With the election in the mirror and a civil war on pause, we appear to be heading towards gridlock in the US political arena with a Biden win and Republican Senate.
With earnings season well underway, we turn our focus to 2021 and review the marathon that has been 2020. If you are reading this commentary in hopes of guidance as to what the next 6 months may hold, you will be disappointed. There are far too many possibilities, and cascading dominos that can put us down a totally different path with one turn. How will the world handle Covid-19 in 2021? Will there be a vaccine? Will it be mass produced between countries rich and poor? Or will the protectionism movement cross political boarders into the world of medicine? Will enough people take the vaccine? Will people flock back to cities? What will further stimulus look like?
Our approach has not really changed much in the last year, which we are quite proud of. Twelve months ago, we started writing about how little growth was expected to come from broad based equities over the next few years, and with bond yields where they were (and are), growth prospects on a balanced portfolio were unimpressive at best.
Our response was to move further away from market cap weighted equities and barbell risks in our portfolio to a much more extreme level than ever before by pairing high active share / high beta thematic investments with negatively correlated defensive assets. Tracking error and active share are your friends in this world. The only thing we can really say with almost absolute confidence is that the market will have spouts of volatility, and the days of under 15 vol on the VIX for months at a time are over.
This leaves rebalancing opportunity between the high beta and defensive portions of your portfolio. If you take anything away from this commentary, we hope that it is this: Your rebalancing strategy for 2020, and going forward, may be the most crucial component of alpha generation for your clients. In our opinion, the S&P 500 Index could end 2021 anywhere from +30% to ‐70%.