Saxo Stronghold EUR – Q4 2019 commentary

Instruments traded
ETFs
Asset classesGlobal equities, bonds and alternatives
Investment styleQuantitative portfolio management
Quarterly return+1.0% (net of fees)
Annualised volatility (since inception)4.4%

Market overview

While the third quarter of 2019 offered volatility as the US-China trade tensions escalated, the fourth quarter marked a ceasefire with a Phase-One deal. The trade deal, combined with improving economic activity numbers, lifted equity markets in general. Despite being exposed to equities, the portfolio did not get the full benefit as the exposure was mainly in minimum volatility stocks that declined somewhat as the relative safe-haven in equity markets was no longer needed by investors.

During the fourth quarter, the Stronghold EUR model reduced its exposure to minimum volatility stocks and generally increased its exposure to equities, as the expected returns across equities improved and volatility declined further. 

Despite a slightly disappointing ending to the year, the total return in 2019 ended at 11% after fees. The yearly performance was much better than the benchmark that only gained 8.3% in 2019. In the first month of 2020, the Stronghold EUR portfolio is already ahead of the benchmark, but with the coronavirus in China worsening every day, the quarter could become quite volatile. The Stronghold model, however, should be able to swiftly react to changing volatility conditions. 

 
 

Portfolio performance

Oct–1.5%
Nov+0.7%
Dec–0.2%
2019 in total11.0%
Inception (01.07.2017)
10.9%

(Performance is net of all fees)

  • The best performing position has been the exposure to European small cap stocks, contributing 0.2%-pts over the quarter. 

  • The portfolio’s exposure to inflation-linked bonds was the worst performer over the quarter, contributing -0.8%-pts. During 2019, however, the price of the inflation-linked bond ETF increased by 5.2%.

Portfolio changes

During Q4, the Stronghold EUR portfolio increased its overall exposure to equities by 5%-pts, and the equity allocation has generally shifted from exposure to developed market momentum equities to an exposure to emerging market equities and European small cap equities. The overall allocation change is shown below.

Portfolio weights (%)

Asset class
Asset sub-class
As of 30-09-2019
As of 03-01-2020
Alternative
Global Properties
Listed Private Equity
 0.0
1.8
2.8
1.9
 CreditEM Bonds (USD)*
Global Corp Bonds*
Euro High Yield Bonds
Euro Covered Bonds
0.0
0.0
5.1
8.4
 0.0
1.5
5.2
0.0
Equity
DM Equities*
DM Momentum
DM Minimum Volatility
EM Equities
Europe Small Cap
0.0
9.5
30.9
0.0
0.0
 2.2
0.0
23.2
10.0
9.9
Government
Euro Govt. Bonds 1-3Y
Global Infl-linked Bonds*
Global Govt. Bonds 7-10Y*
0.0
22.4
20.9
 0.0
22.2
20.6
Cash
Cash
0.90.6

 *Hedged into EUR

Outlook

OECD’s global leading indicators have been revised and now show that the global economy went from contraction to recovery phase in September as monetary and fiscal stimulus arrested the economic slowdown. This has probably avoided a global recession, but the recovery is still fragile and the latest coronavirus outbreak in China poses a critical risk to the global recovery as China is 20% of the global economy and basically the world’s manufacturing facility.

As economic activity has improved, equity markets have delivered positive returns. Volatility has also declined through 2019, and as a result, the Stronghold model has increased its equity exposure during the fourth quarter from 40% to 45%. If economic activity continues to expand, the portfolio should experience higher returns amid this increased equity exposure.

The key risk to our outlook is the Chinese coronavirus, which comes with many unknowns and nonlinearities. Higher interest rates will impose losses on the bonds in the portfolio, but the extent of the losses depends on whether rising rates come from inflationary pressure or improving economic activity.

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