Manager commentary - Q4 2019

Investor sentiment improved over the last quarter as two important macro risks have diminished. First, the U.S. and China agreed on a partial trade agreement, which removed the risk of a significant increase in U.S. tariffs on important consumer goods. Second, the probability of a Brexit resolution increased as Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a majority in the British election on December 12.

Global economic fundamentals also improved during the quarter, as some manufacturing leading indicators began to show signs of reacceleration. Furthermore, many central banks continued to ease their monetary policies by cutting interest rates. The fund manager believes that monetary policies should continue to be accommodative in 2020, as central banks should now remain on the sidelines. In the U.S., Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear that his mid-cycle adjustment is complete. The bar is now set very high for an increase in interest rates without a significant and sustained increase in inflation.

Better economic conditions and lower geopolitical risks pushed global equity markets to historic highs, with major indices increasing more than 7% during the quarter. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index and the S&P 500 Total Return Index led the group, with returns of over 9%. In the fixed-income market, government bond yields have increased, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield increasing by approximately 25 basis points. Low credit quality fixed-income assets performed relatively well during the period, with U.S. corporate high-yield bonds returning approximately 2.6% and U.S. leveraged loans returning 1.7%.

Overall asset allocation contributed to the Fund’s relative performance, as equities outperformed fixed income in the last quarter of the year.

Underlying fund selection detracted slightly from the Fund’s relative performance. IA Clarington U.S. Dividend Growth Fund was the top detractor and IA Clarington Bond Fund was the top contributor. During the period, the Fund made tactical allocations via ETFs to the banking sector and select preferred shares, both of which contributed to performance.

Currency hedging on the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. dollar also contributed to performance, as the Canadian dollar appreciated versus the U.S. dollar by approximately 3%.

With no recession in sight over the next 12–18 months, the fund manager expects the bull market to continue into 2020 and beyond. Given this context, the fund manager suggests an overweight position in equities, particularly in cyclical and value-oriented sectors.

The fund manager believes interest rates will increase modestly over the next 12 months as economic data improves and geopolitical risks gradually dissipate. Based on this, the fund manager’s 2020 bond positioning should remain neutral to underweight, although he believes that this asset class will provide some downside protection in the event of an equity market downturn. Based on the fund manager’s models, the Canadian dollar appears to be undervalued and, as a result, the fund manager will continue to actively hedge the Fund’s exposure to the U.S. dollar until the loonie returns to its fair value (according to the fund manager’s models) of approximately 79 cents versus the U.S. dollar.

Looking ahead, the main risks are a breakdown in U.S.-China relations, signs of disappointment relative to the expected stabilization of economic data in Europe and Asia and an escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

Fund and benchmark performance as at December 31, 20191 year3 yearSince inception
(Dec. 2015)
IA Clarington Yield Opportunities Fund – Series A7.1%2.4%3.0%
10% S&P/TSX Composite Index, 15% S&P 500 Index, 75% FTSE Canada Universe Bond Index11.1%5.6%5.3%

 

Learn more about IA Clarington Yield Opportunities Fund

The Fund gains exposure to the asset classes discussed by investing in other investment funds. The performance data comparison presented is intended to illustrate the Fund’s historical performance as compared with historical performance of widely quoted market indices. There are various important differences that may exist between the Fund and the stated indices that may affect the performance of each. The benchmark is a blend of 10% S&P/TSX Composite Index, 15% S&P 500 Index, 75% FTSE Canada Universe Bond Index. The blended benchmark presented is intended to provide a more realistic representation of the general asset classes in which the Fund invests. The FTSE Canada Universe Bond Index is comprised of Canadian investment grade bonds and has significantly different portfolio duration characteristics. The FTSE Canada Universe Bond Index consists of a broadly diversified selection of investment-grade Government of Canada, provincial, corporate and municipal bonds issued domestically in Canada. The S&P 500 Index includes 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy and is widely regarded as the best single gauge of the U.S. equities market. The S&P/TSX Composite Index is the premier indicator of market activity for Canadian equity markets, with 95% coverage of Canadian-based, TSX-listed companies. The index includes common stocks and income trust units and is designed to offer the representation of a broad benchmark index while maintaining the liquidity characteristics of narrower indices. The Fund’s market capitalization and sector exposure may differ from that of the benchmark. The Fund’s currency risk exposure may be different than that of the benchmark. The Fund may hold cash while the benchmark does not. It is not possible to invest directly in market indices. The performance comparison is for illustrative purposes only and does not imply future performance.

MSCI makes no express or implied warranties or representations and shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to any MSCI data contained herein. The MSCI data may not be further redistributed or used as a basis for other indices or any securities or financial products. This report is not approved, reviewed, or produced by MSCI.