Those longstanding pillars of institutional investors’ portfolios, public equities and investment-grade fixed-income, didn’t do so hot in 2022—an unusual dual dive for a pairing that had enjoyed bull markets for decades. That’s why Wilshire Advisors is advocating that pension plans and other nonprofit investors re-do their allocations beyond the once-trusty stocks and bonds they have perennially favored.
The big change that has rocked the investing terrain is the dramatic increase in interest rates that began last year, which a Wilshire study likened to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington, a catastrophe that followed more than a century of volcanic dormancy.
The 2022 rate hikes, which are continuing this year, are similar events that shook the world. Wilshire projects that, as a result, traditional stocks and bonds will not stage a comeback. Mainstream bonds “are no longer the protector they were,” says Robert Appling, a Wilshire managing director and co-author of the study, in an interview. “Public equities, which have dominated” portfolios, should be rebalanced into other areas “such as private capital,” he adds.
U.S. public pensions, as of 2021, continue to have a relatively strong presence in stocks, with 47.1%, and bonds, in second place, at 21.5%. Alternatives, such as private equity and real estate, have been increasing their share, but the traditional asset classes continue to rule.
The Wilshire report calls for “increasing exposure to marketable alternatives with low correlations and beta to risk assets that are unrestrained across asset classes.” In a metaphorical shift, the consulting firm turned to soccer to illustrate its recommendations.
The study calls for giving “the talented rookie a shot at striker.” Public equities “tripped on the pitch” in 2022, and their still-high valuations and dwindling earnings in 2023 don’t bode well for the future, it says. Venture capital and buyout funds stand the best chance of riding societal trends and taking advantage of opportunities in health care, tech and industrials, it argues.
Generating income is best done nowadays via high-yield bonds (averaging 9.6% yields versus 5.1% for investment-grade paper) and short-duration credit, which the firm labels its “midfield” players. For goalie? Try global macro-oriented hedge funds, the study advises. As the report puts it, “diversifying marketable alternatives with low correlations and beta to risk assets that are unconstrained across asset class and direction (long/short)” should serve investors well.
Rebalancing among some allocators, along the lines Wilshire suggests, has started to happen. The nation’s largest public pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, last summer announced it was shifting its asset allocation to move its stock ownership to 42% from 50% of its holdings.
Certainly, not everyone has such a dour view of traditional assets as does Wilshire. Consultancy Cambridge Associates, for instance, expects stocks and bonds to rebound to their old prominence in 2023.
Tags: Bonds, Buyout Funds, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Economics & Markets, Economics and Markets, Hedge Funds, Mount St. Helens, Private Capital, public pensions, Stocks, Venture Capital, Wilshire Advisors