To Boldly Go…

By definition, “frontier” capital markets drift somewhere along the far edge of the investment universe — a veritable Kuiper belt of political instability, corruption, and underdeveloped financial systems. We’re told that Kazakhstan is not easily accessible. That Kuwait has a small number of liquid securities. That Qatar restricts foreign ownership. That Argentina raised its prime interest rate by 300 basis points twice in the same week. Wait…what? Argentina?

The name “Argentina” comes from argentum, the Latin word for silver.

True enough, the world’s eighth-largest country by land area is tractor-beamed in with the likes of Sri Lanka, Cyprus, and Slovenia when it comes to investability. And for good reason we suppose. Since winning independence in 1816, Argentina has gone through eight different forms of currency, the occasional military junta, a dopey Madonna song, and nine iterations of its now near-worthless peso. And true to frontier form, what passes for its central bank just moved rates to an incomprehensible 40% — the highest in the known universe.

In 1913, Argentina was the world’s 10th wealthiest nation per capita. Now it’s the 54th.

Pretty dangerous stuff when viewed from our place on the bridge. Not so, of course, for a certain sort wiling to explore strange new worlds with other peoples’ money. Chatter around the system indicates some of the world’s biggest investors have been seriously disrupted by Argentina’s ailing markets. Reportedly, frontier funds at T. Rowe Price and Morgan Stanley have vaporized between 5% and 8% of their clients’ asset the past month, while emerging markets and Latin America-focused equities funds at Fidelity, BlackRock, and Eaton Vance dematerialized between 2.5% and 5% of value in similar short order.

Since 1970, Argentina has dropped 13 zeroes off its currency, a factor of ten trillion.

More shocking, perhaps, than the fact that so-called smart money continues chasing returns from a country where political parties have their own brands of beer, Argentina’s recent and sudden collapse seems to have caught even long-time investors off guard. “We went into a meeting, the peso was down 1%, we come out and the peso is down 5%!” howled one Wall Street genius. “The Argentina situation will not be sustainable if the government raises its debt burden much more!” cried another. “Where’s my resume?” said the most forward-thinking of the bunch.

Pope Francis used to work as a bar bouncer in Buenos Aires.

We get it that asset classes can de-couple and volatility can jump erratically. But we also understand why Botswana, Bahrain, and Bangladesh aren’t included in global equity indexes. We’d rather go boldly.

 

What the equity markets have been doing…

INDEX Friday’s Close Two-Week Point Change Year-to-Date Change
DJIA 24,715.09 +452.58 -(0.02)%
S&P 500 2,712.97 +49.55 +1.47%
NASDAQ 7,354.34 +144.72 +6.53%
Russell 2000       1,627.10 +92.59 +5.96%

 

What the fixed income markets have been doing…

FIXED INCOME Period Change YTD 12 Months Yield
U.S. Treasuries +0.2% -(2.5)% -(1.9)% 3.1%
U.S. Investment Grade      NC -(3.9)% -(0.8)% 4.0%
U.S. High Yield +0.1% -(2.0)% +3.0% 6.4%
U.S. Municipals      NC -(1.2)% +0.9% 2.8%
Non-U.S. Developed      NC -(1.1)% +3.8% 0.9%

 

What banking pundits have been saying…

“You can easily deal with 4 percent bonds and I think people should be prepared for that.”

  • Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer

 

What the numbers are saying…

  • 3.082%

The level at which the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note settled last Tuesday, after its biggest one-day advance since March 2017. The 10-year yield is used as a reference rate for mortgages, auto loans, and corporate debt.

 

What fed up bosses have been saying…

“Don’t show up at a meeting with me with your phone. If someone shows up with their phone, it’ll be their last meeting.”

  • Jason Brown, CEO of Brown, Parker & DeMarinis Advertising

 

What Fund Architects is thinking…

Pleasantly enough, investors mostly latched on to things positive over the period, more particularly last week. Led by the cyclical sectors, the S&P 500 picked up 1.8% for the two-week stretch while the NASDAQ added 2%. Overall, the energy, financials, technology, and industrials led the way with defensive and income-oriented areas of the market lagging.

As we move in to the final stretch of May, it’s not unreasonable to think equity markets might soon break out of their current trading range to the upside. The Fund Architect Portfolios, all of which are holding a relatively high cash weighting to reduce risk and downside potential, should be well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they’re identified.

 


The views in this commentary are those of Fund Architects. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this commentary, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for your portfolio. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information provided here serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Fund Architects or any other investment professional.  The information contained within this commentary should not be the sole determining factor for making investment decisions. To the extent that you have any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to your individual situation, you are encouraged to consult with Fund Architects. Information pertaining to Fund Architects advisory operations, services, and fees is set forth in Fund Architect current disclosure statement, a copy of which is available upon request. Fund Architects, LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisory Firm.

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