Maximising opportunities: the importance of correlation and diversification

17/04/2019

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​Nick Maroutsos, Co-Head of Global Bonds, considers the importance of understanding correlation in terms of achieving diversification.

Economist Harry Markowitz is credited with coining the phrase “diversification is the only free lunch in investing”. What this really means is that by combining asset classes and strategies with a positive expected return, but which zig and zag at different times, we can reduce the overall volatility of the journey and improve the risk-adjusted returns.
 
Correlation is a measure of the strength of relationship between different variables so it follows that if a portfolio is to be diversified it needs to contain securities with a low correlation to each other. Yet correlations do not always behave as expected, meaning investors need to have a broader consideration of what might impact them.
 
Large numbers alone do not necessarily equate with diversification. For example, a global bond index such as the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index, which is invested in different types of fixed income around the world, comprises nearly 23,000 individual bonds (as at 31 March 2019). However, its very construction means the largest debtors have the largest weights in the index and its compositional drift reflects the past, rather than what is necessarily relevant for the future. As a result, the dominant risk factor is interest rate risk stemming from moves in underlying government bond yields. 
 
Changing correlations
We have come to expect government bonds and equities to be negatively correlated ie, when one moves up, the other moves down, and vice versa. This is typically true because earnings primarily drive equity prices and interest rates primarily drive bond prices.
 
When economic conditions are deteriorating, central banks tend to lower interest rates and bond prices go up but equities still reflect the weak conditions for earnings. Yet as we move into recovery stage, equities begin to respond positively to the lower interest rates. In contrast, when the economy and earnings are strong, equities do well and central banks typically raise rates to try and prevent the economy overheating. This usually hurts bonds first, since they are directly sensitive to the changes in rates but at some point it begins to hurt equities too as markets price in expectations of an economic slowdown.
 
However, the correlation ultimately depends upon both the inflation environment and the volatility regime. So in understanding the changing nature of correlation, it helps to think about different economic scenarios.
 
For example, the negative correlation between government bonds and equities that has presided over the last 25 years tends to break down at times of shock. We saw this in 2013 with the taper tantrum real rate shock and again in early 2018 when there was an inflation shock. On both occasions, investors demanded higher yields on US government bonds, which caused bond prices to fall, yet at the same time the equity market tumbled (spooked by potentially higher financing costs). This environment resulted in rising rates and wider credit spreads which acts as a double whammy to a fixed income portfolio.
 
The taper tantrum was caused by a congressional speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in May 2013, in which he suggested that the US Federal Reserve (Fed) could begin tapering its asset purchases. This led to the markets mispricing the Fed’s intentions towards its accommodative interest rate stance and assuming higher rates were nearer. Bond prices and equity prices both fell (positive correlation) on concerns about potentially higher rates, although negative correlation resumed later in the year. 
 
Correlation of 7-10 year US Treasury with S&P 500 Equity Index during taper tantrum
 1
Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream, Janus Henderson Investors, S&P 500 Total Return Index, ICE BofAML 7-10 year US Treasury Total Return Index. Three month moving average of one month correlation using daily returns in US dollars. Moving average is centred to be more coincident with events.
 
Why should a fixed income portfolio manager care about equities or other asset classes? First, because capital markets do not exist in isolation. Strong equity markets make equity financing easier, potentially increasing the equity weighting in the debt/equity ratio of a company. This is important as we move down the credit spectrum where lower-grade corporate bonds are more sensitive to corporate conditions.
 
Second, policymakers care about markets so we need to pay attention to other markets. For example, between 1987 and 2006 Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman set a precedent that the Fed would intervene to support the economy (and by extension markets) in times of crisis. More recently, following the equity market sell-off in late 2018, we saw the Fed in early January 2019 backpedal on its intention to raise rates several times this year.
 
Correlation and diversification
It might seem that a fixed income portfolio – being focused on one asset class – would struggle to generate diversification but this belies the diverse nature of the asset class. If we look under the bonnet, many sub-sectors of the fixed income market often perform differently over the same period; for example, floating rate notes or index-linked bonds – where coupons rise with rising interest or inflation rates – perform differently to fixed rate bonds. Similarly, divergence can occur between different countries: in 2018, holders of Australian government debt achieved a 5.3% return in local currency terms, whereas Italian government bond holders suffered a 1.4% fall.*
 
*Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream, 31 December 2017 to 31 December 2018, ICE BofAML Australia Government Index, ICE BofAML Italy Government Index, total return in local currencies.
 
Having the freedom to move between different geographies allows an unconstrained investor the opportunity to take advantage of differences in the yield curves between countries. The chart below demonstrates how, over just two years, yield curves can move in very different directions. The US yield curve has flattened as the US has pursued monetary tightening, while the yield curves in the eurozone have remained steep, reflecting negative rates. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, rates have fallen significantly from levels that reflected an over-optimistic assessment of the economy.
 
Sovereign yield curves, same period but different outcome
2
Source: Bloomberg, country sovereign curves, euro swap used as eurozone proxy, as at 31 March 2017 and 31 March 2019. Yields may vary and are not guaranteed.
 
Gauging where a country might be in its economic and credit cycle therefore has important implications for where we might want to be invested in terms of accepting or avoiding interest rate risk or credit risk.  Broader cycles incorporate mini cycles, so there are periods when yields may temporarily rise or fall, or credit spreads widen or narrow, independently of what might be expected of the cycle. Often this is triggered by shocks, including unexpected economic data, politics, policy surprise by central banks, or idiosyncrasies associated with an issuer. An active approach allows active managers to tactically exploit situations as they arise.
 
Overall, a global approach allows us to maximise opportunities for diversification and seek securities and strategies with low correlation to each other. Portfolio construction is a critical element to ensure these are carefully blended together and to manage our exposure to scenarios that may cause correlations to change.
 

These are the views of the author at the time of publication and may differ from the views of other individuals/teams at Janus Henderson Investors. Any securities, funds, sectors and indices mentioned within this article do not constitute or form part of any offer or solicitation to buy or sell them.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

The information in this article does not qualify as an investment recommendation.

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Specific risks

  • When the Fund, or a currency hedged share class of the Fund (with ‘Hedged’ in its name), seeks to mitigate (hedge) exchange rate movements of a currency relative to the Fund’s base currency, the hedging strategy itself may create a positive or negative impact to the value of the Fund due to differences in short-term interest rates between the currencies.
  • An issuer of a bond (or money market instrument) may become unable or unwilling to pay interest or repay capital to the Fund. If this happens or the market perceives this may happen, the value of the bond will fall.
  • The Fund may use derivatives towards the aim of achieving its investment objective. This can result in 'leverage', which can magnify an investment outcome and gains or losses to the Fund may be greater than the cost of the derivative. Derivatives also introduce other risks, in particular, that a derivative counterparty may not meet its contractual obligations.
  • If the Fund holds assets in currencies other than the base currency of the Fund or you invest in a share class of a different currency to the Fund (unless 'hedged'), the value of your investment may be impacted by changes in exchange rates.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Securities within the Fund could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, especially in extreme market conditions when asset prices may be falling, increasing the risk of investment losses.
  • Callable debt securities (securities whose issuers have the right to pay off the security’s principal before the maturity date), such as ABS or MBS, can be impacted from prepayment or extension of maturity. The value of your investment may fall as a result.

Risk rating

Janus Henderson Absolute Return Income Fund

For institutional/ sophisticated investors / accredited investors qualified distributors use only.

All content in this document is for information or general use only and is not specific to any individual client requirements. The information contained in this document is referential and may not be construed as an offer, invitation or recommendation or investment advice, nor should be taken as a basis to take (or stop taking) any decision.

Janus Henderson Capital Funds Plc is a UCITS established under Irish law, with segregated liability between funds. Investors are warned that they should only make their investments based on the most recent Prospectus which contains information about fees, expenses and risks, which is available from all distributors and paying agents, it should be read carefully. An investment in the fund may not be suitable for all investors and is not available to all investors in all jurisdictions; it is not available to US persons.  Past performance is not indicative of future results. The rate of return may vary and the principal value of an investment will fluctuate due to market and foreign exchange movements.  Shares, if redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Janus Henderson Group plc and its subsidiaries are not responsible for any unlawful distribution of this document to any third parties, in whole or in part, or for information reconstructed from this document and do not guarantee that the information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, or make any warranties with regards to the results obtained from its use. As with all investments, there are inherent risks that each individual should address.

The distribution of this document or the information contained in it may be restricted by law and may not be used in any jurisdiction or any circumstances in which its use would be unlawful.

Issued in Europe by Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”), authorised and regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”) is an entity registered and operating under the laws of the United Kingdom and Janus Capital Funds plc. is registered under the legislation of Ireland.

The extract prospectus (edition for Switzerland), the articles of incorporation, the extract annual and semi-annual report, in German, can be obtained free of charge from the representative in Switzerland: First Independent Fund Services Ltd (“FIFS”), Klausstrasse 33, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland, tel: +41 44 206 16 40, fax: +41 44 206 16 41, web: http://www.fifs.ch. The Swiss paying agent is: Banque Cantonale de Genève, 17, quai de l’Ile, CH-1204 Geneva. The last share prices can be found on www.fundinfo.com. For Qualified investors, institutional, wholesale client use only. Outside of Switzerland, this document is for professional use only. Not for onward distribution.

This material is strictly private and confidential and may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than evaluation of a potential investment in Janus Capital International Limited’s products or the procurement of its services by the recipient of this presentation or provided to any person or entity other than the recipient of this presentation.

We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Janus Capital Management LLC serves as investment adviser. Janus, Intech and Perkins are registered trademarks of Janus International Holding LLC. © Janus International Holding LLC. For more information or to locate your country’s Janus representative contact information, please visit www.janushenderson.com.

Specific risks

  • This fund is designed to be used only as one component of several in a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested into this fund.
  • An issuer of a bond (or money market instrument) may become unable or unwilling to pay interest or repay capital to the Fund. If this happens or the market perceives this may happen, the value of the bond will fall.
  • The Fund may use derivatives towards the aim of achieving its investment objective. This can result in 'leverage', which can magnify an investment outcome and gains or losses to the Fund may be greater than the cost of the derivative. Derivatives also introduce other risks, in particular, that a derivative counterparty may not meet its contractual obligations.
  • If the Fund holds assets in currencies other than the base currency of the Fund or you invest in a share class of a different currency to the Fund (unless 'hedged'), the value of your investment may be impacted by changes in exchange rates.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Securities within the Fund could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, especially in extreme market conditions when asset prices may be falling, increasing the risk of investment losses.

Risk rating

Janus Henderson Absolute Return Income Fund (EUR)

For institutional/ sophisticated investors / accredited investors qualified distributors use only.

All content in this document is for information or general use only and is not specific to any individual client requirements. The information contained in this document is referential and may not be construed as an offer, invitation or recommendation or investment advice, nor should be taken as a basis to take (or stop taking) any decision.

Janus Henderson Capital Funds Plc is a UCITS established under Irish law, with segregated liability between funds. Investors are warned that they should only make their investments based on the most recent Prospectus which contains information about fees, expenses and risks, which is available from all distributors and paying agents, it should be read carefully. An investment in the fund may not be suitable for all investors and is not available to all investors in all jurisdictions; it is not available to US persons.  Past performance is not indicative of future results. The rate of return may vary and the principal value of an investment will fluctuate due to market and foreign exchange movements.  Shares, if redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Janus Henderson Group plc and its subsidiaries are not responsible for any unlawful distribution of this document to any third parties, in whole or in part, or for information reconstructed from this document and do not guarantee that the information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, or make any warranties with regards to the results obtained from its use. As with all investments, there are inherent risks that each individual should address.

The distribution of this document or the information contained in it may be restricted by law and may not be used in any jurisdiction or any circumstances in which its use would be unlawful.

Issued in Europe by Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”), authorised and regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”) is an entity registered and operating under the laws of the United Kingdom and Janus Capital Funds plc. is registered under the legislation of Ireland.

The extract prospectus (edition for Switzerland), the articles of incorporation, the extract annual and semi-annual report, in German, can be obtained free of charge from the representative in Switzerland: First Independent Fund Services Ltd (“FIFS”), Klausstrasse 33, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland, tel: +41 44 206 16 40, fax: +41 44 206 16 41, web: http://www.fifs.ch. The Swiss paying agent is: Banque Cantonale de Genève, 17, quai de l’Ile, CH-1204 Geneva. The last share prices can be found on www.fundinfo.com. For Qualified investors, institutional, wholesale client use only. Outside of Switzerland, this document is for professional use only. Not for onward distribution.

This material is strictly private and confidential and may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than evaluation of a potential investment in Janus Capital International Limited’s products or the procurement of its services by the recipient of this presentation or provided to any person or entity other than the recipient of this presentation.

We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Janus Capital Management LLC serves as investment adviser. Janus, Intech and Perkins are registered trademarks of Janus International Holding LLC. © Janus International Holding LLC. For more information or to locate your country’s Janus representative contact information, please visit www.janushenderson.com.

Specific risks

  • An issuer of a bond (or money market instrument) may become unable or unwilling to pay interest or repay capital to the Fund. If this happens or the market perceives this may happen, the value of the bond will fall.
  • The Fund may use derivatives towards the aim of achieving its investment objective. This can result in 'leverage', which can magnify an investment outcome and gains or losses to the Fund may be greater than the cost of the derivative. Derivatives also introduce other risks, in particular, that a derivative counterparty may not meet its contractual obligations.
  • If the Fund holds assets in currencies other than the base currency of the Fund or you invest in a share class of a different currency to the Fund (unless 'hedged'), the value of your investment may be impacted by changes in exchange rates.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Securities within the Fund could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, especially in extreme market conditions when asset prices may be falling, increasing the risk of investment losses.

Risk rating

Janus Henderson Absolute Return Income Opportunities Fund

For institutional/ sophisticated investors / accredited investors qualified distributors use only.

All content in this document is for information or general use only and is not specific to any individual client requirements. The information contained in this document is referential and may not be construed as an offer, invitation or recommendation or investment advice, nor should be taken as a basis to take (or stop taking) any decision.

Janus Henderson Capital Funds Plc is a UCITS established under Irish law, with segregated liability between funds. Investors are warned that they should only make their investments based on the most recent Prospectus which contains information about fees, expenses and risks, which is available from all distributors and paying agents, it should be read carefully. An investment in the fund may not be suitable for all investors and is not available to all investors in all jurisdictions; it is not available to US persons.  Past performance is not indicative of future results. The rate of return may vary and the principal value of an investment will fluctuate due to market and foreign exchange movements.  Shares, if redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Janus Henderson Group plc and its subsidiaries are not responsible for any unlawful distribution of this document to any third parties, in whole or in part, or for information reconstructed from this document and do not guarantee that the information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, or make any warranties with regards to the results obtained from its use. As with all investments, there are inherent risks that each individual should address.

The distribution of this document or the information contained in it may be restricted by law and may not be used in any jurisdiction or any circumstances in which its use would be unlawful.

Issued in Europe by Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”), authorised and regulated by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority. Janus Capital International Limited (“JCIL”) is an entity registered and operating under the laws of the United Kingdom and Janus Capital Funds plc. is registered under the legislation of Ireland.

The extract prospectus (edition for Switzerland), the articles of incorporation, the extract annual and semi-annual report, in German, can be obtained free of charge from the representative in Switzerland: First Independent Fund Services Ltd (“FIFS”), Klausstrasse 33, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland, tel: +41 44 206 16 40, fax: +41 44 206 16 41, web: http://www.fifs.ch. The Swiss paying agent is: Banque Cantonale de Genève, 17, quai de l’Ile, CH-1204 Geneva. The last share prices can be found on www.fundinfo.com. For Qualified investors, institutional, wholesale client use only. Outside of Switzerland, this document is for professional use only. Not for onward distribution.

This material is strictly private and confidential and may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than evaluation of a potential investment in Janus Capital International Limited’s products or the procurement of its services by the recipient of this presentation or provided to any person or entity other than the recipient of this presentation.

We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Janus Capital Management LLC serves as investment adviser. Janus, Intech and Perkins are registered trademarks of Janus International Holding LLC. © Janus International Holding LLC. For more information or to locate your country’s Janus representative contact information, please visit www.janushenderson.com.

Specific risks

  • Some or all of the Annual Management Charge and other costs of the Fund may be taken from capital, which may erode capital or reduce potential for capital growth.
  • This fund is designed to be used only as one component of several in a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested into this fund.
  • If a Fund has a high exposure to a particular country or geographical region it carries a higher level of risk than a Fund which is more broadly diversified.
  • An issuer of a bond (or money market instrument) may become unable or unwilling to pay interest or repay capital to the Fund. If this happens or the market perceives this may happen, the value of the bond will fall.
  • The Fund may use derivatives towards the aim of achieving its investment objective. This can result in 'leverage', which can magnify an investment outcome and gains or losses to the Fund may be greater than the cost of the derivative. Derivatives also introduce other risks, in particular, that a derivative counterparty may not meet its contractual obligations.
  • Emerging markets expose the Fund to higher volatility and greater risk of loss than developed markets; they are susceptible to adverse political and economic events, and may be less well regulated with less robust custody and settlement procedures.
  • If the Fund holds assets in currencies other than the base currency of the Fund or you invest in a share class of a different currency to the Fund (unless 'hedged'), the value of your investment may be impacted by changes in exchange rates.
  • The Fund invests in high yield (non-investment grade) bonds and while these generally offer higher rates of interest than investment grade bonds, they are more speculative and more sensitive to adverse changes in market conditions.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Securities within the Fund could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, especially in extreme market conditions when asset prices may be falling, increasing the risk of investment losses.

Risk rating

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