The Lyrical Challenge

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Lyrical’s portfolios look very different from the S&P 500, and even very different compared to our peers. A big reason for that is our uncommon perspective, and one example of that perspective is something we call The Lyrical Challenge.

The Lyrical Challenge is inspired by the old Pepsi Challenge commercials. Starting in 1975, Pepsi began running television ads where they showed ordinary people participating in a blind taste test between two colas: Pepsi and Coke. At Lyrical, we do our own blind test, but of stocks instead of colas, and of earnings records and valuation multiples instead of taste. The results of these blind comparisons can be surprising, as the perception of a stock can be very different from the reality. In this piece, we present one of the more interesting Lyrical Challenges we have encountered.

2023 Global Impact Value Equity Strategy (GIVES) Review

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Our Global Value Impact strategy returned 16.4% in 2023, outperforming the MSCI ACWI Sustainable Impact Index by 1,150 bps and the MSCI World Value by 490 bps, and underperforming the MSCI World index by 740 bps.
While it was satisfying to significantly outperform our style benchmarks by so much, it was frustrating to lag the MSCI World, which benefitted from an outsized contribution from the Magnificent Seven U.S. mega-cap growth stocks. As both value and impact investors, we did not own these seven stocks that accounted for about half of the total index return in 2023. If we compare ourselves to the MSCI World excluding these seven stocks, we would have outperformed by 30 bps.
2023 was a tough year for sustainability investors with the MSCI Sustainable Impact index returning only 4.9% or 18.9 percentage points behind the MSCI World index. A slowdown in the forecasted growth of electric vehicles (“EVs”) and renewables penetration caused a sell-off in many stocks aligned with sustainability trends. Many of these stocks traded at high valuation multiples and fell significantly.
We’ve long advocated for a value-disciplined approach to impact investing. 2023 was a proof point for why. The long-term trends toward EVs and renewables promise of significant growth, caused companies obviously aligned with these trends to trade for sky-high multiples. While many of these obvious impact stocks collapsed in 2023, our value stocks held up while delivering positive change including more than 3 million tonnes of portfolio-weighted emissions avoided.

2023 Global Value Review Letter

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Our Global strategy returned 21.2% in 2023, outperforming the MSCI World Value Index by 970 bps and underperforming the MSCI World Index by 260 bps.
While it was satisfying to significantly outperform our style benchmark, it was frustrating to underperform the MSCI World considering our companies delivered better earnings growth than the index. Our portfolio earnings grew 6.2% in 2023, compared to only 4.0% for the MSCI World.
The MSCI World benefitted from an outsized contribution from the Magnificent Seven U.S. mega-cap growth stocks, which as value investors we did not own. The Magnificent Seven accounted for 44% of the total index return in 2023. If we compare ourselves to the MSCI World Equal Weight, which still owns the Magnificent Seven, but at a much lower portfolio weight, we outperformed by 450 bps.
The Magnificent Seven also masked how well non-U.S. equities fared relative to U.S. equities. On the surface it looked like a weaker year for non-U.S. stocks. The S&P 500 outperformed the MSCI World by 250 bps, but the primary difference was attributable to the significant positive contribution from the Magnificent Seven stocks. To get a broader measure of how U.S. and non-U.S. stocks performed, the equal weighted version of these two indices is a better metric. Through that lens, the non-U.S. stocks fared much better, with the MSCI World Equal Weight outperforming the S&P 500 Equal Weight by 280 bps.

2023 International Review Letter

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Our International Value Equity strategy returned 13.8% in 2023, underperforming the EAFE and EAFE Value in a calendar year for the first time in our history. It was a frustrating year considering our underperformance was driven by multiple compression and market-cap factors, not fundamentals. In fact, as detailed below, our companies generated better earnings results this year than the indices.

 

Our approach to focusing on value stocks with strong earnings growth leaves us looking very different than our benchmark, with about a 98% active share. By owning cheap companies with attractive growth, we expect to deliver above-market returns over time. Over short periods, however, looking different than the benchmark can hurt performance. This year, for example, most of our underperformance came from our lack of exposure to the largest-cap stocks in Europe.

 

With more earnings growth and less stock price return in 2023, the relative valuation gap between our stocks and the EAFE widened to levels we’ve rarely seen since inception, with the portfolio now having more than 75% upside to our estimate of intrinsic value. We believe this sets us up for significant outperformance in the future.

Q4 2023 Update Webinar Replay

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Original broadcast details
Date: Thursday, January 11, 2024
 
Executive Summary
2023 was the third year in a row our U.S. Value CS composite outperformed the S&P 500.
We started the year slowly and then experienced seven strong months to finish ahead of the S&P 500, despite not owning any of the Magnificent Seven mega-cap growth stocks.

Q2 2023 Update Webinar Replay

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Original broadcast details
Date: Thursday, July 13, 2023
 
Executive Summary
At the halfway point of 2023, we believe Lyrical is having a deceptively good year.
It may not seem that good on the surface since we are trailing the S&P 500 and S&P 500 Value, but the returns of both those indices have been largely driven by a handful of mega-cap growth stocks. Excluding those stocks, our U.S. composites have materially outperformed the rest of the stocks in those indexes this year. We are also outperforming 94% of our Morningstar peer group with our LYRIX mutual fund’s first half returns ranked in the 6th percentile.

Q3 2023 Update Webinar Replay

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Original broadcast details
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2023
 
Executive Summary
3Q23 was a strong quarter of relative performance; our U.S. strategies outperformed the S&P 500 in both up and down months.
We had a flat quarter of absolute performance, outperforming the S&P 500’s decline of over 3%, and the S&P 500 Value’s decline of over 4%. Year-to-date, our LYRIX mutual fund outperformed 98% of the 382 funds in our Morningstar peer group. 

Large Cap or Mid Cap?

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We often are asked what the right size and style box is for our U.S. portfolio. From a style perspective we are clearly deep on the value side of the spectrum. Less clear is where we fit from a size perspective.
As of year-end 2022*, the average market capitalization of our capitalization-scaled (LAM-CS) portfolio construction was $37 billion. This appears significantly smaller than the $234 billion of the S&P 500 Value index or the $151 billion of the S&P 900 Value index. On the other hand, it is significantly larger than the $5.8 billion of the S&P Midcap 400 Value index. So, where should investors place Lyrical? Large Value or Mid Value?
For nearly all our clients, they place us in the large-cap value box, mainly because our portfolio closely resembles the constituents of the S&P 500 Value and S&P 900 Value, once you eliminate the gross distortion of cap weighting.