Rhame & Gorrell Wealth Management was one of only 20 independent RIA's throughout the country invited to attend the Morgan Stanley Investment Conference two weeks ago in New York. This is an event that brings together many top institutional investors, pension funds, and endowments to discuss trends in the current global investment climate and we were honored that Henry Pizzutello, RGWM's Chief Investment Officer, could be part of the event. One of the primary benefits of being able to attend events such as this is not only the access to the high-level investment presentations, but also the interaction with the larger core of institutional investors. It is one thing to have internal discussions regarding views on the markets, but having the ability to interact with many multi-billion-dollar state pension funds about the same issues gives us a much better window on where long-term trends are developing. While we may not always invest "with the crowd", it is good to have a first-hand sense of what investment triggers and concerns the largest investors in the country are thinking about. Below is a very brief summary of some of the highlights/investment themes discussed during the conference.
Equity Markets - International markets are seen as having a larger allocation in 2018. Primary reasons given are the lower absolute valuation for developed European markets and somewhat of a concern that valuations in the US are at the top end of their historical range. There was a LOT of discussion on this topic as to whether or not the US market multiple is justified given that we are seeing higher growth in the economy. One of the areas that seemed to have the most interest in investment was emerging markets. The general consensus was that they are very under-represented from a global investment allocation given their relative share of global GDP and that investment will accelerate into the area as they move forward in development.
Fixed Income/Credit - Globally the consensus is that interest rates are poised to rise, but the focus is on the real-interest rate (inflation adjusted) not the nominal. We are seeing synchronized growth across the globe. The IMF data showed that the number of countries with negative growth rates has declined to 13 in 2017 from 91 in 2009. Inflation is on the radar but not currently viewed as an issue. Investing in areas of fixed income is becoming more differentiated, as the conditions that have led to the long-term decline in interest rates have started to reverse. One area that has received a lot of attention is private lending, both domestically and globally.
- Volatility is seen as moving higher this year (The conference ended Thursday so quite effective timing).
- Passive investment continues to increase on a global scale. This is interesting because in speaking to some of the larger funds, they have opinions as to where they would like to invest on a smaller scale but cannot do so because of size and capacity constraints. Private market lending was one area that fell into this category. This creates opportunity to invest in niche strategies where larger firms cannot.
- Concerns that the "3 D's", demographics (fewer workers), de-globalization (trade protectionism), and de-leveraging, will affect global growth. These forces will play out over years and will not be spread across each country equally. This was a big discussion topic as to whether or not we are at "peak valuation" - and there was no consensus opinion.
We will be talking more about some of these themes in the coming weeks and months and how they may be expressed in our investment portfolios.
If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to call our office.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial advice.