You wouldn’t know it from benchmarks, but beneath a tranquil surface violent swings are lashing traders along obscure fault lines. Companies like real-estate firms that rose the most in 2019 are plunging, and some that have trailed are being pushed out front. It’s been a mild reckoning for hedge funds and others who have bet on the status quo persisting.
Amid all the churn has been a renewed focus on a quantitative concept known as factor investing, which groups companies not by industry but traits such as how fast their prices move or profits rise. A question gaining currency in the past few days is whether these categories are just handy descriptions of twists in the market -- or are at some level guiding them.
“It seems very mechanical right now,” said John Swarr, investment specialist at Penn Mutual Asset Management, which has $27 billion under management. “If you look within some of these stocks that are being hit the hardest, some are in much better shape than others and yet they’re all being affected similarly,” he said. “It does feel like it’s a rules-based rotation.”
The total of negative yields bonds was at $17 trillion for a brief time at the end of August and has since contracted to $14.3 trillion. That’s a big more in a little less than two weeks.
The failure of the German government to sell a full allocation of bonds and failed auctions at the US Treasury in August were probably the catalysts for sapping investor demand for bonds globally. The unwinding of leveraged long positions now has the scope for meaningfully move bond yields higher with clear upward dynamics evident across multiple markets.