Sonders on the Great Rotation, and the Good Ol' Days

Could the pre-financial crisis “glory days” return for U.S stocks? That’s a question that Charles Schwab’s Liz Ann Sonders tackles in recent commentary on Schwab’s site.

Sonders discusses the “great rotation” that some have predicted will occur, in which investors who’ve fled stocks for the perceived safety of bonds will come back to stocks at some point, driving the market higher. Sonders says that bond flows have turned sharply negative in recent months. But she also says that most of the money pulled from bond funds has gone not to stocks, but instead to cash, an indication that investors’ moves were a response to the jump in interest rates over the summer — not the start of a migration from bonds to stocks.

On the bullish side, Sonders notes that the ratio of stocks to bonds as a percentage of household financial assets has been rising and could have a ways more to rise if history is any indication. But the biggest boost for stocks could come from the fiduciary cohort, she says — endowments, pension funds, and other big institutions. They have collectively cut back sharply on their stock allocations in the past decade –and their bonds allocations, as they’ve switched to the alternative asset-heavy “Yale model”. And, Sonders says, that hasn’t worked out very well in terms of returns, with traditional 60%/40% stock/bond portfolios far outperforming the Yale model. “Could standard publicly-traded equities become the next darling of the fiduciary community? Perhaps,” Sonders says.