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Bond Fund —
Fourth Quarter Manager Commentary
1st Quarter, 2019
"We still have a preference for U.S. duration versus rate exposure in other developed regions, including the U.K. and Japan. "

Economic Overview
Following the steep sell-off in December 2018, risk assets bounced back in the first quarter of 2019 as dovish pivots from global central banks helped ease financial conditions and optimism over U.S.-China trade negotiations bolstered investor sentiment. Robust appetites reverberated across most risk assets – global equities surged higher, developed market yields fell, credit spreads tightened, and oil prices climbed – although not all retraced the extent of the previous quarter’s declines.
Even as risk sentiment improved, fundamental data continued to indicate a slowdown in global growth. The eurozone saw downside surprises in growth metrics as external demand weakened, driven in part by the persistent slowdown in China, which in turn spurred stimulus measures from Chinese policymakers. Economic data in the U.S. were mixed, particularly due to the temporary government shutdown, but labor and housing markets remained broadly robust.
Global central banks signaled more accommodative stances as evidence grew of a deceleration in global economies. The U.S. Federal Reserve established a “patient” approach to monetary policy, lowering both growth expectations and its rate hike outlook for 2019. Other central banks likewise struck more cautionary tones, further contributing to the broad-based rally in both risk assets and sovereign yields.
Geopolitical developments were mixed: headlines highlighted continued political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but also progress on a potential U.S.-China trade deal, although a full agreement remained elusive.
Portfolio Review
In the first quarter of 2019, the Harbor Bond Fund (Institutional Class) returned 3.00%, outperforming its benchmark, the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, which returned 2.94%.
The Fund benefited from its overweight position in intermediate rates as rates fell across the yield curve, offsetting detractions from an underweight to longer maturities. We still have a preference for U.S. duration versus rate exposure in other developed regions, including the U.K. and Japan. We prefer the intermediate portion of the curve, anchored by the new neutral thesis and the weight of lower global yields.
The Fund also benefited from its underweight position in investment grade corporate bonds in favor of more diversified credit exposures in other sectors. We would look to add opportunistically again amid market dislocations as we do not see any imminent downturn in the business cycle. The Fund’s overweight to the banking and financial sector as well as favorable security selection also contributed to performance as spreads tightened throughout the quarter.
The Fund also received positive to modestly positive contributions from high yield credit, mortgage-backed securities, revenue-backed municipal bonds, and U.S. Dollar-denominated emerging markets debt.
We remain tactical with currency positioning, particularly given less conviction in the overall direction of the Dollar. The Fund’s long exposure to the British Pound and Japanese Yen added to performance, along with exposure to a basket of high-carry emerging market currencies, including the Mexican Peso and Russian Ruble.
The Fund’s short rate exposure in ex-U.S. developed markets, including Japan, Australia, the U.K., and select European markets, detracted from performance as rates in these markets fell during the quarter. Rates in these markets are likely, we believe, to face increased pressure as their central banks shift towards reducing accommodation.
During the quarter, we slightly decreased our overall duration underweight position, as we expect rates in the U.S. to be relatively range bound, but positioning in Japan serves as a cheap hedge against global rates moving higher. We also modestly decreased our overall spread exposure, as we are underweight investment grade corporate credit and instead maintain a more diversified, broader credit mix. We also modestly increased our position in U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) given low breakeven rates and our expectations for inflation to drift toward target.
Outlook
We believe world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will slow to 2.5% to 3% this year from 3.3% in 2018. However, with China increasing stimulus and a trade deal between the U.S. and China in the making, we believe there is a good chance that global growth will stabilize or even pick up moderately later this year. Inflation globally is likely to fall to 1.5% to 2% from 2.2% in 2018 due to continued below-target inflation in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
In the U.S., we continue to anticipate growth slowing to 2% to 2.5% in 2019 from nearly 3% last year. Factors contributing to the deceleration are likely to include fading fiscal stimulus, the lagging effect of tighter monetary policy over the past few years, and headwinds from the China-global slowdown. In our view, China’s easing is not likely to filter through to U.S. growth until late 2019 or early 2020. Headline inflation looks set to drop to 1.5% to 2% this year, we believe, while core inflation holds steady. With growth slowing and inflation remaining below target, the Fed is likely to keep rates unchanged in 2019, we believe.
For the eurozone, growth is likely to slow to a trend-like pace of 0.75% to 1.25% in 2019 from close to 2% in 2018, as weak global trade exerts significant downward pressure on the economy. An improvement in global trade conditions through this year may contribute to a gradual reacceleration, we believe. Reflecting firmer wage growth, we anticipate a moderate pickup in core inflation, which has been stuck at 1% for some time. In line with the European Central Bank’s (ECB) forward guidance, we believe policy rates are likely to remain unchanged this year.
In the U.K., we anticipate real growth in the range of 1% to 1.5% in 2019, modestly below trend. In our view, a chaotic no-deal Brexit is a low-probability event. In the event of a soft Brexit by midyear, a rate hike by the Bank of England in the second half of the year would appear likely.
Japan’s GDP growth is likely to be modest at 0.5% to 1% in 2019, broadly unchanged from 0.7% in 2018. With core inflation likely to dip into negative territory (due to temporary factors) around the middle of the year, the Bank of Japan is likely to keep its targets for short rates and the 10-year yield unchanged this year, in our view.
In China, growth is likely to slow in 2019 to the middle of a 5.5% to 6.5% range from 6.6% in 2018, we believe, stabilizing in the second half of the year as fiscal and monetary stimulus find some traction and a likely trade deal between the U.S. and China supports confidence.

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The views expressed herein are those of the portfolio manager at the time of the interview and may not be reflective of their current opinions or future actions.  These views are not necessarily those of the fund company and should not be construed as such.

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