What Did We Re-Learn in 2016?
Even though we at Hill Investment Group do our best to always Take the Long View, I have a confession to make: When it comes to investment performance, I still have days and even years that I like more than others. 2016 is one of them.
It’s not just because the annual performance numbers across many of our global markets were remarkably strong. That’s nice, but I’m more interested in the tale these numbers tell us – or, actually, re-tell us – about investing in good times and bad.
Asset allocation (still) makes sense.
After a few years of underdog performance that tested many investors’ discipline, small-cap and value stocks proved their mettle this year, globally and especially in the U.S. As Dimensional Fund Advisors observed in its recently released 2016 Market Review (emphasis ours): “Over 2016, the US small cap premium marked the seventh highest annual return difference since 1979 when measured by the Russell 2000 Index minus Russell 1000 Index.”
Market-timing (still) does NOT make sense.
2016 also was a text-book example of how investors who may have been tempted to try to capture the market’s crests and avoid its chasms would likely have missed out on the year’s ultimately rewarding returns. To share Wes Wellington’s comments from his “Look Back at 2016“:
“Every year brings its share of surprises. But how many of us could have imagined that 2016 would see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, Bob Dylan receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Donald Trump elected president, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average close out the year a whisker away from 20,000? The answer is very few—a lesson that investors would be wise to remember.”
Dimensional’s report further notes (emphasis ours): “Most of the performance for small caps came in the last two months of the year, after the US election on November 8.” This represents another outcome that would have been difficult if not impossible to predict without a great deal of luck on your side.
Diversification remains your best bet.
Almost two years ago to the day, following a year in which U.S. large-cap stocks had continued to outperform most other asset classes, I posted this reminder about the importance of remaining diversified: “Clearly, the tables can turn abruptly and destructively for the nondiversified investor.”
With small-cap and value stocks’ strong resurgence, 2016 reemphasized this same lesson in a fresh way. It tells us that diversification remains as important as ever in a world in which near-term prognostications remain a matter of luck, not skill.
As Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks expressed in his “opinion of opinions” in a recent post:
“There are no facts about the future, just opinions. Anyone who asserts with conviction what he thinks will happen in the macro future is overstating his foresight, whether out of ignorance, hubris or dishonesty.”
What does 2017 have in store for us as investors? In all honesty, I don’t have the hubris to guess.