Equities Take Rising Fed Funds Rate in Stride
As expected, the Fed decided to raise short-term interest rates by 25 bps, bringing the Fed Funds Rate to 1.00%. Equity markets took it in stride, rising over the first two weeks of May. The month was characterized by a rapid sell-off mid-month; however, global markets quickly recovered the lost ground. The French elections provided a spark for international assets, as they continued to outpace the U.S., based on stronger local returns and a weaker dollar vs. the euro and the British pound.
The yield curve1 flattened, as the long end rallied over the month. The short end of the curve was mostly unchanged. The credit spread2 bounced around, before settling a little lower.
On the economic front, the second estimate of first-quarter real gross domestic product (GDP) was above diminished expectations at 1.2%. Headline inflation went down to 2.2%. Employment gains were positive and were above expectations. Consumer confidence dropped from elevated levels.
Hedge funds had positive returns, with the broad index (HFRI Hedge Fund of Funds Index) up for the month. Four out of the eight strategies had positive returns, with Event Driven, Merger Arb, Relative Value, and Macro leading the way. Equity Market Neutral and Equity Hedge were the weakest-performing strategies.3
Key Economic Data4
- The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the “second” estimate of real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.2% in the first quarter of 2017. Real GDP grew by 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2016, 3.5% in the third quarter, 1.4% in the second quarter, and 0.8% in the first quarter.
- Headline inflation (U.S. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers seasonally adjusted (CPI-U SA)) was 0.2%. Core inflation (CPI-Ex Food and Energy) was 0.1%. For the last 12 months, the CPI-U NSA was 2.2%, and the CPI-Ex Food and Energy was 1.9%.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. BLS) announced that non-farm jobs increased by 211,000, after adding a revised 79,000 jobs in the prior month. Private sector payroll employment added 194,000 jobs, following a revised increase of 77,000 jobs in the prior month. The unemployment rate was 4.4%. The underemployment rate was 8.6%. The labor force participation rate was 63% last month.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau jointly announced that sales of new single-family houses were 569,000, a change of -11.4%. Housing starts were 1,172K, a change of -2.6%. Building permits were 1,229K units, a change of -2.5%. Existing home sales were 5.57 million units, a change of -2.3%.
- The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® was 117.9.
1. A yield curve is a curve on a graph in which the yield of fixed-interest securities is plotted against the length of time they have to run to maturity.
2. A credit spread is the difference in yield between two bonds of similar maturity, but different credit quality.
3. IndexIQ and FactSet as of 05/31/17.
4. IndexIQ and FactSet as of 05/31/17.
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All investments are subject to market risk, including possible loss of principal. Diversification cannot assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market. Investors cannot invest directly in a benchmark.
Convertible arbitrage is a market-neutral investment strategy often employed by hedge funds that involves the simultaneous purchase of convertible securities and the short sale of the same issuer’s common stock.
A Global Macro strategy is a strategy that bases its holdings, such as long and short positions in various equity, fixed-income, currency, commodities, and futures markets, primarily on the overall economic and political views of various countries, or their macroeconomic principles.
Event Driven investing is designed to capture price movement generated by a significant pending corporate event, such as a merger, corporate restructuring, liquidation, bankruptcy, or reorganization.
Equity Hedge investing buys stocks that are undervalued and short sells stocks that are overvalued. This strategy may commonly employ variable exposure as well as the use of leverage.
Distressed securities are securities over companies or government entities that are experiencing financial or operational distress, default, or are under bankruptcy.
HFRI Hedge Fund of Funds Index – Fund of Funds invest with multiple managers through funds or managed accounts. The strategy designs a diversified portfolio of managers with the objective of significantly lowering the risk (volatility) of investing with an individual manager. The Fund of Funds manager has discretion in choosing which strategies to invest in for the portfolio.
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