Understanding Tactical Asset Allocation

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tactical asset allocation

Portfolio Management

Understanding Tactical Asset Allocation

Sam Bourgi May 07, 2019

Learn more about strategic asset allocation here.

Tactical Asset Allocation: A Primer

The rationale behind TAA is easy to understand: to ensure that long-term average returns don’t underperform the market, a focus on total portfolio performance is needed. Case in point: it was relatively easy to outperform the S&P 500 during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. However, in the following ten years, stock portfolios would have vastly underperformed the most conservative mix of stocks, bonds and cash.

In practice, TAA shifts allocations between asset classes to boost capital and income. These shifts impact equity regions, bond sectors and other segments of the market. For a fund to be considered for TAA, it must satisfy several requirements, including demonstrating these historical shifts in allocation on a quarterly basis for at least three years.

Investors want to utilize tactical asset allocation to maximize portfolio returns while keeping market risks at bay. The primary focus is on asset allocation, followed by a secondary focus on investment selection. In this way, it differs from other, more common investment strategies such as technical analysis and fundamental analysis.

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How Mutual Funds Can Help?

To learn more about other funds by Vanguard, check out the fund company page here.

Mutual funds make tactical asset allocation easier by allowing investors to select a mix of assets based on risk tolerance, region, time horizon and other variables. Mutual funds can also provide exposure to specific geographic regions and asset classes that are suitable for TAA strategies. Since mutual funds are liquid instruments and easy to trade, shifting allocations based on prevailing or expected market conditions is relatively easy.

One of the most successful mutual funds for technical asset allocation is the Meeder Muirfield Fund (FLMFX), which aims to provide long-term capital appreciation.

The Putnam Dynamic Asset Allocation Conservative Fund (PACAX) seeks total returns consistent with the preservation of capital, which gives it a high fixed-income focus. The Sector Rotation Fund (NAVFX) invests in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with exposure to various domestic and foreign markets, which satisfies geography-based TAA strategies. Other leading TAA mutual funds include the AB Global Risk Allocation Fund (CABNX) and the Lazard Opportunistic Strategies Open (LCAOX).

It’s important to note that selecting mutual funds for tactical asset allocation doesn’t eliminate risks from the investment process. It’s important to reflect on the history of bear markets when selecting any TAA strategy as this will help you determine whether a particular asset can help you mitigate losses during severe market declines.

In general, a TAA strategy involving mutual funds should consider performance, risk tolerance and time horizon. On the topic of performance, TAA mutual funds must be evaluated for variance (i.e., how closely they represent the performance of major asset classes). With respect to risk tolerance, a mutual fund TAA strategy will be used either as a single-portfolio solution or part of a much larger investment strategy. Choosing the right time horizon is also crucial because TAA portfolios can have two extremes: on the one hand, they can mirror day trading strategies, and on the other, long business-cycle periods. Investors should select a time horizon that meets their underlying goals, objectives and risk tolerance.

The Bottom Line

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