U.S. Sector portfolio positioning intra-quarter update as of 3/31/2020

Increased economically-sensitive, early-phase sector exposure, including new Energy allocation; trimmed existing late-phase sector allocations

March 31, 2020

We have continued to see progress toward a market bottom, in our view, as some of the major economic risks of COVID-19 have begun to be addressed (e.g. by the Fed’s credit market interventions, the $2 trillion stimulus package, and public health measures).  Thus, we have increased exposures to more economically-sensitive and higher-beta areas of the equity markets, including a new allocation to Energy and increased allocations to Financials and Industrials.  These adjustments were offset by reductions in Consumer Staples and Utilities exposure.  However, we also recognize significant risks remain, particularly in balancing the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic, so, at present, we are maintaining diversified exposure across a higher number of U.S. large-cap equity sectors than is typical.  Given the severity of the current shock and uncertainty regarding the timing and magnitude of a potential rebound, we believe this balanced approach to risk management is warranted as we transition through what is likely to prove a major economic inflection point.


Increased early-phase sector exposure: We do not know when the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis will peak, but, at some point, we believe the market should make a sustained rebound in anticipation of economic recovery as this crisis wanes.  The U.S. Energy sector had been one of the worst-performing areas of the global markets during the COVID-19 crisis, and we believe it now represents an attractive risk/reward profile, given our outlook.  The U.S. Industrials sector is diverse and not uniformly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and much of the sector could benefit from pent-up demand for a range of supplies and equipment when uncertainty eases.  The U.S. Financials sector remains well capitalized, in our opinion, and with the Federal Reserve acting to preserve liquidity and credit market function, we believe the sector should weather the COVID-19 crisis better than many investors anticipate.


Trimmed existing late-phase sector exposure: Since recently adding to U.S. Utilities exposure, we have seen the Federal Reserve help stabilize credit markets, a $2 trillion U.S. fiscal stimulus package, and some signs that COVID-19 transmission may be slowing in in Europe, all of which should reduce investor uncertainty and improve the potential for economic rebound, so we believe a reduction of Utilities exposure was now warranted.  We believe the U.S. Consumer Staples sector’s strong outperformance in March continued to provide an attractive point for reducing exposure and adjusting the risk/return profile of the portfolio as we contemplate an eventual turning point in this crisis.

The most recent complete presentation can be viewed here.

Any portfolio characteristics, including position sizes and sector allocations among others, are generally averages and are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect the investments of an actual portfolio unless otherwise noted. The investment guidelines of an actual portfolio may permit or restrict investments that are materially different in size, nature and risk from those shown. The investment processes, research processes or risk processes shown herein are for informational purposes to demonstrate an overview of the process. Such processes may differ by product, client mandate or market conditions. Portfolios that are concentrated in a specific sector or industry may be subject to a higher degree of market risk than a portfolio whose investments are more diversified.

Holdings, Sector Weightings and Portfolio Characteristics were current as of the date specified in this presentation. The listing of particular securities should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell these securities. While these securities were among WestEnd Advisors’ U.S. Sector holdings at the time this material was assembled, holdings will change over time. There can be no assurance that the securities remain in the portfolio or that other securities have not been purchased. It should not be assumed that recommendations made in the future will be profitable or will equal the performance of the securities presently in the portfolio. Individual clients’ portfolios may vary.

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