Market Commentary Q2 2020

The equity markets made a dramatic recovery in the second quarter of 2020.

The S&P 500 index (U.S. Large Cap stocks) finished the second quarter up 21%, its biggest quarterly gain since 1998. As of the end of June, the S&P 500 was only 3% below its value at the beginning of 2020. The largest technology companies drove returns, although the rally became more widespread as the quarter progressed. U.S. Small Cap stocks did even better during the quarter, up 25.4%. Foreign developed (Europe and Japan) and Emerging market stocks had stellar quarterly returns, as well, up 14.9% and 18.1%, respectively. They outperformed their U.S. counterparts in late-May and June in part due to a weaker U.S. dollar boosting foreign stock returns. Even non-investment-grade (i.e. high yield) U.S. corporate bonds gained 9.6% during the quarter. These returns are remarkable given the world-wide economic downturn and global economies continuing to struggle with re-opening businesses given continued spikes in COVID-19. Additionally, racism and inequality protests around the world stole the headlines from COVID-19 during the quarter but the markets continued to march on.

U.S. Core and International bonds had an uneventful second quarter, gaining 2.9% and 1.8% respectively, and bond yields continue to be at historic lows. The 10-year Treasury yield is 0.66% on June 30th.

Here are the broad index returns through the Second Quarter of 2020*:

U.S. Large Cap Stocks -3.1% U.S. Real Estate -19.0% Allocation 30%-50% Equity -2.7%
U.S. Small Cap Stocks -13.0% U.S. Aggregate Bonds 6.1% Allocation 50%-70% Equity  -3.6%
Foreign Developed Stocks  -11.3% International Bonds  2.3% Allocation 70%-85% Equity -6.7%
Emerging Market Stocks -9.8%


Why are equity investors so optimistic?

The unprecedented intervention by global central banks and governments to assist businesses and individuals during the pandemic have given investors the confidence to re-enter risk assets such as equities and corporate credit. Along with familiar interest rate cuts and quantitative easing programs, central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve have implemented “new” tools such as the outright purchase of bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Global governments have also responded with massive stimulus spending. In fact, most economists and investment analysts expect a second-round of stimulus from the U.S. Congress by the end of summer. Time will tell.

Investors are also anticipating a speedy recovery and an effective vaccine but could be disappointed. Unfortunately, business re-openings are having spotty success and the unemployment rate is not expected to be back to pre-recession levels for another couple of years. Additionally, many health care professionals, health care stock analysts, and economists do not believe that a vaccine is imminent. It could still be another 8-10 months before a vaccine is ready and available for global distribution. Cautious optimism is likely best right now.

What is the BFA Investment Committee’s outlook and strategy lately?

We believe that current U.S. equity valuations are excessive and that volatility in equities will increase as reality sets in for investors. Data suggests that this will be a much?more drawn out recovery than originally expected. Thus, we are anticipating a correction (i.e. 10% or more drop in value) by year-end in US equities. We are currently holding cash in lieu of U.S. high yield bonds and it could be early next year before we re-enter the U.S. high yield corporate bond sector. Also, we believe that Emerging markets, particularly those in Asia, are poised to outperform U.S. and foreign developed stocks. They should continue to benefit from positive structural changes, including participation in “new economy” sectors such as digitalization and technology and from revamped regional trade agreements which will help smooth out bumps in the supply chain. Valuation discounts of emerging market equities to U.S. equities are at all?time highs and the portfolio is weighted appropriately.

The recovery in equities during the second quarter gave us the opportunity to identify those Equity allocations that had grown above their maximum weights. We sold Equities and purchased Fixed Income to bring the Equity allocation back down to its target weight (i.e. sell high and buy low) and to protect the gains that you have recently realized. We also added a new investment-grade bond fund in U.S. core bonds that should boost yield in our fixed income portfolios while maintaining that sector’s role as ballast for the portfolio.

Finally, as a fee-only fiduciary firm, we always have your best interest at heart and believe in full disclosure of our compensation. To this end, we have included a copy of our new Client Relationship Summary, on file with the SEC and in plain English, which provides a summary of our relationship with you, our clients. Please review it and let us know if you have any questions. Also, please let us also know if there are any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives or if you wish to impose, add, or modify any restrictions to your accounts.

As 2020 rolls on, we know that a number of uncertainties in the markets, economy, and political landscape continue to exist. Please know that your BFA Investment Committee continually monitors these landscapes and will make any adjustments as necessary. If you have any questions or need reassurance, please let us know. We look forward to talking with you again soon!

*U.S. Large Cap=S&P 500, U.S. Small Cap=Russell 2000, Overseas Stocks=MSCI EAFE, Emerging Market Stocks=MSCI Emerging Markets, U.S. Bonds=Barclays Aggregate Bond Index, International Bonds=Barclays Global Aggregate ex-U.S. USD-Hedged, US Real Estate=MSCI US REIT: Data Source: Morningstar®. Allocations=Morningstar® U.S. Fund Allocation Categories: Data Source: Morningstar®. Index returns are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent actual performance of any investment. Client returns will differ from the results shown. Index performance returns do not include any management fees, transaction costs or expenses. The performance data quoted represents past performance and does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate; thus an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be lower or higher than return data quoted herein. Indexes are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index. Please review your allocation regularly and notify BFA immediately if your circumstances should change. The foregoing content reflects the opinions of BFA and is subject to change. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.