Portfolio Strength in Diversification

Recent market volatility notwithstanding, 2016 has been a “relatively good” investing year. This according to Zachary Karabell, head of global strategy at Envestnet, in an article for Barron’s. His opinion, however, is based on performance of a diversified portfolios as opposed to “esoteric” strategies such as “those of many hedge funds.” The performance of assets this year, he writes, “should be a sign that markets are stable and performing decently, rather than a harbinger of bad times ahead.”

While Karabell says there is a widespread belief that 2015 was an awful investment year, he argues that while many lost money the year wasn’t disastrous. Results may have appeared more lackluster given a “very decent” 2014 for passive and index funds. In 2016, he writes, a basic diversified portfolio of 60% equities and 40% bonds returned nearly 7%. Other than a bout of uncertainty in January and early February, Karabell argues that the year has been “steady and quietly strong.”

The strategist asserts that, through the end of August, nearly every major asset class is showing gains. He clarifies, however, that investors are reaping the rewards of diversification depending on the how different classes are weighted. That said, Karabell questions the cautious and gloomy outlook of many well-known investors (referring to Jeffrey Gundlach and Carl Icahn among others), noting that economic fundamentals are improving in many of the world’s economies “albeit slowly and not impressively.”

Karabell doesn’t necessarily refute the positions of the naysayers and concedes that they may be “right about looming dangers.” If so, he says, those diversified portfolios that are doing well this year will lose money. However, he argues, “unless we are facing a global financial meltdown, they will not lose as much as those concentrated in one sector or another.”