The last eight years have been a good period for equity investing. But can it last? As the old saying goes, “Markets climb a wall of worry.” There is certainly plenty to worry about: looming market corrections, elections in Europe, and political uncertainty.
The current emphasis on low volatility and non-correlated multi-asset portfolios, created by blending equities, bonds and alternatives, can lead to unnecessary over-diversification and result in significant underperformance for long-term investors. Lost in the myopic obsession with volatility and correlations is the overwhelming importance expected returns play in any growth-oriented strategy.
Now that the Fed has decided to begin raising rates, the focus has turned to how these decisions might affect stock returns. The chart below reports the return impact for the dozen times during which the 10-year US Treasury Bond rate increased by more than one percent over the last 45 years. The annual S&P 500 return averaged 13.4% over these 12 periods, higher than the long-term average of 10%, and was positive in nine of these periods.
Most people rely on the mountain chart, a line or area chart which shows the growth of an investment over time, as a basis for evaluating performance. This type of presentation, which emphasizes volatility, timing, and emotionally charged events like 2008 has inherent biases that distort how we view performance and obscures the real long-term probability of a successful outcome.
At the beginning of each year, investors want to know what the stock market will do over the course of the next 12 months. Countless experts weigh in on the matter. However, as the table below demonstrates, there is little mystery regarding the new year’s expected market return.
In today’s low-rate environment, dividend stocks represent an attractive alternative to bonds for generating both income and long-term growth. Separating the total return of the S&P 500 Index into the dividend and capital appreciation components shows the stability of dividend income going back to the 1920’s with an average yield of 4.0%.