With movie awards season around the corner, some entertainment pundits may use the term “category fraud” to describe races in…
January is a time to reflect on the past year and assess what went right and what went wrong, and asset allocation is no different in this regard. Elevated valuations at the start of 2016 did not hold back U.S. equities as they climbed to record highs; small-caps were the outright winner with a 21% return. These smaller-cap companies received a post-election boost as they were expected to be less affected by the strengthening dollar and potential trade policies enacted by Trump, since they do not typically conduct much international business. The knock-on benefits of a potential lower corporate tax rate also helped propel small-cap equities higher after the election.
Internationally, slowing growth concerns were a determinant of performance. The “anti-establishment” sentiment seen in Europe was a major source of uncertainty. Emerging markets were the most appealing in terms of relative valuations, which helped them deliver double-digit returns after three consecutive negative years.
Lastly, fixed income was led by high yield bonds which rallied back from an end-of-year dip in 2015, with lower quality issues leading the way. Long duration bonds were also a top performer within fixed income, as were bank loans. After the Trump victory revived inflation expectations, TIPS became a topic of discussion. Realistically, as policies will take time to implement, inflation will manifest slowly and will be only one of a few indicators to monitor.
Of course, 2016 is behind us and investors are at this point more interested in what the markets will bring us in 2017. While predicting market winners and losers each year is a difficult exercise, it is safe to say that we will not see a repeat of 2016 asset class performance, and maintaining a diversified portfolio with disciplined rebalancing will help to mitigate risk no matter what happens across the global markets.
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