• Many investors seek ambitious annual return targets – often as high as 7%. Yet with valuations stretched for both equities and bonds, standard portfolio allocations seem unlikely to deliver what’s needed.
  • This has led some investors to reach for more returns by reducing exposure to less risky but lower-returning assets and leaning instead into riskier, higher-returning assets. 
  • Yet shunning diversification and increasing exposure to procyclical assets with embedded leverage is a risky way to tackle the prospect of lower returns. Thus, growing numbers of institutional investors are pursuing an alternative approach that uses capital-efficient strategies. 
  • These entail direct and more efficient uses of leverage to gain exposure to assets that may improve portfolio returns without a material increase in portfolio risk.  

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The Author

Mohsen Fahmi

Portfolio Manager, Global Fixed Income

Josh Davis

Global Head of Client Analytics

Ashish Tiwari

Head of Client Solutions, Americas

Brad Guynn

Asset Allocation Strategist

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Understanding Alternative Investments

Understanding Alternative Investments

Alternative investments offer opportunities to diversify portfolios in times of market uncertainty. But among a range of options, investors must first understand the risks and benefits.

Disclosures

This paper includes hypothetical assumptions and scenarios. HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS HAVE MANY INHERENT LIMITATIONS, SOME OF WHICH ARE DESCRIBED BELOW. NO REPRESENTATION IS BEING MADE THAT ANY ACCOUNT WILL OR IS LIKELY TO ACHIEVE PROFITS OR LOSSES SIMILAR TO THOSE SHOWN. IN FACT, THERE ARE FREQUENTLY SHARP DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS AND THE ACTUAL RESULTS SUBSEQUENTLY ACHIEVED BY ANY PARTICULAR TRADING PROGRAM.

ONE OF THE LIMITATIONS OF HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS IS THAT THEY ARE GENERALLY PREPARED WITH THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT. IN ADDITION, HYPOTHETICAL TRADING DOES NOT INVOLVE FINANCIAL RISK, AND NO HYPOTHETICAL TRADING RECORD CAN COMPLETELY ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF FINANCIAL RISK IN ACTUAL TRADING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE ABILITY TO WITHSTAND LOSSES OR TO ADHERE TO A PARTICULAR TRADING PROGRAM IN SPITE OF TRADING LOSSES ARE MATERIAL POINTS WHICH CAN ALSO ADVERSELY AFFECT ACTUAL TRADING RESULTS. THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER FACTORS RELATED TO THE MARKETS IN GENERAL OR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ANY SPECIFIC TRADING PROGRAM WHICH CANNOT BE FULLY ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE PREPARATION OF HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS AND ALL OF WHICH CAN ADVERSELY AFFECT ACTUAL TRADING RESULTS.

Figures are provided for illustrative purposes and are not indicative of the past or future performance of any PIMCO product.

Return assumptions are for illustrative purposes only and are not a prediction or a projection of return. Return assumption is an estimate of what investments may earn on average over the long term. Actual returns may be higher or lower than those shown and may vary substantially over shorter time periods.

We employed a block bootstrap methodology to calculate volatilities. We start by computing historical factor returns that underlie each asset class proxy from January 1997 through the present date. We then draw a set of 12 monthly returns within the dataset to come up with an annual return number. This process is repeated 25,000 times to have a return series with 25,000 annualized returns. The standard deviation of these annual returns is used to model the volatility for each factor. We then use the same return series for each factor to compute covariance between factors. Finally, volatility of each asset class proxy is calculated as the sum of variances and covariance of factors that underlie that particular proxy. For each asset class, index, or strategy proxy, we will look at either a point in time estimate or historical average of factor exposures in order to determine the total volatility.  Please contact your PIMCO representative for more details on how specific proxy factor exposures are estimated.

Value at Risk (VAR) and Conditional Value at Risk (CVAR) estimate the risk of loss of an investment or portfolio over a given time period under normal market conditions in terms of an average of loss after a specific percentile threshold of loss (i.e., for a given threshold of X%, under the specific modeling assumptions used, the portfolio will incur an average loss in excess of the VAR/CVAR X percent of the time.  Different VAR/CVAR calculation methodologies may be used.  VAR/CVAR models can help understand what future return or loss profiles might be.  However, the effectiveness of a VAR/CVAR calculation is in fact constrained by its limited assumptions (for example, assumptions may involve, among other things, probability distributions, historical return modeling, factor selection, risk factor correlation, simulation methodologies).  It is important that investors understand the nature of these limitations when relying upon VAR/CVAR analyses.

All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bonds and bond strategies with longer durations tend to be more sensitive and volatile than those with shorter durations; bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise, and low interest rate environments increase this risk. Reductions in bond counterparty capacity may contribute to decreased market liquidity and increased price volatility. Bond investments may be worth more or less than the original cost when redeemed. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic and industry conditions. Swaps are a type of derivative; swaps are increasingly subject to central clearing and exchange-trading. Swaps that are not centrally cleared and exchange-traded may be less liquid than exchange-traded instruments. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks, such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested. Diversification does not ensure against loss. Management risk is the risk that the investment techniques and risk analyses applied by an investment manager will not produce the desired results, and that certain policies or developments may affect the investment techniques available to the manager in connection with managing the strategy.

Statements concerning financial market trends or portfolio strategies are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice.

Alpha is a measure of performance on a risk-adjusted basis calculated by comparing the volatility (price risk) of a portfolio vs. its risk-adjusted performance to a benchmark index; the excess return relative to the benchmark is alpha. Beta is a measure of price sensitivity to market movements. Market beta is 1. The correlation of various indexes or securities against one another or against inflation is based upon data over a certain time period. These correlations may vary substantially in the future or over different time periods that can result in greater volatility.

The 3 Month USD LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) Index is an average interest rate, determined by the ICE Benchmark Administration, that banks charge one another for the use of short-term money (3 months) in England's Eurodollar market. The Bloomberg Barclays 7-10 Year Intermediate U.S. Treasury Index is an unmanaged index representing public organizations of the U.S. Treasury with remaining maturity of 7-10 years. Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate (USD Hedged) Index provides a broad-based measure of the global investment-grade fixed income markets. The three major components of this index are the U.S. Aggregate, the Pan-European Aggregate, and the Asian-Pacific Aggregate Indices. The index also includes Eurodollar and Euro-Yen corporate bonds, Canadian Government securities, and USD investment grade 144A securities. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High-Yield Index the covers the USD-denominated, non-investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high-yield if the middle rating of Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below. The index excludes Emerging Markets debt. Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Long Treasury Index includes all publicly issued, U.S. Treasury securities that have a remaining maturity of 10 or more years, are rated investment grade, and have $250 million or more of outstanding face value. Bloomberg Barclays U.S. TIPS Index is an unmanaged market index comprised of all U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities rated investment grade (Baa3 or better), have at least one year to final maturity, and at least $500 million par amount outstanding. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Universal Index represents the union of the U.S. Aggregate Index, the U.S. High-Yield Corporate Index, the 144A Index, the Eurodollar Index, the Emerging Markets Index, and the non-ERISA portion of the CMBS Index. Municipal debt, private placements, and non-dollar-denominated issues are excluded from the Universal Index. The only constituent of the index that includes floating-rate debt is the Emerging Markets Index. Bloomberg Commodity Index Total Return is an unmanaged index composed of futures contracts on a number of physical commodities. The index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for commodities as an asset class. The futures exposures of the benchmark are collateralized by US T-bills.The HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index is comprised of over 2000 domestic and offshore constituent funds. All funds report assets in USD and report net of fees returns on a monthly basis. There is no Fund of Funds included in the index and each has at least $50 million under management or have been actively trading for at least twelve months. MSCI EAFE Index is an unmanaged index designed to represent the performance of large and mid-cap securities across 21 developed markets, including countries in Europe, Australasia and the Far East, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance of emerging markets. Russell 2000® Index is composed of 2,000 of the smallest companies in the Russell 3000 Index and is considered to be representative of the small cap market in general. S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged market index generally considered representative of the stock market as a whole. The Index focuses on the large-cap segment of the U.S. equities market. The SG Multi Alternative Risk Premia Index includes the ten largest qualifying multi alternative risk premia managers. The constituents manage investment programs that are diversified across multiple asset classes and multiple risk premia factors. The managers aim to systematically capture a diversity of discrete risk premia, including value, carry, momentum, and equity style premia. The SG Trend Index calculates the net daily rate of return for a group of 10 trend following CTAs selected from the largest managers open to new investment. The SG Trend Index is equal-weighted and reconstituted annually and has become recognized as the key managed futures trend following performance benchmark. The PIMCO models are non-investable and are provided as a proxy for the respective asset class. It is not possible to invest directly in an unmanaged index.

PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This material contains the opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. ©2020, PIMCO.

Understanding Alternative Investments
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