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Why Investors Should Rethink Traditional Income Strategies

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Why Investors Should Rethink Traditional Income Strategies

income strategies

Why Investors Should Rethink Traditional Income Strategies

Humans are creatures of habit. We all have daily routines, whether it’s walking the same lunchtime route, watching a familiar TV show, or cooking the same meal over and over again. Once we develop a pattern, it can take a drastic change to convince us to rethink our approach.

One such shake-up to ingrained investment habits is the changing landscape of income investing.

In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we explain why traditional long-term bonds may not be as effective as they were in the past, and which additional income strategies investors can consider.

The Status Quo

For years, investors have relied on traditional longer-term bonds as the centerpiece in an income portfolio. These debt instruments usually pay out interest to investors on a predetermined schedule, providing a steady income stream investment. Historically, they have also been subject to less volatility than equities.

The typical bond portfolio is diversified, much like the Bloomberg Barclay’s U.S. Aggregate Index. Here’s how the sectors are broken down in the index:

SectorMarket Value
Treasury39.5%
Government-Related5.8%
Corporate25.0%
Securitized29.7%

Unfortunately, this income strategy has been less effective in recent years. Over the last decade, core bond duration has increased by 1.5 years while yields have decreased by almost 2%. Essentially, interest rate volatility has increased—but investors are less compensated for the risk.

In light of low rates and higher expected market volatility, it’s critical that investors explore other income solutions. Luckily, there are many lesser-known asset classes for investors to consider.

Additional Income Strategies: An Investor’s Choice

When investors decide how to re-allocate, they can keep these objectives in mind:

  1. Preservation of principal (risk level)
  2. Pursuit of capital (growth potential)
  3. Perseverance in markets (long-term objectives)

Which additional income strategies can they explore?

Taxable Municipal Bonds

Issued by state and local governments, the yield of taxable munis has historically been higher than that of other sectors. Taxable munis also have a strong credit rating—over 76% of U.S. municipal bonds outstanding are A+ rated or better.

Insured Municipal Bonds

Investors can get additional downside protection with insured municipal bonds, which are guaranteed to pay interest and principal back by private insurers. They have historically performed similar to munis while capturing less of the “downside”, often providing an attractive risk-adjusted return for income investors.

Short-duration, High-yield Bonds

Bonds with a shorter duration and higher yield can be a lower volatility approach to achieving the same income investing goals.

Yield and Risk in Bonds (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2019):

Bond TypeYieldStandard Deviation (annualized)Yield per Unit of Risk
U.S. Aggregate Bonds2.492.940.85
High Yield Bonds6.055.601.08
Low-duration, High-yield bonds5.003.901.28

Short duration funds have lower interest rate risk, and can offer attractive yield per unit of risk.

Yield-Centric Equities

Equities can also play a role in an income focused portfolio. Investors should look for established companies that are achieving:

  • Growth in free cash flow
  • Stable or growing dividends
  • Share buybacks or debt reduction

Over the last 40+ years, the annual compound return of stocks with growing dividends have outperformed dividend cutters on the S&P 500 by more than 4%.

Preparing for Your Future

Maximizing the benefit from new income opportunities can take time. For this reason, it’s important to consider potential portfolio changes now, so that these strategies can play out in the lead up to retirement years.

It may be tempting to stick with the status quo—both in daily routines and investment strategies—but those who proactively adjust their approach will be able to maximize their potential.

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Sustainable Investing: Debunking 5 Common Myths

Do sustainable strategies underperform conventional ones? This infographic shines a light on the realities of sustainable investing and the ESG framework.

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sustainable investing

Sustainable Investing: Debunking 5 Common Myths

It began as a niche desire. Originally, sustainable investing was confined to a subset of investors who wanted their investments to match their values. In recent years, the strategy has grown dramatically: sustainable assets totaled $12 trillion in 2018.

This represents a 38% increase over 2016, with many investors now considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors alongside traditional financial analysis.

Despite the strategy’s growth, lingering misconceptions remain. In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we address the five key myths of sustainable investing and shine a light on the realities.

1. Performance

MythReality
Sustainable strategies underperform conventional strategiesSustainable strategies historically match or outperform conventional strategies

In 2015, academics analyzed more than 2,000 studies—and found that in roughly 90% of the studies, companies with strong ESG profiles had equal or better financial performance than their non-ESG counterparts.

A recent ranking of the 100 most sustainable corporations found similar results. Between February 2005 and August 2018, the Global 100 Index made a net investment return of 127.35%, compared to 118.27% for the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI).

The Global 100 companies show that doing what is good for the world can also be good for financial performance.

Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights

2. Approach

MythReality
Sustainable investing only involves screening out “sin” stocksPositive approaches that integrate sustainability factors are gaining traction

In modern investing, exclusionary or “screens-based” approaches do play a large role—and tend to avoid stocks or bonds of companies in the following “sin” categories:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Firearms
  • Casinos

However, investment managers are increasingly taking an inclusive approach to sustainability, integrating ESG factors throughout the investment process. ESG integration strategies now total $17.5 trillion in global assets, a 69% increase over the past two years.

3. Longevity

MythReality
Sustainable investing is a passing fadSustainable investing has been around for decades and continues to grow

Over the past decade, sustainable strategies have shown both strong AUM growth and positive asset flows. ESG funds attracted record net flows of nearly $5.5 billion in 2018 despite unfavorable market conditions, and continue to demonstrate strong growth in 2019.

Not only that, the number of sustainable offerings has increased as well. In 2018, Morningstar recognized 351 sustainable funds—a 50% increase over the prior year.

4. Interest

MythReality
Interest in sustainable investing is mostly confined to millennials and womenThere is widespread interest in sustainable strategies, with institutional investors leading the way

Millennials are more likely to factor in sustainability concerns than previous generations. However, institutional investors have adopted sustainable investments more than any other group—accounting for nearly 75% of the managed assets that follow an ESG approach.

In addition, over half of surveyed consumers are “values-driven”, having taken one or more of the following actions with sustainability in mind:

  • Boycotted a brand
  • Sold shares of a company
  • Changed the types of products they used

Women and men are almost equally likely to be motivated by sustainable values, and half of “values-driven” consumers are open to ESG investing.

5. Asset Classes

MythReality
Sustainable investing only works for equitiesSustainable strategies are offered across asset classes

This myth has a basis in history, but other asset classes are increasingly incorporating ESG analysis. For instance, 36% of today’s sustainable investments are in fixed income.

While the number of sustainable equity investments remained unchanged from 2017-2018, fixed-income and alternative assets showed remarkable growth over the same period.

Tapping into the Potential of Sustainable Investing

It’s clear that sustainable investing is not just a buzzword. Instead, this strategy is integral to many portfolios.

By staying informed, advisors and individual investors can take advantage of this growing strategy—and improve both their impact and return potential.

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Investor Education

China: An Investment Opportunity Too Big To Ignore

In 2020, China will lift the restrictions on foreign ownership, creating a significant investment opportunity that cannot be ignored.

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Since the implementation of the initial Open Door Policy in 1978, China has experienced rapid development—making it the world’s second largest economy in nominal terms.

In the next year, the country will move into the next phase of opening up its economy by lifting restrictions on the foreign ownership of securities, insurance, and fund management firms, and this will make the economy more accessible to the outside world than ever before.

An Opportunity Too Big To Ignore

Today’s infographic from BlackRock explores the steps China’s markets have taken to attract foreign capital on a global scale.

China’s moves are funding the nation’s next stage of growth, and are also creating new investment opportunities for foreign investors.

china investment opportunity

The China Investment Opportunity

Currently, foreign investors hold just 3% of total Chinese securities, despite the country having the world’s second largest stock and bond market globally.

As the onshore equity and fixed income markets open up, investors have the opportunity to gain exposure to more sectors, particularly those that focus on the domestic economy.

China’s large consumption base of 1.3 billion consumers is a powerful engine of growth, with consumer spending increasing to $4.7 trillion in 2017, from $3.2 trillion in 2012.

Ensuring Sustainable Growth

There are structural reform gaps that need to be addressed in order to ensure China’s growth is sustainable.

These reforms, which seek to correct imbalances caused by uneven economic growth, cover many areas of the economy. They affect the government, as well as corporate, financial and household sectors.

Some of these key reforms include:

  • Capital reallocation: Debt reduction and interest rate liberalisation
  • Income redistribution: Property, household and corporate tax reduction
  • Market regulation: Supply-side reform and environmental protection
  • Institutional framework: Intellectual property protection, and reformation of the hukou— China’s registration program, which serves to regulate population distribution and rural-to-urban migration

With 22 reforms currently in progress, the long-term impact is expected to be tremendously positive for growth.

Opening Up the Great Wall

China has shown great support for economic globalisation, and has already been making strides to open its markets to the rest of the world.

  • 2002: Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) scheme launches
  • 2011: Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) scheme launches
  • 2014: Shanghai/Hong Kong Stock Connect launches
  • 2016: Shenzhen/Hong Kong Stock Connect launches
  • 2017: Bond Connect scheme launches
  • 2018: MSCI announces 20% inclusion factor of A-shares
  • 2019: Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index begins including yuan-denominated bonds
  • 2020: JPMorgan Chase & Co. plans to add Chinese government debt to index

These index inclusions will result in a substantial inflow of new investor funds. According to Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg’s decision to increase the weighting of Renminbi-denominated government and policy bank securities in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index could attract between $120-$150 billion in new investments into Chinese debt markets.

New China vs. Old China

China has transformed from an export-driven and rural country, into a global manufacturing and technology superpower.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into China’s tech sector have been rising significantly, and currently account for almost a third of total FDI.

China already has the world’s largest robot market, and the government is actively promoting the robotics industry with tax reductions and special R&D funding.

—Victoria Mio, CIO Chinese Equities, Robeco

China’s ambitious “Made in China 2025” ten year plan will lower its dependency on imported technology and make China a dominant player in global technology manufacturing.

An Economic Force To Be Reckoned With

China will inevitably face challenges as it proceeds to lead global economic growth. However, its changing economy is creating a new landscape of opportunity for potential growth, and may continue to do so for the coming years.

The continuous expansion of market access, combined with new policies that promote foreign investment, have helped improve investor confidence. If foreign investors exclude China from their portfolio, they risk missing out on the huge potential of this rapidly expanding market.

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