Brief: Citigroup Inc.’s Michael Corbat said he’s worried about potential long-term negative effects after many of his employees spent the vast majority of 2020 working from home. “People talk about the productivity that comes with working remotely,” Corbat said in a televised interview for a Bloomberg Invest Talks event that aired Friday. “Well, if I worked seven days a week, 15 to 16 hours a day and I don’t take any holidays, at least for a period of time I’m going to be more productive.” While more remote work will probably mean Citigroup can shrink its real estate footprint, Corbat said he’s hesitant to declare a widespread shift toward the practice. The CEO said in May that, unlike some of his competitors, he wasn’t considering the option of letting workers stay at home permanently after the pandemic ends. The New York-based bank, which has about 200,000 employees worldwide, wants to see how productivity changes over longer stretches of time and whether creativity suffers before deciding how much working from home to allow, Corbat said. Citigroup and many of its competitors have kept the vast majority of staff home for much of the year to help stem the spread of Covid-19. Now, as governments around the world rush to procure vaccines and promising new therapies for the virus, many companies are developing plans for eventually bringing workers back.
Brief : KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, on Friday said it would begin offering COVID-19 tested flights to Atlanta, the latest example of a European airline adopting a testing strategy to increase passenger confidence in flying amid the coronavirus pandemic. The plans centre around the concept of conducting multiple tests so that travellers can have more trust that the chances they or others are carrying the virus during their voyage are small. Under the KLM plan, passengers receive one test five days before their flight, another shortly before the flight, and a third after landing. “Only passengers with negative test results will be accepted on-board,” KLM said in a statement. After testing negative again upon arrival at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, U.S. and European Union passengers travelling from Atlanta will be able to skip a 5-day quarantine in the Netherlands. Alitalia announced a similar scheme for Rome to New York flights earlier on Friday, and Delta last week introduced one from Atlanta to Rome. Delta, Air France and Alitalia cooperate under the “SkyTeam” airline alliance.
Brief: Asia’s richest expect sustainable investing to accelerate after the Covid-19 pandemic, even if questions remain whether these will generate higher returns than putting money elsewhere, according to a study by Lombard Odier, one of Switzerland’s oldest private banks. Ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWI) in Asia, those with a net worth of at least US$30 million, showed strong interest in sustainability as an investment consideration going forward, a trend which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 situation, said Vincent Magnenat, chief executive for Asia at Lombard Odier, in an interview. “Sustainability has been accelerated by the Covid situation, by what we are going through,” said Magnenat. “At the same time, investing in companies with an emphasis on sustainability will be a factor of higher return in the coming years.” Lombard Odier’s report focused on four areas – technology, investment, sustainability and family services – and surveyed more than 150 UHNWIs in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Brief: Tom Farley, former president of the New York Stock Exchange, on Friday detailed his battle with Covid-19 early in the pandemic, telling CNBC “it was not a good period in my life.” “I had a 102 to 103.5 [degree] fever for 15 days straight, and then I couldn’t get out of bed for another week. I lost about 25 pounds,” Farley, who is in his mid-40s, said on “Squawk Box.” “I looked like Skeletor, cracked a tooth from chattering,” he said, referencing the Mattel supervillain from the Masters of the Universe franchise. “I felt like somebody was taking a sledgehammer to my back.” Farley, who oversaw the NYSE from 2014 to 2018, said he had his “nasty case” of Covid in March. At the time, he said his special purpose acquisition company was in the process of finalizing a deal with a merger target while the uncertainty caused by the fledging pandemic unsettled global financial markets. “It was at the exact time the S&P seemed to go down like 5% a day,” said Farley, whose first SPAC completed its merger in August with Global Blue, a Swiss fintech firm. He now serves as the company’s chairman. “My brain wasn’t firing. I was physically exhausted. It was not a good period in my life,” Farley said. “On that 23rd day, I woke up and yes, I was weak, but I felt better and I felt hopeful and optimistic, and I started getting into a workout routine.”
Brief: The European Central Bank urged the region’s big banks to do a better job scrutinizing companies’ ability to repay loans and weather the pandemic, warning them of the possibility that a mountain of loans eventually sours, weighs down the banking industry and slows the economic recovery. In a letter to banks’ chief executives, the ECB’s supervisory arm said it is increasingly important for banks to assess these risks now instead of waiting until it is too late when problematic loans build up on balance sheets. Lenders have been buoyed by unprecedented amounts of support from authorities over the pandemic. They’ve also benefited from regulatory flexibility on delaying provisions for doubtful loans. How some banks have been accounting for those loans has varied. “We have been observing differences in credit risk management approaches,” Elizabeth McCaul, ECB supervisory board member, said in an accompanying blog post. Areas of concern included overly optimistic assumptions and some “worrying cases” where banks have relaxed their risk-modeling standards. “If we delay – or worse, fail to act – we will have to pay the price of today’s inaction tomorrow,” she wrote. “We would be wise to start preparing now so that we may enjoy the strongest possible conditions when those healthier days arrive.”
Brief: The raging global pandemic helped hedge fund manager Said Haidar make more than 25% during the market turmoil in March. Vaccines that could end the crisis have now erased those gains. His Haidar Jupiter macro hedge fund slumped 23.5% in November, its biggest monthly decline since starting more than two decades ago, as bets against stocks suffered in a global market rally, according to a letter to investors seen by Bloomberg. “We were caught off guard by a series of vaccine announcements in rapid succession, with much higher efficacy rates and highly expedited approval, manufacturing, and distribution timetables than earlier guidance suggested,” New York-based Haidar wrote to clients. The losses mark a dramatic reversal for one of the best-performing hedge funds in the world this year. The fund, which had gained as much as 68% through August this year, is now up 15.5%. That’s still better than the 0.4% seen through October by peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A spokesman for Haidar Capital Management, which managed close to $900 million in assets earlier this year, declined to comment. The fund has now made adjustments to its portfolio to benefit from a potential early end to the pandemic and a strong global economic rebound, the letter said.
Brief: Legendary macro hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones expects "an explosion" of economic growth next year as a coronavirus vaccine becomes more widely available. As the federal government moves quickly to approve and distribute experimental inoculations from Pfizer (PFE)-BioNTech (BNTE) and Moderna (MRNA), Wall Street’s becoming increasingly bullish on 2021. Reflecting that mood, the CIO and founder of Tudor Investment Corp., expects risk appetite to rebound even further, especially with Congress and the Federal Reserve pumping more stimulus. "I think the stock market's on a combination of fiscal monetary pulse that we've never seen before in history, nothing like this,” Jones told Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. For that reason, stock multiples are frothier than in the year 2000, when the tech bubble sent the Nasdaq to its first historic high. And he anticipates a COVID-19 vaccine will jumpstart economic growth, which may have potential political implications. "The vaccine's going to bring us back. We're going to have an incredible growth rebound,” the investor predicted, as pent-up demand from the last year gets carried forward in a big way.
Brief : Investors plan to double their allocations to sustainable products over the next five years, according to BlackRock’s Global Client Sustainable Investing Survey, which finds that the pandemic has accelerated investor demand. One fifth of those surveyed said that the pandemic would actually accelerate their sustainable investing allocations. “The tectonic shift we identified earlier this year has really taken hold, as the convergence of political and regulatory pressures, technological advancements and client preferences have pushed sustainability into the mainstream of investing,” says Mark McCombe, chief client officer at BlackRock. “The results of our survey show this sustainable transition is occurring all around the world.” The survey gathered insights from 425 investors in 27 countries, including corporate and public pension plans, asset managers, endowments, foundations, and global wealth managers with nearly USD25 trillion in assets under management (AUM). The survey suggests this is the beginning of a sustained shift for at least the next five years, with survey respondents planning to double their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) assets under management (AUM) by 2025. While growth in sustainable assets is most pronounced in Europe, it is also growing in prominence in the Americas and Asia-Pacific as well.
Brief: Investors piled back into value stocks as November’s twin breakthroughs in the search for an effective vaccine against Covid-19, by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, renewed optimism and prompted a huge rally in global markets. Value investing has been out of favour this year as the strategy typically favours companies that are more sensitive to economic cycles, such as energy companies and banks. A turnaround in November saw the Russell 1000 Value Index rise by 13.2 per cent, outperforming the Russell 1000 Growth Index, which only registered a 10.1 per cent rise over the month. The year 2021 has already been named “the year of the vaccine” by Bank of America in its monthly survey in November, and the bank says it expects value stocks to outperform growth stocks, and for small-cap stocks to beat large-cap stocks over the year. Ian Lance, co-portfolio manager of Temple Bar Investment Trust, and portfolio manager at RWC Partners, believes that a vaccine could be “the catalyst” for a sustained move toward value investing. “As the Pfizer vaccine receives UK regulatory approval, and with it the promise of return to a somewhat normal life, now may be the signal many investors have been waiting for to re-allocate away from growth to value,” says Lance.
Brief: Asset management firms are putting technology upgrades in artificial intelligence and automation aside to beef up tech related to remote working, according to a recent survey by consulting firm Deloitte. The survey, conducted in August as part of the firm’s annual investment management outlook, found that asset managers in North America, Europe, and Asia planned to increase spending in areas like data privacy and cybersecurity, which are seen as critical for allowing employees to work from different locations. “Not surprisingly, this indicates that investment management firms are spending in part to support remote and distributed working arrangements brought about by the pandemic,” Deloitte said in the report, expected to be released Thursday. On a net basis, 54 percent of North American firms planned to spend more on data privacy in the coming year, versus 23 percent of European respondents and 36 percent of Asia-Pacific firms. For the latter regions, cybersecurity was seen as the biggest priority, cited by a net 42 percent of European firms and 53 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents. A net 46 percent of North American firms also reported a higher budget for cybersecurity over the next 12 months.
Brief: The impact of COVID-19 on the European leveraged loan market fed through to collateralized loan obligations, with defaults up and loan supply down. A report by S&P Global Ratings said the CLO market was "hit hard by the pandemic." Defaults and CCC-rated asset holdings were up, loan supply fell and CLO managers that chose to trade out of weaker corporate sectors in some cases have experienced par losses, the report said. "All combined, these factors have negatively affected European CLO ratings, largely in the form of CreditWatch negative placements and downgrades of junior tranches," it said. The ratings agency uses CreditWatch and rating outlooks to show its view on how likely a ratings change is and the probable direction of such a change. Since March, S&P has put 39 European CLO ratings on CreditWatch negative, with about two-thirds of those actions subsequently resoled with a downgrade. The average downgrade was one ratings notch. As of Dec. 1, no European CLO ratings were on CreditWatch negative. Pressure on European CLO ratings was predominantly seen in junior parts of the capital structure, at the BB and B-rating levels. S&P's report also noted that moves by managers away from affected names and potential losses — along with "structural mitigants embedded in CLOs — explain why our rating actions on junior CLO tranches have been limited so far. On average, the magnitude of rating changes has been one notch, and to date we have not lowered any investment-grade ratings to speculative-grade."
Brief: Despite an initial freeze in investments early in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. venture capital funding this year has already overtaken 2019 levels as many tech companies got a boost from remote work and an e-commerce boom. U.S. venture capital investments as of Dec. 1 totaled $139.6 billion across 9,898 deals, compared with $137.3 billion across 12,189 deals last year, according to previously unreleased data from PitchBook. That makes 2020 the third straight year for U.S. venture capital investments to exceed the $100 billion mark. Several investors have said that they are betting the pandemic will have the lasting effect of pushing more economic activity online, making up for the businesses boarding up on Main Street. The investors added that they are investing in startups that aim to enable the further digitization of sectors like banking, retail and healthcare. Fintech was a big focus for U.S. venture capital investors in 2020 with trading app Robinhood Markets Inc raising more than $1.2 billion over two deals, alternative lending company Affirm raising $500 million and digital bank Chime raising $485 million.
Brief: This year’s Covid-19 stock market upheaval has revealed an “Achilles’ heel” in quantitative hedge fund models that use traditional factors such as momentum and value, as machine-based strategies have struggled against “unique new drivers of stock returns that don’t fit the academic models”, says Man FRM. 2020 proved to be a “blow to the head” for factor-based quantitative equity analysis, Man FRM observed in its ‘Early View’ commentary on Wednesday. Quant equity hedge funds which trade traditional factors have struggled amid the dominance of a new “Covid factor” this year, with “near-consistent disappointment” in the form of “losses at the start of the year, losses in the market sell-off, losses through the summer and, to compound matters, losses in November.” The note, written by Keith Haydon, CIO of Man Solutions and Adam Singleton, head of investment solutions at Man FRM, explored how shorter-term market upheaval – such as the dot-com crash of the early 2000s and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis – can often render factor labels like value and momentum redundant as they exhibit negative correlation during shocks. “Trying to force stock behaviour into one box or another can be a good idea in normal times, as it lets models identify distinct baskets of stocks out of a large universe that best explain each factor,” they wrote.
Brief : KKR & Co. is nearing a deal for a portfolio of U.S. warehouses, a sector that has received a boost during the pandemic as consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce. The transaction, which may close as soon as next week, values the roughly 100 properties at more than $800 million, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Barclays Plc is arranging about $700 million in commercial mortgage-backed securities to finance the deal, which includes assets in markets including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Baltimore, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private. Representatives for KKR and Barclays declined to comment. While hotels and retail properties have been battered by the pandemic, investors have flocked to warehouses to capitalize as an e-commerce boom that was flourishing before the pandemic accelerates with shoppers increasingly buying from their couches. The warehouse portfolio set to be acquired by KKR is part of a broader wager by the company, increasing its exposure to the sector to about 30 million square feet. In recent months, through various funds, it has snapped up properties in metropolitan areas including Atlanta and Phoenix.
Brief: Investor appetite for emerging markets has been on the rise, boosted by hopes of a vaccine-led recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and by Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election. According to a recent survey from Bank of America, half of fund managers favour emerging markets more than any other asset class for 2021. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has risen by nearly 13 per cent in November. Emerging market debt is also growing in popularity, with EPFR data showing flows of USD3.5 billion into EM bonds during one week in November, the fourth largest weekly inflows ever. “EMD remains a relatively popular asset class for institutional investors globally,” writes the emerging markets debt team of US asset manager Eaton Vance. “The irony, however, is that fund flows in the sector are still driven by index-based strategies that ignore fundamentals, even as many investors have come to recognise just how crucial individual EM country fundamentals will be in surmounting Covid-19 challenges.” Benchmark-based approaches “may be sub-optimal”, warns Eaton Vance, adding that indexes are often highly concentrated, with ten countries accounting for 80 per cent of JP Morgan’s Government Bond Index-Emerging Markets’ index weighting. The asset manager, which is due to be acquired by Morgan Stanley, says: “This kind of concentration of a relative handful of larger EM issuers has been a major source of the index’s historical volatility… In contrast, outside of the GBI-EM there are 70 investable markets, with approximately USD1.1 trillion worth of local-currency market capitalisation.”
Brief: Arena Investors, LP ("Arena"), an institutional asset manager, today announced the final close of Arena Special Opportunities Partners I, LP and Arena Special Opportunities Partners (Cayman) I, LP with total committed capital of $519 million. The close exceeds the $300 million target that was set for the fund, which was launched in March. Arena's latest Fund invests in asset-backed, credit-oriented investments presented by the economic disruption and market dislocations from the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund has a flexible, global mandate with a majority of investors based in North America and Australia. "With an investment strategy grounded in our 20 plus years of experience investing globally across divergent economic downturns, Arena is well-positioned to find value in all economic environments, especially today's," said Dan Zwirn, Arena Investors Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer. "The COVID-19 pandemic has caused newfound disruption to both society and the global economy and moved trends we were already seeing forward by five to ten years, especially in the industries that have been most heavily impacted. While much has changed, our flexible approach has allowed us to adjust quickly and continually identify attractive opportunities to deliver value to our investors."
Brief: Billionaire hedge fund manager William Ackman, who cautiously hedged his portfolio before the historic market sell-off in March, has extended his gains to 62.8% for the year so far. Last month, Ackman’s publicly traded Pershing Square Holdings portfolio gained 13.4%, lifting the $11.4 billion portfolio to a net gain of 62.8% in the first 11 months of 2020, according to a performance review. Ackman recently told investors that the firm is having its best ever year and that he is “bullish” for 2021. But he warned of possible volatility ahead as the coronavirus continues to take its toll. To guard against swings, Ackman said he put on a new hedge -- roughly one third the size of the one he put on earlier this year -- as corporate credit spreads are very tight. He earned $2.6 billion in profits from the first hedge and plowed that money back into the market, buying more of the stocks he already owns at cheaper prices. This summer Ackman raised the biggest blank-check fund ever helping swell his firm’s total assets under management -- including all hedge funds and Pershing Square Tontine Holdings -- to $17 billion. The average hedge fund gained 1.2% through the end of October, according to Hedge Fund Research. November data is still being compiled.
Brief: Services company stocks, especially those linked to travel and leisure, have room to rocket higher next year as consumers venture out again after spending on goods but cutting back on services during the pandemic, hedge fund manager Dinakar Singh said. With vaccines against Covid on the horizon, Singh, who runs Axon Capital, expects a flood of pent-up demand for travel to see far-flung business clients and employees, visit grandparents and take vacations. “Things are going to be explosive,” Singh, who headed Goldman Sachs’ proprietary trading unit before forming his own fund in 2005, said at the Reuters Global Investment Outlook Summit. “There well could be a huge surge of pent up demand for activities that have been restricted because of the virus.” After personal savings rates climbed early in the pandemic, stocks broadly recovered. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index has gained 12% since January and has rebounded 60% from its March lows. Real estate values also have increased, so many consumers should be ready to splurge if they manage to get through the crisis with their jobs intact. While business travel may ultimately be reshaped by video conferencing, markets still may underestimate the near-term demand for travel and entertainment, Singh said.
Brief: There were no cocktail franks or elbows to bump into at Monday night’s Wall Street Dinner. “That was so 2019,” Lloyd Blankfein said as he kicked off a virtual version of the annual benefit for the UJA-Federation of New York, a Jewish philanthropy. For decades, the event has been a power gathering of major figures on Wall Street, their colleagues and juniors. It has long been one of the biggest fundraisers in the country, with this year’s tally at $31 million so far. That’s a lot of cocktail franks, and while they’re the most popular item at any party, Blankfein made fun of the guests who might be missing them, or the platters of sushi, egg rolls and carved meats that are menu staples of the event at its usual midtown hotel venue… Addressing about 1,500 guests, Blankfein talked about what Covid has wrought, how we’ll recover and the important role UJA has to play. “The pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have made so many ordinarily vulnerable people even more so and for those on the edge, pushed them over,” Blankfein said. “Hundreds of thousands of people in our city can’t put food on the table, they’ve lost their jobs, they’re struggling to survive.” During the pandemic, UJA has distributed $52 million in emergency aid. It’s opening hubs for social services in Queens, Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, Long Island and Westchester County.
Brief : National lockdowns, closed borders and travel restrictions have helped drive up enquiries for second passports, citizenships and overseas residencies by more than 50% year-on-year. International finance advisory firm deVere Group, which has more than 100,000 clients globally, reports that this highly unusual year has seen demand for its residency and citizen service "skyrocket." The majority of enquiries are from high-net-worth individuals from the US, India, South Africa, Russia, the Middle East and East Asia who are seeking alternative options in Europe and the Commonwealth. Nigel Green, the founder and CEO of deVere Group, said: "Previously, a second passport, citizenship or residency were regarded by many as the ultimate luxury item; a status symbol like yachts, supercars and original artwork. "While this still remains the case, there's also been a shift due to the pandemic. "Now, second citizenship or overseas residency are increasingly becoming not just a ‘nice to have accessory' but a ‘must have.' "Whether it be for personal reasons, such as to remain with loved ones overseas or be able to visit them, or for business reasons, a growing number of people are seeking ways to secure their freedom of movement as they have faced travel restrictions which are, typically, based on citizenship." He continues: "The pandemic has served as a major catalyst for demand which skyrocketed this year. It has focused minds to secure that second passport or elite residency.
Brief: Rhenman & Partners Asset Management says it is closing its Rhenman Global Opportunities L/S strategy and intends to return capital back to investors. The fund – a global equity-based strategy which trades long and short across all industries and sectors, with a focus on value-oriented companies – has struggled with performance throughout 2020. The strategy, which has an annual return target of 7-8 per cent - is down more than 23 per cent over the 10-month period since the start of this year. In a statement, the Stockholm-based firm – known for its healthcare-focused investments – thanked all those investors who had been invested in the Global Opportunities vehicle. “The decision to liquidate the sub-fund Rhenman Global Opportunities L/S is primarily because the value of the sub-fund’s total net assets is deemed to be the minimum level for the sub-fund to be operated in an economically efficient manner,” the firm said. “In addition, the preconditions for raising capital to the sub-fund are not deemed to be in place.” While the Stockholm-based hedge fund manager - led by founding partner and chief investment officer Henrik Rhenman - is best known for its Rhenman Healthcare Equity Long/Short flagship fund, which trades a range of pharmaceutical, biotech, and med-tech stocks, the Global Opportunities strategy has a much broader market focus.
Brief: Calls for tighter regulation on the EUR1.4 trillion European money market funds sector have been called “misguided” by the industry, which disputes the claims that central bank intervention prevented a fund liquidity crisis in March. The coronavirus pandemic caused a “dash for cash” among investors in March, with many companies and funds that were holding illiquid assets, such as real estate and corporate debt, drawing on money market funds for short-term funding. Euro area money market funds suffered outflows of nearly 8 per cent of assets under management in one week from 13 to 20 March, according to data from the ECB. Central banks’ injection of billions of euros in bond-buying schemes and market support has been credited with allowing money markets to continue providing liquidity throughout the crisis. In November, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said that “further reforms of money market funds are needed” in order to address shortcomings in the fund management sector’s ability to cope with shocks. “We have identified a number of priority areas that funds and supervisors should focus on to address potential liquidity risks in the fund sector,” said ESMA’s chairman Steven Maijoor. Policymakers in the US have also recently urged a review of the regulations on money market funds, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the non-bank financial sector needs a stronger regulatory framework after the pandemic.
Brief: Eighty-five per cent of pension schemes believe that the financial markets will have a W-shaped recovery, according to research by Amundi and Create-Research. The survey of 158 respondents from 17 pension markets across the public and private sectors, collectively managing €1.96trn of assets, found that pension funds value portfolio resilience above everything else. The report highlighted the “toxic” side effects that central banks’ and governments’ policy, in response to the pandemic, has had on pension schemes. This includes increased liabilities and dwindling incomes from low-interest rates. Alongside the market meltdown in March 2020, these have ravaged funding ratios worldwide, the report noted. The W-shaped, or accordion-shaped recovery, predicted by pension schemes are both volatile by nature. Most respondents felt it was likely that central banks will lose their independence from their governments (84 per cent) and inflation will follow deflation after the current crisis is over (77 per cent). Finally, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe asset returns will be lower this decade than the previous ones (90 per cent). Commenting, Create-Research professor Amin Rajan, said: “Assessing the macroeconomic damage of Covid-19 is akin to looking through a kaleidoscope: different images appear with each turn of the dial. However, one thing is certain: the longer the pandemic lasts, the greater the economic damage to pension plans.”
Brief: The recent stock market “exuberance” sparked off by breakthroughs in Covid-19 vaccine trials may give way to disappointment next year, says Argonaut Capital CEO and CIO Barry Norris, who continues to build short positions in a number of drug companies, including AstraZeneca, amid continued uncertainty over efficacy and dosage in its trial process. Norris, who runs the UK firm’s Argonaut Absolute Return equity long/short hedge fund, has taken a negative stance on several pharmaceutical stocks this year as the hunt for an effective Covid-19 treatment heated up. He is maintaining his bearish stance on the recent Covid-19 vaccine announcements, and believes a market recovery may not be as smooth or as quick as hoped by investors. “At the risk of being obviously non-consensual, I think that the market reaction to the vaccines was a group-think reaction. It’s just totally illogical to see this as a silver bullet,” Norris told Hedgeweek on Monday. “To price in a back-to-normal for the global economy next year, which is essentially what the market did in November, to my mind is incredibly risky because most of the recovery potential is already priced in,” he continued.
Brief: Covid-19 is predicted to cause a sea-change for pension fund investing, mainly in the area of private markets and ESG. Schemes are expected to seek private markets for greater portfolio resilience, and invest in ESG now that Covid-19 has made more companies realise they “need a social licence to operate”. Meanwhile, global equities will be sought as pension funds try to plug funding gaps. Portfolio resilience is the chief prize for schemes, with “anti-fragility” the key concern, according to Professor Amin Rajan (pictured), whose latest research has just been published. Three quarters of schemes surveyed said they will target private markets to achieve custom-built resilience, whereas “high-quality cash flow compounders” among global equities will top the asset allocation choice for 76% of respondents looking to build antifragility into their portfolios. The research was published by Professor Rajan’s Create-Research consultancy and asset manager Amundi. It has 158 respondents from pension funds in 17 markets managing nearly €2 trillion in assets.
Brief : Dealmakers are on track to end 2020 with a flourish, having recovered much of the ground lost to the coronavirus pandemic earlier in the year. Companies have announced $760 billion of acquisitions so far in the fourth quarter, the highest for this point in the period since 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. November has been the busiest month of the year so far by number of deals, the data show. The tally got a boost Monday with financial data giant S&P Global Inc.’s takeover of IHS Markit Ltd. for about $39 billion in stock, the year’s second-biggest transaction. The latest series of megadeals, added to the record third-quarter haul of $993 billion, is helping volumes recover after the Covid-19 crisis triggered a steep decline in the first half of the year. The value of M&A announced this year is now down just 13%, compared with the 42% decline through the end of June. Most of this year’s biggest deals have come in the past few months, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s $35 billion takeover of chipmaker Xilinx Inc. agreed in October. Other major transactions announced recently include billionaire Li Ka-shing’s sale of his European wireless towers to Cellnex Telecom SA for about 10 billion euros ($12 billion) and the 7.2 billion-pound ($9.6 billion) purchase of blue-chip British insurer RSA Insurance Group Plc.
Brief: Substantive Research, a research discovery and research spend analytics provider for the buy-side, has published a survey into how asset managers have changed their approach to research payments during Covid-19. The findings indicate that the value asset managers place on one-to-one interactions with analysts has fallen by 47 per cent since the pandemic began and all physical meetings became virtual. Group meetings fared only slightly better, with the rates paid for virtual as opposed to face-to-face meetings dropping by 35 per cent. This is despite the appetite for research increasing and analyst engagement rising over the same period of time. The drop in value applies to asset managers that agree annual all-in prices at the beginning of the year, as well as those that value and pay for research after consumption. The survey also indicates that from the start of the Covid-19 crisis, 40 per cent of asset management firms who agreed a total research payment in 2020 have since recalculated and reduced their payments to providers in light of market uncertainty and structural changes in research consumption. Annual research budgets can vary greatly depending on the size of the firm, from USD1 million-USD50 million-plus for the largest asset managers. Analyst interactions make up 50-70 per cent of research budgets with one-to-one meetings as the main driver of those payments.
Brief: The U.S. economy seems to be holding up despite a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, clouding the case for more monetary stimulus, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Thomas Barkin said. ‘’It’s hard to find a huge drop in the real-time data,” Barkin told reporters Monday in a press briefing before a University of South Carolina virtual speech. “I’m thinking about credit-card spending which I get to see every week. It really hasn’t taken a step back yet.” The Fed’s monthly asset purchases of $120 billion already are providing a pretty strong stimulus to the economy, in addition to near-zero interest rates, Barkin said. The Federal Open Market Committee is considering changes to its asset program, including new guidance, the minutes of its last meeting showed. “I’m intrigued by what the Bank of Canada has done in terms of duration extension,” Barkin said. “I think that is an interesting technique if we decide the economy needs some more stimulus.” Last month the Bank of Canada made a technical adjustment to its bond purchase program, scaling back the buying of government bonds while shifting purchases to longer-term securities. Yet with long-term U.S. Treasury yields below 1%, a move to push down rates further might have little effect, he said.
Brief: The ICE BofA MOVE Index, which tracks expectations of volatility in Treasuries, is again languishing near all-time lows after a spike in March was quelled by U.S. Federal Reserve intervention. But a handful of fund managers, and some major banks, warn of the risk of a spike in inflation next year that could spur losses for bond funds and more volatility before the Fed steps back in, or eventually even change the central bank’s stance. Nancy Davis, who manages the Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility and Inflation Hedge ETF, said she has seen a jump in interest in recent weeks from investors worried about the impact of rebound in some of the consumer and asset prices quashed by this year’s crisis. She argues that while stock markets have accounted for COVID-19 vaccines spurring a swift recovery in 2021, debt market indicators of inflation have not budged, leaving bondholders exposed if headline price growth moves. “Equities already seem to be pricing this in, but the rates market hasn’t,” Davis told the Reuters Global Markets Forum (GMF) last week. “In the U.S., we are likely to get fiscal stimulus from the new administration combined with the loose monetary policy that could push inflation higher, it is probably an underpriced risk at this point,” she added.
Brief: With the global economy dogged by so much uncertainty, pension investors find themselves on a journey into the unknown and now prize portfolio resilience above all else, according to a new report published today by CREATE-Research and the largest European asset manager, Amundi. The report surveyed 158 respondents from 17 pension markets across public and private sectors, collectively managing EUR1.96 trillion of assets. It aims to shed light on how pension plans worldwide are responding as the world economy struggles to recover from what is the economic equivalent of a massive cardiac arrest. The extraordinary policy response by central banks and their governments was timely and vital. But it has also inflicted toxic side effects on pension solvency via ballooning liabilities and plunging incomes from zero-bound interest rates. Alongside the market meltdown in March 2020, these have ravaged funding ratios worldwide. According to 85 per cent of respondents, financial markets will have a W- shaped or an accordion-shaped recovery: both are highly volatile by nature. Most respondents felt it was likely that central banks will lose their independence from their governments (84 per cent) and inflation will follow deflation after the current crisis is over (77 per cent). Finally, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe asset returns will be lower this decade than the previous ones (90 per cent). Professor Amin Rajan of CREATE-Research, who led the project, said: “Assessing the macroeconomic damage of Covid-19 is akin to looking through a kaleidoscope: different images appear with each turn of the dial. However, one thing is certain: the longer the pandemic lasts, the greater the economic damage to Pension plans.”
Brief: People will likely return to the office more quickly than expected and that will help boost the price of some commercial real estate, according to J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Investors may be making a mistake by extrapolating the future from the current situation with lots of working from home due to Covid-19, according to Anton Pil, global head of alternatives at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, part of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Top malls worldwide should see a faster-than-expected rebound in traffic, he said, and there’s an overshoot in expectations about how many people will want the status quo versus returning to the office. “I’m expecting a pretty significant rebound in valuation,” Pil said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Financing terms are at some of the lowest levels that we’ve ever seen, and the income generation continues to be quite strong, at least if you own top-notch offices in strong locations.” Urban centers have been able to survive previous pandemics and will do so again this time, Pil said. He pointed to the co-working trend as evidence that even when people could work from home they found there was value in being around others. However, investors are taking things slowly at this point, with commercial real estate dealmaking in the third quarter far below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from CBRE Group Inc. and Real Capital Analytics Inc. Pil also said that easy monetary policy and available financing means that it’s harder to tell which companies have simply been hurt by the pandemic and which have business models that just aren’t viable.
Brief :As Canadians lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses shuttered, the country’s richest got richer. A new report by Canadians for Tax Fairness reveals Canada’s top 44 billionaires grew their fortunes by $53 billion from April to October, or by more than 28 per cent. Only one of them, Michael Lee-Chin of AIC Investments, didn’t maintain or increase wealth. “While millions of households are struggling to survive through the pandemic, our top billionaires have made out like bandits, including some who have cut pandemic pay for their front-line workers,” said Toby Sanger, economist and director of Canadians for Tax Fairness. “As Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland prepares to table the government’s fall economic statement and consider ways to pay for the crisis and recovery, she should go to where the money is.” The period coincides with a massive rally off the bottom for stocks and a surprisingly strong run for real estate, but the trend has been playing out over the past decade. The report found the number of Canadian billionaires and their wealth has more than doubled. Between 2010 to 2019, only the top 1 per cent increased their share of total wealth, while it fell for everyone else.
Brief: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expects large swathes of the public across major developed economies to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus by the middle of next year, driving a “sharp pickup” in global growth. The bank’s economists predict that half the U.K. public will be vaccinated in March, with the U.S. and Canada reaching that threshold a month later. The European Union, Japan and Australia are due to follow in May. “We expect large shares of the population to be vaccinated” toward the end of the second quarter, economists Daan Struyven and Sid Bhushan wrote in a report to clients. With production increasing, the vaccination rate is set to exceed 70% in the autumn. The best hopes for ending the pandemic, which has sunk the global economy into its deepest contraction since the Great Depression, rest on deployment of a vaccine. While experimental shots have produced positive trial results, drug makers and governments face logistical hurdles to successfully vaccinate hundreds of millions of people around the world. Should some of the vaccines in development not prove successful, supply -- particularly in the EU -- would rise more slowly, the economists wrote.
Brief: Private credit managers will provide more than USD100 billion of financing during 2020 as economic uncertainty and low interest rates are reducing the attractiveness of traditional fixed income assets, according to research published by the Alternative Credit Council and Allen & Overy. The ACC’s 6th 'Financing the Economy' research paper showed that 88 percent of firms expect to continue raising capital for their existing strategies, and 98 per cent of businesses plan to raise capital for some form of private credit strategy in 2021. According to Sanjeev Dhuna, a London-based Allen & Overy partner and head of the firm’s direct lending practice, direct lenders are increasingly being considered by borrowers and sponsors alongside underwritten and bank club financings. “The direct lenders offer speed of execution and certainty of pricing, and in recent months we have seen these lenders play in the structured financing market, offering liquidity for delayed exits in order to return cash to investors,” he commented and added: “the direct lenders are a staple part of the mid-market financing scene and they have an increased presence in the large cap market.” The paper, which surveyed 49 firms with an estimated private credit AuM of USD431 billion, notes that Covid-19 will highlight differences in origination, documentation standards and risk management within the sector.
Brief: Markets look set to remain in a “sweet spot” of heightened volatility – driven by Covid-19 uncertainty and the fallout from the US presidential election – offering a wealth of opportunities for alpha-focused strategies. New research by JP Morgan Asset Management shows that current above-average volatility levels offer an “optimal environment” for certain alpha-based funds to capitalise on mispricings amid choppy trading and high dispersion, in contrast with more mixed prospects for equity and credit beta exposures. The emerging investment landscape heading into 2021 offers a boon to a beleaguered hedge fund sector which in recent years has had to contend with patchy performances and continued investor aversion. Prevailing volatility levels - between 15 and the early 30s on the VIX – are creating particularly strong trading opportunities for relative value, quantitative, and macro-based strategies, which can tap into the increased dispersion across markets, explained Karim Leguel, international head of investment specialists for hedge funds and alternative credit solutions at JP Morgan Asset Management. “We see more dispersion coming up in terms of different stock dispersion and different stock behaviour, so that’s beneficial particularly for those strategies that trade short-to-medium dispersion between stocks,” Leguel told Hedgeweek.
Brief: This year, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have resulted in a refocus of priorities in the investment management industry, not just as businesses but also as responsible employers. This refocus is in line with the purpose and ethos of Investment20/20.With Covid-19, we are halfway through a second national lockdown in England, and well into the youth employment crisis. Recent research from the London School of Economics shows a staggering one in ten 16 to 25-year-olds have lost their job since the start of the pandemic - double the rate of those over 25 - and if that was not bad enough, 58% of young people have also experienced a fall in their earnings too compared with 42% across the rest of the working population. It is precisely because of this that the investment management industry must demonstrate to young people that their skills and perspectives are valuable to our industry. As the careers and talent solution for the investment management industry, Investment20/20 has not been immune to the impacts of Covid-19. To ensure our mission of building a diverse pipeline of talent for our industry was not knocked off course by the pandemic, we adapted quickly and innovated to a changing operating environment, both in March and more recently at the start of the new academic year in September.
Brief: The European asset management industry is back on track for another year of growth, according to industry body The European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA) – with assets under management rebounding strongly after being hit by the coronavirus crisis in the first quarter of 2020. In its yearly report, EFAMA estimates that total assets under management in Europe stood at EUR25.8 trillion at the end of 2019, a figure that fell by 11 per cent to EUR23 trillion by the end of the first quarter of 2020. A rebound of 8.3 per cent in the second quarter took assets back up to EUR24.9 trillion. “Thanks to the positive news on the Covid-19 vaccine front, it is likely that the value of assets under management will reach another historical height by the end of 2020”, comments Bernard Delbecque, senior director for economics and research at EFAMA. The amount of assets managed within Europe has more than doubled in a decade, starting from EUR10.8 trillion in 2008 and going up to EUR23.1 trillion by the end of 2018. EFAMA’s report also looked at the asset management industry’s contribution to the real economy, and found that asset managers in Europe held an estimated 25 per cent of all debt securities and 30 per cent of listed shares issued by Eurozone residents at the end of 2018.
Brief : European investor confidence fell to its lowest level this year due to Brexit concerns and an EU budget impasse, while risk appetite overall increased at a global level. The latest State Street Investor Confidence Index saw European investors register a reading of 92, down 1.8 points on the revised total for October, marking a second consecutive month of declining sentiment. Any reading on the scale below 100 means investors are selling more risk assets than buying. Marvin Loh, senior macro strategist at State Street Global Markets, said: “Risk appetite fell to its lowest levels of the year in Europe, as surging virus cases resulted in another round of lockdowns and restrictions.” He added: “Ongoing Brexit negotiations and an EU budget impasse further sapped investor confidence, although most European bourses are set to report double-digit gains for the month.” At a global level, however, investor confidence overall was on the rise, increasing to 90.7 – up over 10 points on October’s final total. This, according to State Street, was primarily driven by a “jump” in the North American confidence index to 87.4 points. The Asian investor confidence index also increased, rising from 91.8 to 95.1.
Brief: Through the use of repeated COVID-19 testing, Europe and the U.S. are going to establish the first quarantine-free air corridors since the coronavirus pandemic led countries to isolate arrivals. Delta and Alitalia will be operating the flights from next month. However, with both the U.S. and Europe maintaining heavy restrictions on who can enter from the other side, these are still just trials of procedures that are only likely to be widely rolled out in the summer of 2021. From December 19, Delta said Thursday, it will start operating test flights between Atlanta and Rome in which passengers do not have to go into quarantine on either end. However, they will have to take a series of tests to make this possible. Those travelling from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Rome-Fiumicino International Airport will first need to take a high-assurance PCR test, up to 72 hours before departure. If the result is negative, they'll get a rapid test at the Atlanta airport, and another on arrival in Rome. Travelling in the other direction will require a rapid test at Rome-Fiumicino.
Brief: As coronavirus infections in Japan spark increasing alarm, the government has left investors guessing on how much money it will pump into the economy through a third extra budget. This presents a huge challenge for the bond market trying to gauge how much additional debt will be issued in the current fiscal year through March, along with which maturities will be in focus and the likely impact on yields. Primary dealers told the government that the market has the capacity to absorb more 20- and 40-year bonds, an official at the Finance Ministry said after a meeting on Thursday. Here are some of the main scenarios seen by interest-rate strategists in Tokyo. The issuance pipeline for this fiscal year is already at a record 212.3 trillion yen ($2 trillion), which puts pressure on the government to limit additional sales, if it can. But the risk of a big jump is very real if virus infections increase significantly. Tokyo last week raised its Covid-19 alert to the highest of four levels amid a resurgence of the pathogen across the country -- a spike that’s come after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on officials to prepare the third extra budget.
Brief: A recent surge in COVID-19 cases is derailing Canadian banks’ plans to bring employees back to offices, with one lender even asking some workers who had already returned to go back home. Canada is now facing about 5,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, prompting provinces and cities including Toronto -- home to the country’s five biggest banks -- to implement new restrictions to limit the virus spread. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently returned to working from home in an attempt to set a national tone of caution. Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce are extending work-from-home plans for some employees until at least April, while National Bank of Canada is prolonging such measures for corporate-office staff until the end of June. Toronto-Dominion Bank hasn’t set a firm date for a return, but said in a memo last week that most people working from home won’t come back “until at least the spring.” Royal Bank of Canada even encouraged employees who had gone back to offices to return to working at home as of Nov. 16, according to a memo from Chief Human Resources Officer Helena Gottschling. Canada’s second-largest lender by assets said it will continue pre-screening and requiring masks and distancing for those who can’t work remotely.
Brief: The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic conditions have presented a “once-in-a-decade” opportunity for distressed debt investors, according to SVPGlobal. The high yield, leveraged loan, and direct lending markets in the United States are worth $4.5 trillion, according to a new paper from the distressed debt and private equity firm. With a projected 10 percent default rate for 2020, distressed investors will have many options to choose from. “If you use the default rate as a proxy, we think that for us and people who do what we do, we are going to be feasting for the next two or three years,” said Victor Khosla, SVPGlobal’s founder and chief investment officer, by phone. Khosla’s $9.8 billion SVPGlobal, previously known as Strategic Value Partners, has the dry powder available to do it: the firm closed a $1.7 billion distressed debt fund in late October, Institutional Investor previously reported. When the pandemic came stateside in March, a wave of debt holders unloaded their now-distressed investments following downgrades. “In almost all markets, the first 60 days of the pandemic were bedlam,” Khosla said. Then, the Federal Reserve stepped in with an open market buying program that injected liquidity into the debt markets, slowing the sale of debt.
Brief: The continued presence of the Covid-19 virus combined with the winding down or potential withdrawal of state support schemes is likely to trigger a significant increase in European corporate defaults and insolvencies. This is the finding of a report from S&P Global Ratings which analysed the European corporate debt market and concluded that the speculative grade default rate will likely double next year from its current rate of just below 5% to around 8%. The high number of corporates accessing government-sponsored support programmes has seen corporate debt levels rise substantially in Europe, by 2.5% in Germany and as high as 11.9%. However, with a vaccine in sight, the scale of the European debt problem will only become visible once public vaccination programmes commence and governments consequently scale back their support, states S&P. For example, at the end of October the UK government announced that it would wind up its employment furlough scheme at the end of March 2021. Furthermore, the complexity of these various support measures, such as furlough schemes and tax holidays, in place makes it difficult to get a full picture of the additional debt burden on corporates' balance sheets and of how sustainable this burden will be, the report adds.
Brief :Fund flows at the largest emerging market bond managers by assets under management (AUM) have struggled in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic having taken a toll on higher-risk investments, according to the latest issue of The Cerulli Edge – European Monthly Product Trends.Overall, European AUM in emerging market bond funds – EUR275.8 billion (USD327.5 billion) as of September 2020 – have so far failed to match the heights of 2019. AUM ended last year at EUR314.2 billion, meaning September’s position represents a steep 12.2 per cent decline. This experience contrasts with those of the wider markets, which have generally seen a resurgence since March’s downturn. “Emerging market bond flows have fluctuated in Europe over the past few years, registering net withdrawals of EUR19.4 billion in 2015 – when currency volatility and the fact that some countries were struggling to service their debt meant investors were unwilling to be over-exposed – before recovering to deliver record inflows of EUR60.6 billion in 2017,” says Fabrizio Zumbo, associate director, European asset management research at Cerulli Associates. But despite 2020 having been a largely bleak year for many of Europe’s prominent emerging market managers, some have seen their offerings prosper. Some managers are betting on a recovery – a spate of launches have occurred this year with a particular emphasis on sustainable investing.
Brief: Covid-19 has stalled the emergence of new credit fund investment strategies and has pushed managers to focus on their existing credit platform products, according to a new report from global law firm Ropes & Gray. The report, “Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Covid-19 Credit Fund Platforms 2020” analyses the responses of 100 senior-level executives at US- and UK-based credit funds. To get a sense for how credit fund managers are shaping their investment strategies in light of the economic upheaval and uncertain market conditions brought about by Covid-19, executives were surveyed twice: prior to the introduction of lockdown restrictions and again in the midst of the pandemic. Early in 2020, 50 per cent of managers stated they were considering launching new investment strategies. Six months later, only 20 per cent were, reflecting a distinct shift away from pre-Covid-19 enthusiasm. Some 23 per cent responded that they were closing less popular strategies, and in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, managers and investors alike are more focused on existing strategies. Commenting on the overall findings, Ropes & Gray asset management partner and head of the credit funds practice, Jessica O’Mary, says that despite fund managers’ concerns, credit funds have proven resilient: “There had been some concerns around systematic risk issues with these products, but by-and-large, the system held up pretty well.”
Brief: The S&P 500 is poised to climb 9% between now and the end of 2021 as the anticipated widespread release of a COVID-19 vaccine drives an economic and corporate earnings recovery from the pandemic, according to a Reuters poll of strategists. After a more than 60% recovery from the March lows of the outbreak to a record high on Nov. 16, the benchmark index is now up about 10% in the year to date. The benchmark S&P 500 will finish 2021 at 3,900, a 9% gain from its close Monday of 3,577.59, according to the median forecast of 40 strategists polled by Reuters over the last two weeks. The index is expected to end 2020 at 3,600, close to its current level, according to the poll median. Recent evidence of high efficacy rates in experimental COVID-19 vaccines has driven an advance in equities this month, and strategists in the poll cited progress in the vaccine as the main factor behind their forecasts. “They assume a vaccine is widely available starting some time in the second half of 2021,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, which has a 2021 year-end forecast for the S&P 500 of 3,900. With a big pickup in the economy expected to follow, Wall Street is likely “grossly underestimating” next year’s rebound in earnings, said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group in Minneapolis, who sees the S&P 500 ending next year at 4,100. “That’s one thing I think could be a huge driving force,” for stocks, he said.
Brief: Private credit managers are on track to provide some USD100 billion of real economy financing this year, as investors increasingly turned to the sector as a resilient portfolio hedge and diversifier amid equity market ruptures during 2020’s coronavirus pandemic. New research published by the Alternative Credit Council suggests the private credit market has weathered the economic shock brought about by Covid-19, with fund managers now increasingly bullish about the sector’s prospects next year. The sixth annual ‘Financing the Economy’ report - published jointly by the ACC, the private credit affiliate of the Alternative Investment Management Association, and Allen & Overy – surveyed 49 firms globally, with an estimated combined AUM in private credit of USD431 billion. The deep-dive study gauged credit manager outlook, investor sentiment, and market opportunities, and explored an assortment of case studies on how such capital is being deployed. Private credit managers will have provided some USD100 billion to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized business by year-end, in line with 2019’s total lending volume, the research showed – underlining the importance of non-bank lending during the Covid-19 downturn. It found that credit managers are optimistic despite continued economic uncertainty: more than 80 per cent of survey respondents are either ‘somewhat bullish’ or ‘very bullish’ in their appetite to deploy capital over the next 12 months.
Brief: JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s asset management arm expects to expand its ownership of laboratories as part of its effort to position its portfolio for a post-pandemic world. The U.S. will probably see a “re-onshoring” of pharmaceutical production and life-sciences drugs as a result of Covid-19, Anton Pil, global head of alternatives at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told Institutional Investor in a phone interview. “To be prepared the next time around, you probably want to make sure you have a manufacturing and a laboratory capability within your country.” J.P. Morgan Asset Management, which oversaw $2.3 trillion at the end of September, invests in traditional and alternative assets. The investment manager already owns around $500 million to $1 billion of labs in its alternative real estate portfolio, according to Pil. “I expect that to grow quite a bit,” he said. “I can even see that growing into manufacturing areas, as well — not just pure lab space.” The lab properties in JPMorgan’s portfolio are near the most important biotechnology centers in the U.S., including Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and New York, according to a spokesperson for the bank’s asset management business. The assets include real estate under development. In New York, J.P. Morgan Asset Management is redeveloping an old factory near Columbia University into lab and office space, the spokesperson said in an email. In San Diego’s Sorrento Mesa, the asset manager is developing and redeveloping existing office properties into labs.
Brief: Business travel is typically the most lucrative for the leisure and hospitality industry, but the coronavirus pandemic may have changed that forever. Corporate trips taken by Americans contributed $334 billion to the entire travel industry's $1.1 trillion in revenue last year, according to Bank of America research. That revenue dried up when the pandemic hit. “Whenever this [pandemic] is over, we will have practiced for more than one year how to interact across very, very big distances. So, we do expect a structural reduction of the business travel market,” Trivago CEO Axel Hefer told Yahoo Finance Live. Hefer’s comments echo sentiments from business leaders across industries as many major companies re-imagine the future of work. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates predicted in a recent interview that business travel will shrink by 50% and office work will be reduced by a third post-pandemic… Even the most optimistic predictions estimate it will take several years for business travel to return to pre-pandemic levels. According to Bank of America research, corporate travel is unlikely to rebound until 2024.
Brief: Man Group has raised the alarm over elevated risk appetite and potentially hazardous market positioning following the recent seismic factor reversal, with some hedge fund strategies potentially gambling on “prior winners continuing to win”. In a market commentary on Tuesday, the London-listed hedge fund giant pointed to a continued close correlation between hedge funds’ positions and momentum and value factors – a positioning that shows “little sign of shifting after the dramatic factor reversal two weeks ago.” This positioning – coupled with gross and net exposures for equity long/short hedge funds now “comfortably” at five-year highs – suggests “funds remain fully committed to prior winners continuing to win, and markets continuing their march higher,” Ed Cole, managing director, equities at Man GLG, wrote in the company’s weekly ‘View From The Floor’ note. A number of hedge fund strategy types were rocked by the recent sell-off in momentum stocks as investors piled into value companies, a rapid market rotation driven partly by the positive announcements regarding a Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough earlier in the month.
Brief: The biggest private equity firms in the U.S. are unleashing a flurry of new leveraged buyouts and debt-funded dividends, seeking to make up for lost time after staying on the sidelines for much of 2020. From Blackstone Group Inc. to KKR & Co., firms have been pivoting from repairing the balance sheets of companies they own to hunting for new investments and realizing gains on businesses that performed well during the pandemic. North American buyout activity, which was 57% off last year’s pace at the end of June, is now only 32% behind, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Of course, any number of adverse developments -- from a worsening economic outlook to setbacks in Covid-19 vaccine production -- could upend the trend. But with interest rates at record lows, seemingly insatiable demand from bond and loan buyers and almost $1.6 trillion of pent-up cash, industry watchers say the ramp up in deal making might just be getting started. “Private equity firms don’t get paid to sit on cash,” said Harold Varah, global co-head of financial sponsors at RBC Capital Markets. “You’ve seen a tempering of the storm, a desire to deploy capital and a leveraged finance market that has recovered pretty remarkably. All the elements that you need for deal making are there.”
Brief: After more than seven months of investigating the oil price collapse of April 20, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the top futures watchdog, released an interim report Monday outlining the day’s events, but would not provide any definitive reasons for the price plunge, nor any final conclusions or recommendations as to how to prevent a future oil price crash. The report drew immediate criticism from within the CFTC’s own ranks, with Dan Berkovitz, one of the agency’s commissioners, blasting the probe as “incomplete and inadequate.” In an interview late Monday with Institutional Investor, Berkovitz, who pushed hard for the investigation, noted the report merely offers a basic, if detailed, overview of various facts and statistics about the market and trading as oil prices bottomed out, but does not provide the public with any suggestion as to the cause. “Providing statistics that may or may not have contributed to the oil price collapse is not enough,” he said. “That should be just the start of our analysis, not the end. Intelligent readers and members of the public are going to say, ‘What’s my takeaway from this?’ The report makes it impossible to draw any conclusions.”
Brief: Goldman Sachs has cut its US growth forecasts for the next two quarters, pegging their gloomier outlook on the "rapid and broad-based resurgence of the coronavirus." The bank lowered its fourth-quarter gross domestic product forecast to 3.5% from 4.5%. Growth in the first quarter of 2021 will slow to just 1% from the prior estimate of 3.5%, the team added. The third wave of infections and cities' implementation of new lockdown measures cuts into an already weakening economic recovery, economists led by Jan Hatzius said in a note to clients. Data from virus-sensitive sectors show "clear signs of a growing hit," according to the team. The US sits squarely in its worst phase of the coronavirus pandemic yet. New cases totaled 150,098 on Sunday, bringing the 7-day average to 167,568, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Total deaths neared 250,000, and the number of Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19 hit 83,782. "The public health and economic situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, in our view," Goldman said, adding that various high-frequency indicators of consumer activity show an economic slowdown coinciding with "the national deterioration in public health."
Brief: U.S. venture capital funds have raked in record assets this year, despite a global pandemic that was expected to drag down fundraising. On Friday, two Andreessen Horowitz funds closed with a combined $4.5 billion in commitments, bringing the year-to-date fundraising total for the asset class to almost $70 billion, according to PitchBook. “US venture capital funds have raised a combined $69.1 billion in 2020, edging past a 2018 record and defying the odds amid a pandemic-rattled economy,” PitchBook said in a blog post Friday.The record fundraising in U.S. venture capital contrasts with slower asset gathering in other alternative asset classes, including the larger private equity industry. As of the third quarter, private equity funds had raised about $400 billion globally — trailing behind the $481 billion raised over the same period in 2019, according to Preqin data. Other private capital managers, including hard-hit real estate funds, have also struggled to raise money this year, according to Preqin. However, while U.S. venture capital fundraising has hit a new high in terms of total assets, the number of fund closes have plummeted this year. PitchBook reported that just 287 funds have closed so far in 2020, less than half the number that closed during the previous record year of 2018.
Brief: Despite the surge in Covid-19 cases, investors should look past near-term market volatility and buy U.S. stocks, BlackRock Investment Institute said, raising its recommendation to a buy-equivalent rating. “We upgrade U.S. equities to overweight, expecting this market to benefit from both structural growth trends and a potential cyclical upswing during 2021,” said Mike Pyle, global chief investment strategist at BlackRock, in a report published Monday. “Positive vaccine news reinforces our outlook for an accelerated restart during 2021, reducing risks of permanent economic scarring.” Large-cap companies riding structural growth trends and smaller companies geared to a potential cyclical upswing are preferred investment opportunities, Pyle said. He added that the U.S. stock market has a “higher share of quality companies” in sectors with longer-term growth trends, like technology and health care. Investors have honed in on promising progress with Covid-19 vaccines, brushing past rising coronavirus infections across the world that have led to more lockdowns across North America and Europe. The S&P 500 Index is up about 10% this year and is on pace for a 9% gain this month alone.
Brief: Hedge funds that had seen their operational models being disrupted due to Covid pandemic have been relying on outsourcing part of their work to achieve greater efficiency. Many hedge fund managers that saw most of the executives being stranded at home due to the pandemic have been exploring the outsourcing model, especially some part of their work. As per a survey by KPMG, more than 70% of the hedge funds said that outsourcing part of their work may actually be more efficient. An overwhelming 71 percent of respondents agree that the current experience of working remotely has convinced them they could achieve better cost efficiencies if they outsource some of their operations. Approximately one-in-five firms say their outsourcing decision is being influenced by employee health concerns related to returning their own people to the office environment, the KPMG report said. “Many firms also point towards potential cost and business agility benefits of outsourcing. One-in-five firms admit they are moving towards outsourcing additional functions to better manage margin pressures. As one North American manager sensibly noted, “those that get the balance to outsourcing right will be able to scale their costs both during this disruption and going forward,” KPMG report said.
Brief: Mary Erdoes, who runs asset and wealth management at JPMorgan Chase & Co., reckons fund managers are one of the few groups of finance professionals who’ve benefited from the pandemic, given they’ve had more “thinking time” while forced to work from home. “Of all sectors that I think will come back to work in the office fastest, I would put asset management at the end of the list,” she said earlier this month. Many portfolio managers would beg to differ. The lack of interaction with colleagues focused on different asset classes, the increased difficulty of getting trades done, and the risk of junior staffers missing out on day-to-day instruction all make investment professionals as keen as others to get back to their office desks. “I want to go back,” says Chris Bowie, who helps oversee more than $25 billion at TwentyFour Asset Management in London. “I think the lack of a commute does allow more time to read and think, but you lose the over-the-desk ad-hoc interaction, which, in my experience, often leads to bigger discussions on themes and then asset allocation.” That interplay with teams across asset classes is a valuable source of investment insight that’s difficult to replicate, says Jamie Stuttard, head of global macro fixed income at Robeco Group, which manages more than $180 billion. Although lockdown has in some cases improved connections within teams, the cross-pollination of ideas has taken a big hit. “The casual ‘coffee machine’ interaction is gone,” he says.
Brief: Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said Sunday that the New York-London travel corridor will be "complicated" due to coronavirus restrictions, as airlines look to revive transatlantic travel. Bastian said that it would be easier to reopen a route to almost any other European city than London, citing the quarantine requirements in the U.K. as well as the lack of reliance on tourism. “I think you will find on the continent several countries that are more open,” Bastian told the Financial Times, adding, “I think New York-London is complicated.” Domestic flights in the U.S. have revived faster than international travel, with Thanksgiving to see a bump – though, Bastian projects that flight volume would be around 35%-40% of last year’s level. That suppressed level could continue throughout Christmas and the new year because of the recent surge in coronavirus cases seen in most states across the U.S. Airlines have attempted a number of pilot programs to develop better safety and confidence in air travel amid the pandemic: United Airlines converted its United Club inside Newark airport into an on-site testing facility, intending to test passengers before the flight departs. United touted the four-week test run as “a good proof-of-concept for governments around the world,” but no one has yet jumped to replicate it.
Brief: Blackstone Group Inc. is doubling down on Asia, seeking to raise at least $5 billion for its second private equity fund focused on the region, people familiar with the matter said. The U.S. investment firm has started marketing the new vehicle to potential investors, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It’s targeting more than double the size of its first Asia buyout fund, which closed at about $2.3 billion in 2018. Blackstone is raising ever-larger pools of capital as dislocations from the coronavirus pandemic offer up more deal opportunities. President Jon Gray has vowed to increase the proportion of Asian investment in its total business, which stood at just under 10% two years ago. In 2018, it raised $7.1 billion for Asia real estate investments. The firm joins KKR & Co., which is in the process of raising at least $12.5 billion for its next Asia fund. TPG, Warburg Pincus and Baring Private Equity Asia raised larger amounts of money earmarked for investment in the region, totaling $15 billion since early 2019.
Brief: Private equity is flush with even more cash waiting to be invested than before the pandemic shut down large swaths of the economy. Buyout funds had $853 billion in dry powder as of the third quarter, with more than half of that in the industry’s largest funds, according to Ernst & Young’s third-quarter report on private equity trends. Funds that were specifically set up to invest in distressed deals had $140 billion, or 15 percent more to work with than they did at the beginning of the year. Total funds raised in 2020 through the third quarter have decreased by 19 percent, to $524 billion, with the absolute number of funds falling by 28 percent from the same time last year. But that’s still in line with fundraising trends over the past five years, according to EY. With most communication still happening through Zoom or Microsoft Teams, investors are handing more money to the funds they already know. That means the average fund size grew by 9 percent as of the third quarter. As a result, smaller funds without well-known brand names need to figure out how to get in front of investors. The star-studded list of mega funds includes CVC Capital Partners’ $24 billion buyout fund and Brookfield's $20 billion infrastructure product. Investors also handed over $18 billion to Silver Lake Partners for another buyout fund. There were also surprises along the way. When markets cratered beginning in March, industry observers were concerned that investors would fail to make their capital commitments to private equity funds.