A Couple Tailwinds We Believe Are Poised to Blow in Active Managers’ Favor

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Apr 24, 2020 10:23:41 AM

The arguments in favor and against active management are too long to tackle in a single blog post – and we won’t try to do so here. But as stocks find their footing after March’s downturn, we believe there are a couple important factors poised to work in active managers’ favor: size and quality. Both elements could be significant tailwinds for active managers in the months ahead, particularly when considering the composition and performance of indices heading into the slide.

In Current Environment, Quality Matters

Investment philosophies and styles vary, but many active managers – including Dana – emphasize “high quality” companies in the stock selection process. This means a preference for companies with stronger balance sheets, durable earnings streams and lower debt levels. Conversely, it means avoiding companies with high debt, and relatively low return on equity (ROE)* or return on assets (ROA)**.

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Are Small Caps Poised to Lead Again?

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Apr 17, 2020 9:47:21 AM

While 2020 has been rough for all stocks, the pain has been most acute among small caps. As of April 15, the Russell 2000 Index was down -28.73% this year, a little more than twice the drop of the Russell 1000. While losses have been painful, we would encourage investors to stay patient; there is a strong case for small caps to take a market leadership position in the months ahead.

That case starts with relative valuations. Small caps have historically had higher valuations than large caps, but the valuation differential between the two groups is in the 21st percentile.¹ In plainer terms, that means the valuation disparity between small and large caps is this close less than a quarter of the time. Following these cheaper relative valuation extremes, small caps tend to recover.

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Five Stats to Keep Clients Invested Through a Volatile Market

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Apr 9, 2020 1:43:07 PM

It’s a natural reaction to every bear market. As stocks plummet, clients start wondering whether they should pull money out of equities and wait on the sidelines until conditions improve. If you’re an advisor, you may have had several conversations along these lines recently. We salute your efforts to help clients stay the course.

At Dana, we realize the importance of staying fully invested and reflect it in our investment process, which dictates that funds hold minimal cash. Our view is that it is always better to stay fully invested because not even experts can perfectly time a rebound.

However, we know it can be challenging for advisors to keep their clients invested through a downturn. In the spirit of helping, below are five quick-reference stats and charts we’ve collected that paint a picture of why we believe it’s important to stay in equities through the entire market cycle:

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2020 Performance Underscores Futility of Sector Bets

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Apr 2, 2020 4:13:22 PM

As 2019 ended, the backdrop for the energy sector looked relatively solid. Oil prices were up more than 30% in 2019, and future demand appeared firm, as cooling trade tensions between the U.S. and China led many to believe the economy would improve.

It would have been hard for nearly any expert to predict what would happen next. The coronavirus has severely affected the global economy and, in turn, sapped energy demand. At the same time, a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia has also driven oil prices lower. As a result, the S&P 500 energy sector is down nearly 52% this year, trailing well behind the next biggest sector laggard – financials – which is down 31%.

On the other hand, heading into 2020 few would have predicted utilities would be the best performing sector, down 13% so far this year, but outperforming others due to its defensive nature.

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Downside Protection Isn’t Measured in Days

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Mar 26, 2020 12:48:20 PM

The only thing more striking than the depth of the recent market rout is its speed. It took the S&P 500 just 22 days to fall 30%, the quickest drop of that magnitude in history. The fast freefall has left little time for equity strategies touting downside protection to deliver it … but give it a moment. Stock selection can help navigate equity market downturns, but it provides greater value over a longer period than three panic-stricken weeks.

At Dana, we pride ourselves on the ability to outperform in sustained bear markets and our strategies did so through both the tech bubble and great financial crisis. This is largely what we would expect, given our investment process. We focus on high-quality companies that trade at a discount to their peers. These companies tend to outperform when the economic outlook sours and the rest of the market gravitates toward companies with stable balance sheets and steady earnings growth.

We see early signs the market is once again starting to differentiate between high and low-quality companies. But a bias toward smaller companies and a tilt toward value hasn’t yet helped us in the current downturn.

As stocks slid from record highs to bear market territory in a matter of days, not months, the thing that would really make a strategy shine in the current market environment is to increase one’s allocation to cash. We view this as a market timing call, however, and it’s simply not what we do.

Is Your Manager a Timer or an Investor?

In the earliest stages of a bear market – particularly this one – the best way to cushion the fall is to hide in cash or short equities. Undoubtedly, there have been some long-only managers that have probably benefited from holding excessive cash positions during the recent rout.

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Market Volatility Offers Investors a Reminder: Quality Counts

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Mar 19, 2020 5:17:02 PM

With stocks crossing into bear market territory, it’s been a tough period for equities. But credit the market sell-off for one thing: it’s been discerning. Stocks are down broadly, but lower-quality companies bore the brunt of the sell-off.

The volatility underscores why we take a high-quality approach to stock selection. In volatile periods the market typically recognizes stocks of companies with greater earnings stability and stronger balance sheets. Conversely, companies with higher debt levels or speculative growth models are typically punished harder in market downturns and have been again in March.

We believe holding a portfolio of these higher-quality companies leads to outperformance in periods of market stress, and, in turn, better relative performance over a full market cycle. The recent volatility underscores the value of this approach.

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The Dana Large Cap Equity Fund Hits 10-Year Anniversary

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Mar 13, 2020 10:51:34 AM

We’re proud to announce that our Dana Large Cap Equity Fund - Investor share class (DLCEX) hit its 10-year track record on March 1st, 2020. The Fund has returned 218.38%, an annualized return of 12.28% over this period.1

10 years ago, we chartered a new course to serve investors with a mutual fund offering. In these volatile times, we are proud to reflect on our accomplishments this past decade and pleased to have generated such strong positive performance for our fund shareholders. We believe in today’s current environment it is more important than ever to stay focused on the long-term goals.” Mark Mirsberger, CPA, Chief Executive Officer

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Infodemic: Reflecting on Coronavirus Statistics and the Market Selloff

Fear is the virus on which the news media thrives.

Viruses are with us everywhere and always. Illnesses defined under the umbrella of influenza kill between 10,000 and 50,000 Americans each and every year. Total annual deaths in the U.S. are about 2.8 million, so influenza makes up less than 2% of those deaths. Video of personnel in gowns and masks carrying sprayers invoke the fear response.

Past influenza epidemics include the 1957-58 Asian flu, the 1968 Hong Kong flu, and the 2009 Swine flu. The H1N1 Swine flu appeared in the United States first. There were estimated to be 60 million U.S. cases, but only 12,000 deaths. Worldwide, the Swine flu is estimated to have killed 200,000-500,000 people. 80% of those deaths were people under the age of 65.

So what do we know so far about the current Coronavirus? 

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The Holy Grail? Economic Growth, Low Unemployment and Low Inflation

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Feb 28, 2020 12:16:40 PM

What a difference 15 months makes. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the market was down almost 20% through Christmas Eve and had dropped over 10% in just the middle two weeks of December. Jerome Powell had just led the Federal Reserve to the fourth interest rate increase of 2018. Regardless of the market drop, Powell seemed to have a ‘what, me worry?’ attitude. He said that the balance sheet reduction was on autopilot.

Throughout 2018, we feared that the Fed was an unwitting enemy of both the markets and the economy, and that became clear at year-end. Powell tempered his tone, and the Fed embarked on what seemed like an interminably long pause until it cut rates at the end of July 2019. During that period, the ten-year Treasury yield fell below short-term rates in late May and remained there until early October. The equity markets traded in a range through the summer and fall, and only moved to new highs just before the last Fed cut in October. Since then, the move upward has continued with markets constantly nearing all-time highs. The Fed has since telegraphed an ‘on hold’ policy going forward.

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Are Small Cap Stocks Poised to Bounce Back?

Posted by Dana Funds Investment Team on Feb 20, 2020 5:47:21 PM

Large-cap stocks have had quite the run recently. Who would have thought the tenth year of the current bull market would bring a 31.49% return for the S&P 500 Index - its strongest yearly performance since 2013? Considering the long-term average length of equity bull markets is a shade over seven years, 2019’s epic performance will likely stand out in investors’ minds for some time.

The fourth quarter was especially strong. Despite stumbling during the first two days of October, the S&P 500 Index reached new highs 22 times during the quarter, including nine records in the final 13 trading days of the year. While small-cap stocks participated in this rally, they still lagged large-caps for all of 2019 with the Russell 2000 Index up +9.94% for the quarter and +25.52% for the year.

While nobody should be complaining about such robust late-cycle returns, the underperformance of small-cap stocks is a bit confusing. Investors were in a risk-on mentality during much of 2019, and typically in this environment, “riskier” assets, including small-cap stocks, are expected to outperform. What is also perplexing is the lack of effect that the ongoing trade-war related headlines had on large cap stocks, since large cap companies tend to be more global in nature compared to the more domestic footprint of small caps’ business models.

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The Dana Funds are distributed by Ultimus Fund Distributors, LLC. There is no affiliation between Ultimus Fund Distributors, LLC. and the firms referenced in this blog post.