Large Cap Fundamental Value

Market Commentary

Period ended September 30, 2014

The S&P 500 Index returned a modest +1.1% over the three months ended September 30th, the seventh consecutive positive quarter for the index.  In August, the index closed above 2,000 for the first time, peaking at 2,011 in mid-September before a slight pullback.  Unlike prior market peaks (e.g. 1999, 2007), elevated stock prices today are supported by both strong corporate earnings and an improving economic environment.  At 16.5x forward earnings, the S&P 500 Index trades at a valuation slightly higher than the 25-year median of 16.0x.  Meanwhile, the 10-year Treasury yields 2.5% versus the 25-year median of 4.8%; considering the low interest rate environment equity valuations appear reasonable.  The U.S. housing market continues to recover, with new home sales considerably higher than consensus expectations and home prices on the rise.  Higher home values create a wealth effect that boosts confidence and drives consumer spending, which accelerated during the quarter—consumer spending comprises two-thirds of U.S. GDP, so the housing market’s economic impact is material.  Meanwhile, employment has steadily improved and inflation has remained in check.  The U.S. dollar strengthened as a result of the productive economy, appreciating by more than 6% relative to a basket of major developed market currencies1.  While the tense geopolitical landscape poses risks to the equity market, the earnings power of our portfolio holdings provides considerable valuation support. The portfolio trades at 10.8x our estimate of normal/sustainable earnings, a significant discount to the market average2.

Concerns about decelerating growth in emerging markets triggered a precipitous decline in commodities over the quarter.  Crude oil, natural gas, precious metals, most industrial metals, and most agricultural commodities declined considerably—some by more than 10%.  Consequently, sectors exposed to commodity price changes lagged the overall market.  Energy, utilities, and industrials were the only three S&P 500 sectors that declined during the quarter.  Healthcare, technology, and telecommunications were the top-performing sectors, rising +3% to +5%.  Value underperformed growth for the quarter, largely because energy is a larger weight and technology a smaller weight in value indices as compared with growth indices.  Small cap stocks lagged large cap stocks by a wide margin in the quarter3.  As of one year ago (9/30/13), small cap equities had outperformed large cap equities by more than 50 percentage points since the market bottom in March of 2009.  This resulted in a large valuation premium for small cap stocks relative to large cap stocks compared to historical averages—this premium has eroded over the past twelve months toward levels more typically observed because small cap stocks have since underperformed.

Improved balance sheets and a sound economic backdrop have at least partially de-risked the U.S. equity market over the past five years.  Elevated stock prices and geopolitical unrest, however, have produced a market that is somewhat temperamental.  The VIX index, a gauge of expected volatility, oscillated from 10, to 17, to 11, and then back to 16—all within the third quarter.  Escalations in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, or elsewhere could prompt additional bouts of volatility going forward, but we believe we are well positioned for such encounters as we remained focused on valuation support, strong balance sheets, sustainable cash flows, and prudent capital allocation.
 

ATTRIBUTION: 3Q 2014

The Hotchkis & Wiley Large Cap Fundamental Value portfolio (gross and net of management fees) slightly underperformed the Russell 1000 Value Index during the third quarter of 2014.  Stock selection in technology, industrials, and utilities detracted from performance in the period.  Much of the portfolio’s utility exposure has unregulated power generation businesses that are exposed to changes in natural gas prices, which declined nearly 8% in the quarter.  The largest individual performance detractors were Cummins, Corning, and NRG Energy.  Positive stock selection in financials and an underweight exposure to energy contributed to relative performance during the quarter.  The largest individual performance contributors were Citigroup, Target, and Microsoft.

 

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Composite performance for the strategy is located on the Performance tab. Portfolio attribution is based on a representative Large Cap Fundamental Value portfolio. Certain client portfolio(s) may or may not hold the securities discussed due to the account’s guideline restrictions, cash flow, tax and other relevant considerations. Equity performance attribution is an analysis of the portfolio's return relative to a selected benchmark, is calculated using daily holding information and does not reflect management fees and other transaction costs and expenses. Returns calculated using this buy-and-hold methodology can differ from actual portfolio returns due to intraday trades, cash flows, corporate actions, accrued/miscellaneous income, and trade price and closing price difference of any given security. 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. Securities identified do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold, or recommended for advisory clients, and are not indicative of current or future holdings or trading activity.  H&W has no obligation to disclose purchases or sales of these securities.  No assurance is made that any securities identified, or all investment decisions by H&W were, or will be profitable. Quarterly characteristics and portfolio holdings are available on the Characteristics and Communications tabs (subject to the firm’s portfolio holdings disclosure policy).
 
The commentary is for information purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product.  Portfolio managers’ opinions and data included in this commentary are as of September 30, 2014 and are subject to change without notice.  Any forecasts made cannot be guaranteed.  Information obtained from independent sources is considered reliable, but H&W cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Certain information presented is based on proprietary or third-party estimates, which are subject to change and cannot be guaranteed. Equity securities may have greater risks and price volatility than U.S. Treasuries and bonds, where the price of these securities may decline due to various company, industry and market factors.  Investing in value stocks presents the risk that value stocks may fall out of favor with investors and underperform growth stocks during given periods. All investments contain risk and may lose value.
 
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
 

Index definitions