* Threat of a growing war, inflation and interest rate hike fears led equities lower
* Risks may be buried in your portfolio
* Will the “January Barometer” portend a bad year ahead?
January 2022 Returns:
So far in 2022, inflation, interest rate fears and war in Europe have led equities lower as crude oil surged +27.27% to close at $95.72 a barrel[xvii] and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond rose +0.33% to 1.84% on February 28.[xviii] Partially because of the horrible events in Ukraine, we have seen crude oil reach $130.50 and the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond as high as 2.13%, since then on an intraday basis. Amid these events, fixed Income did not provide a safe haven, as the Bloomberg U.S. Bond AGG Index lost -3.12% in the first two months. The S&P 500 suffered its worst January since 2009, during the depths of the Great Financial Crisis.[xix] The year is off to a difficult start. But what year hasn’t over the last few?
What does a bad first month suggest for the rest of the year? In 1972, Yale Hirsch, founder of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, introduced the “January Barometer”, which simply put says, as goes the S&P 500 in January, so goes the year. Our team is focused on illuminating potential blind spots as we attempt to manage the risks of the market in efforts to protect clients’ assets. There were many events in January that underscore the importance of managing those things that may fall outside of what is clearly visible.
On January 5, the minutes from the December 2022 FOMC meeting showed the Federal Reserve was becoming more hawkish than expected. A key section of the minutes stated, “Participants generally noted that, given their individual outlooks for the economy, the labor market, and inflation, it may become warranted to increase the federal funds rate sooner or at a faster pace than participants had earlier anticipated.”[xx]
Technology stocks are particularly sensitive to interest rates and the tech-heavy NASDAQ 100 Index reacted negatively to a potentially more hawkish Fed that same day, falling -3.1%, its largest daily loss since March 2021.[xxi]
We have witnessed many investor portfolios outside of CIG that are overweight large cap information technology stocks versus a typical growth benchmark. At CIG, we have significantly limited our exposure in what we believe is an expensive sector, to approximately 55% of the benchmark allocation in our managed accounts. To those who may read this who are not currently CIG clients, we would ask, “Do you know how much risk you are taking in technology currently?”
Many investors have also chased yield in a low interest rate environment and as a result, the duration of their fixed income portfolios may have increased. These portfolios tend to have more bonds that have maturities in the 10- to 20-year range. When interest rates rise, longer duration fixed income tends to fall more than shorter duration. Corporate bonds many times also lose value as higher rates can potentially lead to more defaults.
At CIG, we have limited the duration in the fixed income portion of our portfolios to approximately 90% of the Bloomberg U.S. Agg Bond Index. We have also limited our exposure to corporate bonds to about 2% of our fixed income exposure. The benchmark currently has 24% in corporate bonds that the Federal Reserve will no longer be buying once they stop expanding the balance sheet. Do you know how much risk you are taking in the fixed income portion of your portfolio?
In Part 2 of this Market Review, we consider additional potential risks given February’s events and explore further Yale Hirsch’s January Barometer. If you would like to learn more, please click here to e-mail Brian Lasher.
Part of our mission is well-informed investors. For those who may not currently be CIG clients, we believe you would find benefit in assessing what risks exist in your portfolio – such a conversation has no downside for you. A “second opinion”, if you will, seeking nothing more than to help increase your knowledge. Please click here to schedule a strategic review with CIG Asset Management.