As we approach the end of 2023, the optimism from the first half has waned in the third quarter. Contrary to the market expectations, “higher for longer” has emerged as Wall Street’s latest mantra. Despite indications of easing inflation, the Fed may delay rate cuts. This shift has presented short-term challenges for both the stock and bond markets in Q3.
Key performance highlights for Syfe Portfolios in Q3 2023:
- Core Portfolios experienced a downturn in Q3, as both stocks and bonds delivered negative returns. However, the year-to-date (YTD) returns of all four portfolios remain positive.
- Due to rising yields, REIT+ portfolios were negatively impacted, but continue to outperform its benchmark.
- Two Income+ portfolios either outperformed or closely tracked the reference benchmark. The underlying yields of the Income+ portfolios are compelling.
- Along with growth-oriented stocks, Thematic portfolios had setbacks this quarter.
- Cash+ Flexi continued to deliver positive returns in Q3. We launched a new cash management tool, Cash+ Guaranteed, to complement our product suite.
Syfe Core Portfolios: Steering Through Q3 Challenges
Performance Spotlight Global markets faced strong headwinds in Q3. Following the Fed’s “higher for longer” interest rate guidance, long-end bond yields moved higher. As a result, both equities and bonds were in the red this quarter. Particularly, the safe-havens that typically perform well in a risk-off environment, such as US treasuries and gold, registered negative returns this quarter, providing no shield to the portfolios.
Our Core portfolios experienced the negative impact. Core Equity100, Core Growth, Core Balanced, and Core Defensive declined by 2.7%, 3.8%, 4.9%, and 3.0%, respectively in Q3. However, the year-to-date (YTD) returns for all four portfolios remain positive, with Equity100 registering a gain of nearly 10% YTD.
For equities, exposure to the growth factor through QQQ (Invesco QQQ Trust Series) took the lead as the main drag to performance, followed by positions in the broader US equity market, specifically RSP (Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF) and CSPX (iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS ETF). This marks a reversal to the performance in the first half of the year. Meanwhile, on the bonds front, allocation to TLT (iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF) was the main detractor for the performance in Q3.
Looking ahead The Core portfolios are designed for long-term growth and capital appreciation. Financial markets may continue to exhibit short-term volatility amidst higher interest rates and the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, history has shown that the impact of such geopolitical events tend to be limited . We recommend that investors use a dollar-cost averaging (DCA) strategy in their core portfolios during such volatile times to capitalise on potential market recoveries.
Syfe REIT+ : Consistently Outperforming the Benchmark
Performance Spotlight The Syfe REIT+ portfolio started the year on a strong footing, yielding a total return of nearly 4% in the first half. In Q3, as interest rates moved higher, the REIT+(100% REITs) portfolio declined by 3.8, erasing its YTD gains. Notably, despite this setback, the portfolio still managed to outperform its benchmark, the iEdge S-REIT Leaders Index, which recorded a 4.2% drop in Q3 2023.
The REIT+ portfolio, mirroring the iEdge S-REIT Leaders Index, invests in the top 20 REITs in Singapore. Compared to the broader S-REIT market, the REIT+ portfolio has demonstrated greater resilience and has consistently outperformed its benchmark. This is attributed to the built-in optimizations that exclude US and other non-SGD denominated REITs, which have experienced significant drawdowns due to ongoing challenges in the US commercial real estate market.
Looking ahead At the current juncture, we encourage REIT+ investors to remain patient. Given the attractive valuations of S-REITs now, the downside risk appears to be limited. As the rate-hiking cycle concludes, prices could bounce back quickly in the upcoming year. It is recommended that REIT+ investors continue clipping the attractive dividends of around 6% from quality S-REITs, while waiting for the markets to recover in the new year.
Syfe Income+: Compelling Underlying Yields
Performance Spotlight In Q3, Income+ Preserve decreased by 1.8%, while Income+ Enhance fell by 2.2%. Both portfolios either outperformed or closely tracked the reference benchmark.
The primary contributors to performance were exposures to select EM currencies and bonds from Japan and Australia. However, exposure to Asia Credit negatively impacted performance due to ongoing challenges in China’s property market, even though the current yields are attractive. Additionally, exposure to longer-duration US bonds detracted from performance, particularly as interest rates rose significantly in Q3.
Income+ has delivered on payout yield One of the primary investment objectives of the Syfe Income+ portfolios is to provide sustainable and diversified income sources. Since its inception, Income+ Preserve and Income+ Enhance have achieved an average annualised payout ratio of 4.2% and 5.7% respectively.
We expect these payout levels to be sustainable. At present, the underlying portfolio yields, as indicated by yield-to-maturity, are 7.2% for Syfe Income+ Preserve and 8.5% for Syfe Income+ Enhance.
Looking ahead The current starting yields, historically an indicator of potential long-term returns, are exceptionally attractive. We have not seen such levels in over a decade.
Regarding portfolio construction, the Income+ portfolios take a cautious stance on duration positioning. As of the end of September, both the Preserve and Enhance portfolios have durations of 4.9 and 4.3 years, respectively, shorter than the benchmark’s duration of over 6 years. The underlying fund manager, PIMCO, consistently emphasises diversified sources of returns while ensuring flexibility and liquidity.
Thematic Portfolios: Q3 Setbacks Alongside Growth-Oriented Stocks
Disruptive Technology Disruptive Technology model portfolio decreased by 5.6% in Q3. The majority of the “Magnificent Seven” – Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Tesla, Nvidia, and Meta – faced downturns, casting shadows over the broader market. However, with a notable year-to-date performance of +21.4%, Disruptive Technology remains the top-performing theme. Within this innovative landscape, ARKW (ARK Next Generation Internet ETF) and ARKF (ARK Fintech Innovation ETF) shine brightly with YTD gains of 40.5% and 35.7% respectively. In contrast, KWEB (KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF) lags behind the others, with a YTD return of -9.4%.
ESG & Clean Energy ESG & Clean Energy model portfolio declined by 9.3% in Q3, wiping out the gains from the first half of the year. The primary contributors to these drawdowns were TAN (Invesco Solar ETF), ICLN (iShares Global Clean Energy ETF), and FAN (First Trust Global Wind Energy ETF). Factors such as project delays, high interest rates, and soaring material costs—especially for wind and solar power—have adversely impacted renewable energy companies. If high rates persist, renewable energy companies could continue to face headwinds. However, government subsidies aimed at promoting investment in greener technologies could support the industry’s next growth cycle.
Healthcare Innovation Healthcare Innovation Model Portfolio declined by 7.8% in Q3. The primary detractors were ARKG (ARK Genomic Revolution ETF) and XHE (SPDR S&P Health Care Equipment ETF), both of which experienced drops alongside other growth-oriented stocks. The market seems overly apprehensive about the potential US drug policy changes introduced in the Inflation Reduction Act. The sector appears to be undervalued since the market has not yet fully recognised the innovations in the healthcare sector.
China Growth China Growth model portfolio declined by 2.0% in Q3. Market sentiment improved in July, but softened following news that Country Garden might default on its bond repayment. The government has introduced monetary easing policies to stabilise the economy. Regulations on China’s internet sector have been finalised, with internet companies now aligning with the government’s domestic consumption policy. As we proceed, Chinese equities continue to be a focal point. Investors, however, should be wary of their inherent volatility.
Cash+ : an anchor amid market volatility
Source: Syfe, Bloomberg. As of 31 July 2023, in SGD. Cash+ performance reported net of Syfe management fees.
Despite market volatility, the actual net realised returns for Syfe Cash+ Flexi have improved in Q2 and Q3. In Q3, the annualised actual net realised return was 3.5%, in line with the projected return. We have raised the projected return for Cash+ Flexi to 3.7% p.a., ranking it among the highest in similar cash management solutions in the market. Syfe Cash+ Flexi offers daily liquidity, allowing withdrawals within T+1 business day, ensuring timely access to your funds during emergencies.
In Q3, we launched a new cash management tool, Cash+ Guaranteed, to complement our product suite. The current return rate is 3.8% per annum (as of 20 October 2023). Your capital and returns are guaranteed at the end of maturity. Unlike our existing Cash+ Flexi, Cash+ Guaranteed has a lock-in requirement, meaning that you cannot withdraw your funds before lock-in is completed. We currently are offering this lock-in term at a short duration of 3 months.
Our Thoughts For Q4 2023
Amid the turbulence witnessed in Q3, it is common for investors to feel apprehensive, but it is crucial to lean on historical insights and adopt a broader perspective. Past instances remind us that in most cycles, equities and bonds both tend to do well after the Federal Reserve takes a breather from rate hikes. Short-term market fluctuations, rather than deter, can present savvy investors with opportunities to build up their positions for the longer term.
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