Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Value Fund 1Q15 CommentaryVW Staff
Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Value Fund market commentary for the first quarter ended March 31, 2015.
Following six years of positive returns, the S&P 500 Index opened 2015 with a modest +1.0% return in the first quarter. The unprecedented corporate cost-cutting measures and general economic recovery following the financial crisis has fueled impressive earnings growth. Over the last six years, the S&P 500 is up +194% cumulatively. While such a rampant appreciation of market prices would normally give us pause, equity valuations are scarcely higher than historical averages due to these robust earnings.
After six years of zero interest rate policy, investors are acutely focused on the Federal Reserve’s plan to taper its lax monetary policy. Equity investors are not fully insulated from such actions, however, we believe the effect on equities should be more subdued than many investors expect. Firstly, increasing interest rates are often correlated with positive economic developments, which is good for corporate cash flows. Secondly, long bond rates are a component of the cost of capital used to discount corporate cash flows. Fed tapering should impact short term interest rates disproportionately to long term rates, which already reflect expectations of a less intrusive Fed. Finally, the premium equity investors require above treasuries is considerably higher than historical averages. If interest rates rise, we may see a reversion of the equity premium back to normal levels, resulting in equity prices remaining stable despite higher interest rates.
In commodity markets, crude oil prices continued to fall during the quarter, particularly WTI crude. Long term supply and demand dynamics are the primary drivers of oil prices over time. Current crude prices appear well below long term equilibrium levels. Global demand growth is about +1% annually while the natural decline rate in oil supply is about 6% annually. Given this decline rate, oil production needs to continue to grow in order to keep pace with demand. Over the last five years, most of the global production growth has come from the US and Canada, particularly US shale regions. First year decline rates for these regions are estimated between 60% and 75%, which could result in a meaningful production decline if new wells are not drilled. Capex budgets for 2015 have been slashed due to low crude prices so new wells appear to be on the decline. Other regions around the globe appear unlikely to increase production as well; many regions did not increase production when oil was over $100/barrel, so it seems unlikely they would increase production after crude prices halved. Our analysis suggests that oil prices around $70 to $80 per barrel are required for marginal producers to supply the market. The path to equilibrium can be rocky but we see opportunities to generate returns for patient investors.
The US dollar strengthened relative to other major currencies during the quarter. The US dollar index, which compares the dollar relative to a weighted basket of other major currencies1, has appreciated by 23% since mid-2014. We receive many perceptive questions on how this affects equity valuations; the answer is somewhat complex as there are many moving pieces. A stronger dollar in and of itself would generally have resulted in lower earnings for companies that generate more revenue than costs overseas (a prevalent occurrence). It is important to remember, however, the reason that the dollar has appreciated. An improved US economy, easy monetary policies overseas (e.g. quantitative easing in Europe), and heightened geopolitical risks have each contributed to a stronger dollar—and each justify higher US equity valuations.
Overall, we believe compelling valuation opportunities with acceptable risk profiles are more difficult to find in today’s market than five years ago. In such environments, our experience has taught us that stressing risk controls is of paramount importance. We remain partial to companies with strong balance sheets, sustainable cash flows, sound capital allocation policies, and of course, attractive valuations. While it has become more challenging to find new opportunities that exhibit such traits, we believe the current portfolio exemplifies these characteristics and exhibits an attractive risk/return profile. The portfolio trades at 10.8x our normal earnings estimate compared to 13.8x for the Russell 1000 Value Index and 16.2x for the S&P 500 Index.
Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Value Fund: Performance attribution – 1Q 2015
The Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Value Fund (Class I) outperformed the Russell 1000 Value Index in the first quarter of 2015. Positive stock selection in healthcare was the large contributor to outperformance as the portfolio’s managed care holdings performed well. An overweight position in consumer discretionary and positive stock selection in utilities also helped relative performance. The largest individual contributors were Anthem (1.8%)*, GlaxoSmithKline (2.8%)*, and Humana (1.3%)*. Stock selection in financials and energy, along with an overweight position in technology detracted from performance in the quarter. The largest individual detractors were Royal Dutch Shell (3.0%)*, Hewlett-Packard (1.7%)*, and Bank of America (3.5%)*.
Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Value Fund: Portfolio Activity – 1Q 2015
The portfolio’s largest sector increase was industrials, largely due to adding a new position in Owens Corning (0.8%)* and adding to the existing position in CNH Industrial (1.3%)*. We reduced the weight in technology by exiting the position in Texas Instruments (0.0%)* and reduced the weight in consumer staples by trimming Wal-Mart (1.5%)*—the valuation of both stocks had expanded. The financials weight was fairly constant but we exited our position in Allstate (0.0%)* and initiated a new position in Chubb (1.5%)*, which we believe offers a more compelling risk/return profile; this was the largest individual sale and largest individual buy, respectively.
1Major currencies: Euro, Yen, Pound Sterling, Canadian Dollar, Swedish Krona and Swiss Franc
*% of total portfolio as of March 31, 2015
Mutual fund investing involves risk. Principal loss is possible. The Fund may invest in foreign securities which involve greater volatility and political, economic and currency risks and differences in accounting methods. The Fund may invest in American Depository Receipts (“ADRs”) and Global Depository Receipts (“GDRs”) which may be subject to some of the same risks as direct investment in foreign companies.
Fund holdings and/or sector allocations are subject to change and are not buy/sell recommendations. Current and future portfolio holdings are subject to risk. Certain information presented based on proprietary or third-party estimates are subject to change and cannot be guaranteed. The opinions expressed are those of the portfolio managers as of 3/31/15 and may not be accurate reflections of their opinions after that date. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Specific securities identified are the largest contributors (or detractors) on a relative basis to the Russell 1000 Value Index. Securities’ absolute performance may reflect different results. The Fund may not continue to hold the securities mentioned and the Advisor has no obligation to disclose purchases or sales of these securities. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit nor protect against loss in a declining market.
Investing in value stocks presents the risk that value stocks may fall out of favor with investors and underperform other asset types during a given periods. Equities, bonds, and other asset classes have different risk profiles, which should be considered when investing. All investments contain risk and may lose value.