PineBridge India – US Equity fund is the new open-ended equity fund on PineBridge India Mutual’s block. This fund will invest in PineBridge US Large Cap Research Enhanced Fund, the parent fund with a long track record of beating the S&P 500.
This fund will differ from the current US-focused funds in the market as it is will mostly use a passive strategy to the extent of building a portfolio that looks similar to the S&P 500 but with some active overweight and underweight positions to generate marginally additional returns. Thus the fund is a pure bet on the US market with proven capabilities to contain declines better than other US-focused funds available locally.
The fund’s NFO closes on December 2013.
FundsIndia has a Q&A with Kei Sasaki, Managing Director – Equities, PineBridge Investments to know why this is a good time to invest in US equities.
Is there a case for investing in the US now, as opposed to say markets such as Greater China or Japan?
The trailing correlation of India (MSCI India) and Greater China (MSCI Golden Dragon) is actually higher than that of India and the US (S&P 500). The question here is progression. The expectations for the “China Dream” and its impact across the broader region are still debatable.
Certainly there could be beneficiaries to be found from the bottom up, but the aggregate growth of Greater China is clearly decelerating in the near term. This development is clearly reflected in market returns over the more recent 3-year period during which Greater China posted negative returns versus the positive mid-teens rate of return generated by the US.
Japan (MSCI Japan) does have a lower correlation to India versus the US. However, Japan has underperformed the US market by about half over the last 5 years. The growth prospects in Japan are certainly on the rise with “Abenomics” and the market is recognizing that.
However, investors are likely to have better visibility and can gain more confidence in the ability of US to meet and exceed fundamental expectations compared to Japan, which is still in the early stages of a structural recovery.
On that last note, it is important to consider the efficiency and transparency that the US market offers. Greater China is still an emerging region. Japan is in a stage of a turnaround. A premium should be justified for such relative characteristics.
You talk of a US manufacturing renaissance. Could energy independence alone result in this? If so, what could be the fallout of such a renaissance?
Energy is more an enabling mechanism to foster a new era of growth. However, it is quite material to the growth equation as the energy independence variable is not isolated to enterprise profitability, but also that of households. Furthermore, energy independence could help mute the impact from shocks caused by events like the Mideast uprisings.
Fallout from a successful renaissance can be thought of in short and longer term. Short term, the impact would potentially be negative for global competitors. But likely that the goods produced will be premium in nature and commoditized goods production will continue to reside in regions where there are comparative advantages in producing with quality at a lower cost.
Over time, the prosperity and incremental wealth that results from such a renaissance should have beneficial cascading effects on the rest of the world.
We hear that almost a third of revenue of the S&P 500 companies come from outside the US. Is this the case and is it set to change if the US becomes more ‘inward looking’?
This is true (I believe the number is actually in the 20% range while earnings are about 40%). This is likely to continue as the world continues to become more global. Furthermore, a renaissance in the US will not isolate the US.
On the contrary, the renaissance should produce those goods and create the services that will be demanded by those consumers outside its borders.
One of the reasons for record high profit margins of US companies is muted wage costs. Can muted wage costs continue in the US?
It is one of the reasons, but that is likely to change as more states like New York are working to implement increases to their respective minimum wages. The thing about wage costs is that they are not mutually exclusive from economic prosperity. The reality is that when times are good, no matter how much more efficiently you operate, the incentive is to move pricing up if the end market has the capacity and willingness to accept it.
When times are good, companies may have the ability and a greater willingness to put through wage increases. It is not as if these costs are uncontrollable or at the mercy of some anchoring element like commodities or energy. Therefore, as wages move up, think of it as a sign that things are getting better. Consumers will have more to spend and that wealth increment can feed into the budding productivity loop of the US.
In what pockets of the market does opportunity lie in the US now – is it defensives or cyclicals?
The PineBridge US Large Cap Research Enhanced Equity Fund through its unique life cycle categorization and factor evaluation framework can help investors garner objective insights into the market. At present, the US is favouring cyclicals and this has been the case all year long.
[quote style=”boxed”]US corporate fundamentals have proven more resilient and future growth opportunities appear clearer. Together with having exceptional transparency, we believe a premium relative to other markets is well warranted.[/quote]
The run up in the US market since 2008 appears to suggest that upside potential may be capped as a result of valuations. How does valuation look in relation to other markets?
Equity valuations are a reflection of future expectations. It is our view that current US equity valuations could continue their move upwards since the underlying earnings power of companies is yet to reach its full potential. There were plenty of market skeptics as we came out of 2008. Yet each year, US companies and the consumer base has surprised positively.
With emerging new opportunities like re-shoring, energy independence and the manufacturing renaissance, the growth story is developing to be much longer and sustainable.
At PineBridge Investments, we believe that different valuation measures must be used for different types of companies. So, when looking from the bottom up, investors should not evaluate opportunities through a single lens or valuation metrics across the broader equity universe. Also, they should not assess stock attractiveness based on valuation alone.
According to Bloomberg consensus forecasts for earnings growth over the next two years, the US is at least on par with markets like Japan, Greater China and Developed Europe. In aggregate, US corporate fundamentals have proven more resilient and future growth opportunities appear clearer. Together with having exceptional transparency, we believe a premium relative to other markets is well warranted.
PineBridge US Large Cap Research Enhanced Fund has high exposure to the IT space. Does this segment not look a bit expensive at this point?
The Fund is not constructed to time markets. Therefore, the active overexposure to the IT sector is not a function of a subjective view on the sector. And if you look at the exposure, it is only a subtle active overweight versus the benchmark (+100 bps). The purpose of the Fund is to provide investors with a combination of the merits of a passive fund (exposure to the Index) and that of an active fund (alpha generation). The overweight in IT is due to our bottom up stock selection – there just happened to be a healthy number of attractive stocks in the sector relative to others.
The Fund seeks to select the most attractive stocks through a fundamentally inspired quantitative approach that eliminates subjective biases. And rather than evaluating stocks by sector, it evaluates them based on a dynamic life cycle categorization framework. In other words, once a technology company you will always be a technology company.
However, within the IT sector, the various companies are all at different stages of life (fundamental development). We evaluate stocks through this framework. By applying various risk constraints, we create a portfolio that looks like the S&P 500 Index, but with several active over weights and under weights that are determined through the evaluation process, and are collectively expected to generate alpha over time.
What could be the implication of tapering on US equities?
Clearly a tapering scenario has negative near-term implications for equities as we saw when the Fed first hinted at its intent to do so back in June. However, since then the market has already begun to adapt. Therefore, the impact to markets may not be as severe. More recently, the Fed again indicated its plans to taper and the market reaction was far less negative and in fact quickly recovered from that initial drop.
Tapering is inevitable. But it can also be viewed as a vote of confidence by the Fed that things are getting increasingly better. This could ultimately be favorable for equities.
These views alone are not sufficient and should not be used for the development or implementation of an investment strategy. It should not be construed as investment advice to any party. Parts of this may be based on information received from sources considered reliable. We do not represent that all of this information is accurate or complete, however, and it may not be relied upon as such. All opinions included in this constitute the view of Kei Sasaki as of this date and are subject to change without notice. We are not soliciting or recommending any action based on this material. Neither PineBridge Investments Asset Management Company (India) Private Limited nor any person connected with it accepts any liability arising from the use of this information. The reader is requested to seek independent professional advice before investing.
Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.
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