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Market Report: Questioning the Fed’s decision on interest rates

In the wake of the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged, here’s a roundup of how the development is being digested across the real estate and financial markets.

Nikki Vasco

Vasco

“Some are questioning the decision of the Fed to keep borrower rates unchanged due to global concerns. With employment and inflation near targets, if the Fed would have raised rates, it would have given a level of confidence to the market that would likely have led to a rally. Instead, the market fell flat and volatility continues.” — Nikki Vasco, Chief Investment Officer at FullCapitalStack.com.


Jeff Lee

Lee

There was a lot of speculation over the rate decision and many of our clients wanted to avoid closing in and around the Fed announcement.  Many accelerated closings for last week or earlier this week, while some chose to push off into next week and roll the dice post rate decision and post digestion of Fed Chairman Janet Yellen’s commentary. We did have a few defeasances that priced on Thursday and the clients who elected to buy defeasance securities in the morning were rewarded with higher yields/cheaper defeasance costs.” — Jeff Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Defeasance LLC


Rehling

You had a window, and you risk that between now and December you have things deteriorate, or you have some new and unexpected source of volatility. If something happens and they are not able to go in December, there is a credibility issue.” — Brian Rehling, fixed-income strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. 


Paul Krugman

Krugman

“The Fed did the right thing last week: nothing. And the howling of the bankers should be taken not as a reason to reconsider, but as a demonstration that the clamor for higher rates has nothing to do with the public interest.” — Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist


Jeffrey Lacker

Lacker

“I dissented because I believe that an increase in our interest rate target is needed, given current economic conditions and the medium-term outlook. Further delay would be a departure from a pattern of behavior that has served us well in the past. The historical record strongly suggests that such departures are risky and raise the likelihood of adverse outcomes.” — Jeffrey Lacker, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (the sole dissenter in the Open Market Committee’s recent vote)


Market Report: Volatility Is Here To Stay

How many hits does it take to become unaffected by the blow? 

The global markets calmed a bit last week. However, that didn’t continue as this week opened with the Greek stock market plunging after five weeks of being closed. Additionally, commodities were hit again after China announced a slide in manufacturing. 

And, of course, U.S. equities opened lower on global concerns despite the strength in personal spending.

This week is sure to be a repeat of the roller coaster ride with everyone waiting for the latest jobs numbers due to be released on Tuesday.

So, to address my initial question: Can we absorb so many hits that we become unaffected by the blow? Never.  But an investing world dominated by the global economy, real-time information and electronic transactions is here to stay.  Volatility is becoming the norm.

Take a picture of rates and the current lending environment. Tomorrow will be different.


Nikki VascoBy Nikki Vasco | Chief Investment Officer | FullCapitalStack

Are you paying a ‘Liquidity Premium’?

Two investments with the same credit risk profile, potential for upside performance, tax treatment and expected investment period should have the same expected return.

Right?

Not in the real world. We know two very similar investment profiles can be priced very different. Why is that? For many deals, it boils down to liquidity.

Pricing differences in two seemingly similar investment options are often due to the investor’s ability to easily buy and sell the investment — the measure of how “liquid” it is.

Liquidity has been a hot topic lately.  Investors typically pay a significant premium to be in liquid investments such as blue chip stocks and U.S. Treasurys. Is it worth it?

Sure, investors can easily sell a liquid investment. However, on days when the market plummets, many investors lack the stomach to sell. Others sell in fear, regretting their quick exit later. On those days, the premium paid for a liquid investment may not feel like it paid off.

A recent article pointed out that sovereign wealth funds and other large institutional pools focused on long-term wealth creation have seen their allocations to illiquid alternative assets perform better over the long-term investment horizon, compared to more liquid holdings, according to research by Patrick Thomson, global head of Sovereigns at JPMorgan Asset Management.

Thompson says investing with a long-term view of alternative assets can help investors exploit tactical opportunities created by short-term investors forced to liquidate holdings, benefit from mispricing and valuation errors, and take advantage of their capacity to absorb additional risk.

“These advantages have rarely mattered more than now in a capital market environment of low yields, mounting volatility, unexciting global economic growth and subpar investment returns — nor have they contrasted more sharply with the prevailing transaction-oriented mentality,” Thompson writes in FTSE Global Markets.

“Yet today, as much as ever, long-term investors can (and should) access the full range of long-term non-public assets — value-added real estate, infrastructure, private equity and private debt — to diversify their holdings, mute the volatility of the public markets and earn steady and favorable risk-adjusted returns.”

The emergence of real estate investment offerings via online investment platforms makes this method of investing more accessible than ever. The average accredited investor can now follow similar strategies as those sovereign wealth funds.

On days when the public markets are fluctuating (or halting altogether), that a feels like good place to be.


Nikki Baldonieri

By Nikki Vasco | Chief Investment Officer | FullCapitalStack

Will peer-to-peer lending predict what happens next with real estate crowdfunding?

Peer-to-peer lending is about to get real — and commercial real estate crowdfunding won’t be far behind.

This week, we learned details of how Goldman Sachs will begin offering consumer loans via online platform. With plans to launch in 2016, there is little doubt the innovators who devised P2P lending will feel the heat.

As commercial real estate investment professionals, we need to pay close attention or risk being left in the dust. Technology is creating new opportunities for institutional investors and owners who are willing to adapt.

Innovators such as LendingClub and Prosper used financial technology (FinTech) to capitalize on a gap in the consumer and small-business lending markets after the Great Recession’s credit crunch. Seeing traditional banks and related lenders withdrawing, these platforms created a market for individuals to borrow small amounts from pools of cash supposedly invested by other individuals looking for new investment opportunities. The result has been billions of dollars in credit extended for debt consolidation, home improvements and other projects.

The concept is based on the idea that individual investors can now buy fractions of their peers’ debts — “peer-to-peer lending.” However, who really is the “peer” on the backside of this $15 billion to $30 billion market? It’s not savvy individuals making smart decisions for direct investing. Banks, institutional funds, and money managers looking for yield have powered the growth rate, funded the loans and have started to package the debt into securities. They are at times assisted by “first look” offers from the originators, and proprietary risk models to analyze the loans.

Most of the “peers” who own these loans are actually institutions, such as hedge funds and other investment pools. The borrower’s true peers likely end up only owning a piece of these loans through shares in a fund placed in their 401k, packaged and sourced by sophisticated institutions.

The standardization of consumer risk scores and credit profiling has propelled this new asset class into the securitization market, which has attracted new and additional capital. In turn, this will likely convert into more products at better rates for consumers.

What is the lesson here for commercial real estate investors? Our industry is on course to create the same type of standardization needed for institutional capital and lending efficiencies. These three factors are shaping the trend:

  • Crowdfunding has given real estate owners the ability to market their performance. Soon investors will be able to compare sponsor performance in standardized models.
  • FinTech is giving real estate owners the ability easily manage their investor base and post new, accessible offerings.
  • Real estate owners can now spend less time sourcing investors and more time managing their portfolios.

Although crowdfunding for real estate is in its infancy, there is already buzz about institutions and banks partnering with platforms to source product. Just like P2P lending, investors will soon find the ability to hold shares of a REIT in their 401Ks that primarily owns “crowdfunded” participations of equity in real estate.


Nikki BaldonieriBy Nikki Vasco | Chief Investment Officer | FullCapitalStack

Bloomberg: Higher U.S. Rates Bound to Disappoint

According to reporters Susanne Walker and Liz Capo McCormick of Bloomberg, “just because the Federal Reserve is about to raise interest rates, don’t expect savers to benefit.”

The recent Bloomberg article explains that those individuals who have counted on higher interest rates to lift their investment returns are being blocked by regulations designed to make the financial system safer in the wake of the credit crisis. That credit crisis effectively dried up liquidity in debt markets. Walker and McCormick noted that “the rules are pushing firms to park more excess cash into Treasury bills that yield next to nothing, squeezing money-market funds that buy the short-term debt.”

According to Christopher Sullivan of United Nations Federal Credit Union, “You’ve got the worst of all possible worlds for savers.”

Unfortunately, according to the Bloomberg analysis, baby boomers nearing retirement will be the most deprived of income long after the Federal Reserve starts to increase interest rates.

You can read more of Walker and McCormick’s analysis here.

Here’s our take: Finding investments that make sense from a risk and return perspective continues to be difficult. With bonds yielding next to nothing and stock market volatility continuing to challenge investors, it’s time to look outside of traditional investments. Cost of living will only increase. Investors may find it difficult to rely on traditional, short-term investments to offset cost of living increases. Fortunately, alternatives are available for people looking to diversify their investment portfolio.


Courtesy of FullCapitalStack, a QuietStream Financial portfolio company.