niall Ferguson, James Grant and John Taylor, wrote an open letter to then Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, arguing against more quantitative easing… Read More

12 Sep 2016

The End of Summer Break

The end of summer was notably quiet, but summer is over and judging from Friday’s market reaction, it appears that volatility may be back. The chart below shows the expected volatility priced in to options as measured by the Chicago Board of Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX). You can see the volatility was high at the start of the year when we suffered a 10 percent correction.  Expected volatility cooled… Read More

6 Sep 2016

Lower For Longer: The View from Tokyo

Several years ago, I was convinced that bond yields were likely to move higher simply because they were at historic lows.  As time went on and bond yields fell to even more historic lows, I changed my tune. People asked me how much lower they could go and while I didn’t really know the answer, I would simply quote the yields in Germany and Japan, which were lower. Then, I… Read More

29 Aug 2016

Yellen Speaks, Market Yawns

Yellen’s long-awaited speech delivered little in the way of surprises, but she did say that ‘the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.’ Still, consistent with previous statements, she reiterated that the outlook remained uncertain and that Federal Reserve policy is not on a preset course. The bulk of her speech outlined the Fed’s current toolkit, which includes rate cuts, asset purchases (quantitative… Read More