Voya Corporate Leaders® 100 Fund Quarterly Commentary - 1Q23

Voya Corporate Leaders® 100 Fund Quarterly Commentary - 1Q23

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A rules-based strategy designed to exploit market inefficiencies in a disciplined systematic manner.

Key Takeaways

  • For the quarter ended March 31, 2023, the Voya Corporate Leaders 100 Fund underperformed its benchmark, the S&P 500 Index (the Index) on net asset value (NAV) basis.

  • During the quarter, the Fund continued to follow its strict rules-based investment approach.
  • At the beginning of the quarter, the Fund held equal-weighted positions in the stocks of the S&P 100 Index (implying that each holding represented about 1% of the portfolio).
  • Over the course of the quarter, if the value of a security increased by more than 50%,* the position size was reduced to 1%, and if the value of a security decreased by more than 30%,* the position was eliminated.

Current strategy and outlook

The financial markets were positive in the first quarter, but volatile as concerns with inflation and interest rates tugged asset prices up and down. At its first 2023 policy meeting, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 25 basis points (bp), driving market rates higher while pulling down bond prices and crimping the values of rate-sensitive technology stocks. Market focus shifted dramatically in March as the sudden failure of several US regional banks and the collapse of Credit Suisse shook the banking sector. Markets regrouped after the government intervened to protect depositors. The Fed, seeking to avoid further “accidents” tied to higher rates, took a restrained step and increased the Fed funds rate by just another 25 bp at its March policy meeting.

The 10-year US Treasury yield fell from nearly 3.9% in early January to less than 3.5% by quarter-end. Falling rates helped both stocks and bonds. The S&P 500 Index gained 7.50% and the Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index gained 2.96%. Easing rates also gave growth stocks an advantage over value stocks ― across the capitalization spectrum, growth styles posted gains significantly greater than those of value styles.

Strains in parts of the financial system have prompted the Fed to trim its tightening plans. We believe quick action by regulators has largely addressed concerns of systemic risk in the banking system. In our view, bank balance sheets are healthy, and the lack of fundamental consumer and corporate imbalances should limit the severity of any sort of economic downturn that may materialize.

The long game still needs to play out: a higher cost of capital for banks will raise borrowing costs for companies and consumers, increasing the potential for a longer but still shallow recession. Since the challenges to the banking system are likely to be disinflationary, further Fed rate hikes may not be necessary. The focus now shifts to when the Fed might begin lowering rates. For that to happen, we believe labor markets and economic growth would need to weaken substantially — and that is not happening yet. Employment data remain vibrant despite an uptick in the unemployment rate, and the economy has remained remarkably resilient, supported by strong consumer spending.

Portfolio Review

Over the reporting period, the underweight in the energy sector and stock selection in the materials sector contributed the most to performance. At the individual stock level, overweight positions in Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Salesforce, Inc. and FedEx Corp. were among the key contributors.

By contrast, the underweight in the information technology sector detracted. The overweight and stock selection in financials sector was the second largest detractor. Among the largest individual detractors for the period were the underweight in Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and the overweight to American International Group, Inc.

As of the end of the reporting period, the Fund’s largest sector overweight was to the financials sector, while the largest sector underweight was information technology. Sector exposures are purely a function of the Strategy’s rules-based investment discipline and are not actively managed.

Holdings Detail

Companies mentioned in this report – percentage of Fund investments, as of 03/31/23: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. 0.93%, Salesforce, Inc. 1.47%, FedEx Corp. 1.27%, Apple Inc.1.24%, Microsoft Corp. 1.17%, American International Group, Inc. 0.77%; 0% indicates that the security is no longer in the Fund. Portfolio holdings are subject to daily change.

*If a security is underperforming the S&P 500® Index and the S&P 500® Index is positive on an intra-quarter basis, the security will typically be sold when it declines by 30% or more, irrespective of the percentage difference versus the S&P 500® Index. If a security is underperforming the S&P 500® Index and the S&P 500® Index is negative on an intra-quarter basis, the security will typically be sold when it underperforms the S&P 500® Index by 30 percentage points or more. This change went into effect on 5/18/20.


* If a security is underperforming the S&P 500® Index and the S&P 500® Index is positive on an intra-quarter basis, the security will typically be sold when it declines by 30% or more, irrespective of the percentage difference versus the S&P 500® Index. If a security is underperforming the S&P 500® Index and the S&P 500® Index is negative on an intra-quarter basis, the security will typically be sold when it underperforms the S&P 500® Index by 30 percentage points or more. This change went into effect on 5/18/20.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is an unmanaged index that measures the performance of securities of approximately 500 of the largest companies in the United States. The Index does not reflect fees, brokerage commissions, taxes or other expenses of investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index.

Principal Risks: All investing involves risks of fluctuating prices and the uncertainties of rates of return and yield. Stocks fall into three broad. Market Capitalization categories — large, mid and small. Investing primarily in one category carries the risk that, due to current market conditions, that category may be out of favor with investors. If valuations of large-capitalization companies appear to be greatly out of proportion to the valuations of mid- or small-capitalization companies, investors may migrate to the stock of mid- and small-sized companies causing a fund that invests in these companies to increase in value more rapidly than a fund that invests in larger, fully-valued companies. Investing in mid- and small-capitalization companies may be subject to special risks associated with narrower product lines, more limited financial resources, smaller management groups and a more limited trading market for their stock than with larger companies. As a result, stock of mid- and small-capitalization companies may decline significantly in market downturns. Investing in Foreign (non-U.S.) Securities may result in the Fund experiencing more rapid and extreme changes in value than a fund that invests exclusively in securities of U.S. companies due to smaller markets, differing reporting, accounting and auditing standards, and nationalization, expropriation or confiscatory taxation, foreign currency fluctuations, currency blockage, or political changes or diplomatic developments. Derivative Instruments are subject to a number of risks, including the risk of changes in the market price of the underlying securities, credit risk with respect to the counterparty, risk of loss due to changes in interest rates and liquidity risk. The use of certain derivatives could have a leveraging effect, which might increase the volatility of the Fund and reduce its returns. Other risks of the Fund include but are not limited to: Company risk, Convertible Securities risk, Currency risk, Liquidity risk, Market risk, Other Investment Companies’ Risks and Securities Lending risks. An investment in the Fund is not a bank deposit and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Board or any other government agency.

The strategy is available as a mutual fund or variable portfolio. The mutual fund may be available to you as part of your employer sponsored retirement plan. There may be additional plan level fees resulting in personal performance that varies from stated performance. Please call your benefits office for more information.
Variable annuities and group annuities are long-term investments designed for retirement purposes. If withdrawals are taken prior to age 59½, an IRS 10% premature distribution penalty tax may apply. Money taken from the annuity will be taxed as ordinary income in the year the money is distributed. An annuity does not provide any additional tax deferral benefit, as tax deferral is provided by the plan. Annuities may be subject to additional fees and expenses to which other tax-qualified funding vehicles may not be subject. However, an annuity does provide other features and benefits, such as lifetime income payments and death benefits, which may be valuable to you.
Variable investments, of any kind, are not guaranteed and are subject to investment risk including the possible loss of principal. The investment return and principal value of the security will fluctuate so that when redeemed, it may be worth more or less than the original investment. In addition, there is no guarantee that any variable investment option will meet its stated objective. All guarantees are based on the financial strength and claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company, who is solely responsible for all obligations under its policies.
Insurance products, annuities and funding agreements issued by Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (“VRIAC”), One Orange Way, Windsor, CT 06095, which is solely responsible for meeting its obligations. Plan administrative services provided by VRIAC or Voya Institutional Plan Services, LLC (“VIPS”). Securities distributed by or offered through Voya Financial Partners, LLC (“VFP”) (member SIPC)or other broker-dealers with which it has a selling agreement. Only Voya Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company is admitted and can issue products in the state of New York. All companies are members of Voya Financial.
This commentary has been prepared by Voya Investment Management for informational purposes. Nothing contained herein should be construed as (i) an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy any security or (ii) a recommendation as to the advisability of investing in, purchasing or selling any security. Any opinions expressed herein reflect our judgment and are subject to change. Certain of the statements contained herein are statements of future expectations and other forward-looking statements that are based on management’s current views and assumptions and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, performance or events to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements. Actual results, performance or events may differ materially from those in such statements due to, without limitation, (1) general economic conditions, (2) performance of financial markets, (3) interest rate levels, (4) increasing levels of loan defaults (5) changes in laws and regulations and (6) changes in the policies of governments and/or regulatory authorities. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The opinions, views and information expressed in this commentary regarding holdings are subject to change without notice. The information provided regarding holdings is not a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Portfolio holdings are fluid and are subject to daily change based on market conditions and other factors.