Seeking Alpha

Russ Koesterich...'s  Instablog

Russ Koesterich, CFA
Send Message
Russ Koesterich, CFA, Managing Director, is the Chief Investment Strategist for BlackRock and iShares Chief Global Investment Strategist. He is a founding member of the Blackrock Investment Institute, delivering BlackRock's insights on global investment issues. Mr. Koesterich's service with the... More
My company:
BlackRock
My blog:
The Blog
My book:
The Ten Trillion Dollar Gamble: The Coming Deficit Debacle and How to Invest Now: How Deficit Economics Will Change our Global Financial Climate
View Russ Koesterich, CFA's Instablogs on:
  • Too Much Volatility

    On Wednesday, market volatility, as measured by the VIX Index, hit more than 40 after having hit a year-plus high of 47 on Monday.

    While I believe that market volatility will be higher in the second half of the year, I believe that volatility is currently too high. In fact, I believe that the panic is overdone unless you believe we’re headed back into another banking crisis or severe recession, both of which I believe are unlikely. 

    Back in May, the VIX Index -- otherwise known as the fear gauge -- was trading at around 17.50 and I highlighted that it looked too low. Now, however, according to my latest analysis, volatility levels in the 40-plus range are way out of line compared to where leading indicators suggest they should be and fears about equity markets appear extreme relative to credit market conditions. According to my model-based analysis, volatility should currently be in the mid- to high-20’s, slightly higher than where it should have been in May, and not above 40.

    Volatility tends to move with market momentum, credit spreads and leading economic indicators. My analysis compares current levels of volatility with these fundamental drivers and assigns a “fair value” for the VIX. And while all three of these drivers have deteriorated recently, none are suggesting that volatility should be this high.

    For example, credit markets have seen spreads widen. However, recent widening spreads have been relatively small compared to the sell-off in 2008. Today the spread between Baa and Aaa bonds is 97 basis points, in-line with the long-term average. In contrast, at the peak of the 2008 crisis, spreads were well above 300 basis points. In other words, equity market fear appears extreme relative to credit market conditions.

    Similarly, while we expect very slow and potentially negative growth over the next one to two quarters, current volatility levels are way out-of-line compared to where leading indicators suggest they should be.

    What does this mean for investors? While we still believe investors should remain defensive, the current selling looks extreme and the recent spike in volatility appears too high. Investors should consider adding selectively to their equity exposure, while still maintaining a defensive posture.

    Source:  Bloomberg

    The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and should not be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective.

    This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding the funds or any security in particular.

    Aug 10 8:15 PM | Link | 1 Comment
  • Behind the Numbers: Friday’s Job Growth Report
    From the iShares Blog
    On Friday, the US Department of Labor said non-farm payroll employment rose less than expected in June.

    According to the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18,000 new jobs were created in June, well below consensus estimates of more than 100,000 and essentially unchanged from May.

    In addition, the department said the unemployment rate came in at a higher-than-expected 9.2%, also essentially unchanged from 9.1% in May and the highest level this year. Other details of the report were also disappointing. The fact that the labor force participation rate continues to decline and is now at its lowest level since 1984 was also particularly surprising.

    Like last month’s similar figures, the new non-farm payroll report provides even more data points hammering home the fact that this recovery is unusual. More than two years into the recovery, job creation remains anemic, the unemployment rate high and the number of people engaged in the labor force still dropping.

    Why is this recovery different? Unlike a typical recession, the latest downturn was not caused by an overheating economy and tight monetary policy but instead by the bursting of a credit bubble. And as typically happens after such events, the economy and the labor market are slow to recover.

    Again, while we do not believe that the US economy is heading back into a recession, we do expect that the recovery, particularly in jobs, will be slow and continue to disappoint investors.

    So assuming a slow recovery, what are the investment implications? The weak labor market is just one of many headwinds facing the US consumer. In fact, we don’t expect consumer spending to pick up materially over the next six to 12 months. Such recent weakness in consumption continues to be a negative for companies or ETFs levered to US consumption and particularly for US retailers, which we’ll share more about in a future post.

    In addition, as we pointed out last month, recent non-farm payroll figures are also signs that inflation is likely not going to be a serious threat this year or arguably next year.

    Source: Bloomberg

    Carefully consider the iShares Funds’ investment objectives, risk factors, and charges and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectuses, which may be obtained by calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737), or by clicking the Prospectuses link. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

    Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

    The iShares Funds (“Funds”) are distributed by SEI Investments Distribution Co. (“SEI”). BlackRock Fund Advisors (“BFA”) serves as the investment advisor to the Funds. The iShares Blog contributors are affiliated with BlackRock Fund Distribution Company (“BFDC”), which assists in the marketing of the Funds. BFA and BFDC are affiliates of BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A. (“BlackRock”), none of which is affiliated with SEI.

    The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and should not be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective. The information provided is not intended to be a complete analysis of every material fact respecting any strategy. The examples presented do not take into consideration commissions, tax implications or other transactions costs, which may significantly affect the economic consequences of a given strategy.

    The information provided is not intended to be tax advice. Investors should be urged to consult their tax professionals or financial advisors for more information regarding their specific tax situations.

    Neither BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A., and its affiliates nor SEI and its affiliates provide tax advice. Please note that (i) any discussion of U.S. tax matters contained in this communication cannot be used by you for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties; (ii) this communication was written to support the promotion or marketing of the matters addressed herein; and (iii) you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

    This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding the funds or any security in particular.

     

    Jul 11 12:38 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Russ Koesterich Reviews ‘This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly’

    The recent recession – caused as it was by the bursting of the credit bubble – has been, and in its aftermath will likely continue to be, very different from the typical post-World War II recessions.
    Since there are so few recent examples to guide us, it’s important not to draw conclusions about the current recovery just by examining the last 50 years or so. Instead, taking a longer-term perspective, while always important, is especially key when trying to understand today’s economic and investment landscape.
    That’s precisely what economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff do in their book “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.” While the book came out in 2009, it is especially relevant to today’s investors as it helps put the effects of the recent credit crisis in the right historical context: a very long-term one.
    The authors’ research includes an unusually long data set covering sovereign debt and other financial debacles going back eight centuries and occurring across sixty-six countries on five continents. By taking such a comprehensive long-term historical look at financial crises, the authors are able to arrive at some key conclusions which would have been difficult to reach just by looking at the last 50 or so years. In fact, the findings of the book are particularly valuable because there are only so many instances in modern times that we’ve seen financial devastation similar to the recent financial crisis.
    So what conclusions about today’s recovery can investors take from the book? The authors teach us that in the aftermath of credit bubbles, both housing and labor markets take a very long-time to recover, and government debt typically sky rockets. In fact, based on the book’s conclusions, it could take five to 10 years for the housing market to recover, yet another sign of how the current economic recovery is likely to be anemic and uneven.
     
    What books have helped you draw lessons about the recent credit crisis, and current recovery, and why?
     
    Carefully consider the iShares Funds’ investment objectives, risk factors, and charges and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectuses, which may be obtained by calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737), or by clicking the Prospectuses link. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.
    Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.
    The iShares Funds (“Funds”) are distributed by SEI Investments Distribution Co. (“SEI”). BlackRock Fund Advisors (“BFA”) serves as the investment advisor to the Funds. The iShares Blog contributors are affiliated with BlackRock Fund Distribution Company (“BFDC”), which assists in the marketing of the Funds. BFA and BFDC are affiliates of BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A. (“BlackRock”), none of which is affiliated with SEI.
    The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and should not be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective. The information provided is not intended to be a complete analysis of every material fact respecting any strategy. The examples presented do not take into consideration commissions, tax implications or other transactions costs, which may significantly affect the economic consequences of a given strategy.
    The information provided is not intended to be tax advice. Investors should be urged to consult their tax professionals or financial advisors for more information regarding their specific tax situations.
    Neither BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A., and its affiliates nor SEI and its affiliates provide tax advice. Please note that (i) any discussion of U.S. tax matters contained in this communication cannot be used by you for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties; (ii) this communication was written to support the promotion or marketing of the matters addressed herein; and (iii) you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.
    This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding the funds or any security in particular.
    Jun 14 8:45 PM | Link | Comment!
Full index of posts »
Latest Followers

StockTalks

More »

Latest Comments


Most Commented
  1. Too Much Volatility (1 Comment)
Posts by Themes
Instablogs are Seeking Alpha's free blogging platform customized for finance, with instant set up and exposure to millions of readers interested in the financial markets. Publish your own instablog in minutes.