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Use select charts from the Guide to the Markets to engage in portfolio discussions.
Alternatives have long been part of institutional investment portfolios, with the aim of adding diversification, dampening volatility and/or enhancing returns. Recent industry developments now mean that retail investors can access more of these strategies. This could prove helpful in a world where experts expect lower returns and higher correlation to traditional asset classes.
Etched in the memory of many investors are the two historic bear markets beginning with the tech bubble in 2000 and the financial crisis of 2008. It has been six years since the 2009 market lows and with the S&P 500 at new highs, some investors fear another big bear market. But new highs don't necessarily mean new peaks, and while a correction is always possible, it is unusual to have a bear market (20% decline or more) without a recession.
With interest rates at historic lows and traditional fixed income failing to meet investors' income needs, diversifying across asset classes and internationally has never been more important.
Investing beyond traditional "core" U.S. investment grade bonds into core complement and extended sectors may provide benefits, regardless of the rate and inflationary environments.
With interest rates still at historic lows, investors can no longer focus exclusively on the bond market for income-generating solutions. Dividend-paying equities can provide investors with income, and rising dividend payout ratios, coupled with a consistently growing economy, could result in attractive returns. But selectivity matters, as some of the highest dividend paying sectors have become expensive.
The United States is the largest consumer of oil in the world, and one of the largest producers. Because of this, large swings in the price of oil can have big impacts on the U.S. economy. The recent plunge in oil prices will provide a boost to consumers and many businesses, but it is important to acknowledge the adverse effects that this has on exporters and energy companies.
Economic growth in emerging markets has been almost double that of developed markets over the past decade. But in recent years, a steep decline in commodity prices and volatile currencies have left some emerging economies under pressure. While the long-run picture has promising potential, investors should look to actively differentiate within the asset class to capture opportunities and avoid pitfalls.
The S&P 500 has recovered from its 2009 lows and generated historic returns for investors along the way. This has left some investors worried they've missed the boat. In fact, the economy is still improving, valuations are reasonable (not very cheap, not very expensive) and monetary policy remains extremely accommodative. Taken together, this represents a positive picture for equities, but investors should expect more moderate returns than in the last few years.
After a brutal recession and a painfully slow recovery, the U.S. economy no longer needs emergency measures of support from the Federal Reserve (Fed). As a result, Fed policy makers are preparing to normalize monetary policy - a prospect that has created consternation and angst among some investors.
Fixed income investors are left in a tricky spot today; many rely on the asset class for diversification and for income, but at the same time recognize the risk posed by the potential for rising rates. But by investing across core, core complement and extended fixed income sectors, investors may be better able to balance these needs and avoid the worse of the brunt if rates rise, as expected.
International equities make up roughly half of the global stock market, but statistics suggest the average American investor is dramatically underexposed. With Europe's recovery ongoing, a strong push in Japan to achieve better growth and early signs of stabilization in some emerging markets, it is always worth a portfolio discussion about international investing - both risks, and opportunities - with one's advisor.
Investing in the early, uncertain stages of an economic recovery takes guts and discipline. And while risks clearly remain in Europe (Greece, for example), a more aggressive ECB, the declining Euro, lower oil prices, improving credit conditions and even some progress on structural reforms in key countries, all suggest a possible opportunity in Europe for long-term investors.
Building and maintaining an appropriate asset allocation can help increase returns and reduce volatility over time. Market volatility can be an opportunity to rebalance back to an allocation that reflects your investment and income objectives, time horizon and tolerance for risk.
Since the last recession, the U.S. economy has more than recovered its lost output, pushing equity markets to new highs, in spite of persistent investor skepticism. This is why it is important to maintain perspective. Despite some headwinds and negative headlines, the economic expansion looks poised to continue.