Slow food for thought
Insights and research on global events shaping the markets
Key takeaways: • While market dynamics remain supportive, the macro & fundamental context are still uncertain and could lead to an Equity Risk Premium re-rating • We keep our cautious stance on equities and rates as well as our positive view on credit • We are downgrading China & EM Asia equities to positive (from attractive). We are upgrading Government bonds to positive (from cautious)
The battle between the “bulls” and the “bears” is still raging and the winner has not yet been determined. While the technical background for equity markets has been improving recently, we decided last week to keep our cautious stance on equities. Indeed, our view remains that the aftershock of the Fed's policy tightening is starting to be felt in the ﬁnancial system and the wider economy. We believe that the macro-economic context is starting to deteriorate and that we have entered yet another period of uncertainty which should lead to an Equity Risk Premium re-rating.
Last week we decided downgrade equities from positive to cautious. Indeed, our view is that the aftershock of the Fed's policy tightening is starting to be felt in the ﬁnancial system and the wider economy. We believe that we have entered yet another period of uncertainty which should lead to an Equity Risk Premium re-rating. This week, we are further de-risking portfolios by downgrading credit from attractive to positive.
DOWNGRADING EQUITIES TO CAUTIOUS As an old adage says, Monetary policy tightening is like dynamite fishing: when the blast hits, it decimates everything in the vicinity. The small fishes rise to the surface first. But it can take some time for the whale(s) to show up. With the unwind of a major bank (Silicon Valley Bank) last week and another (Signature Bank) over the weekend, it is clear that the aftershock of the Fed's policy tightening is starting to be felt. But should we see these two banks as whales or as just being those small fishes? At this stage, it is very difficult to answer to this question. However, we believe that we have entered a new period of uncertainty which should lead to an Equity Risk Premium re-rating. As such, we are downgrading equities from positive to cautious.
2022 was the worst year for global equity markets since 2008 while January was the best month for stocks since 1987. Investor sentiment has thus shifted and there are a few rationales for this.
2023 started with a mirror image of the trends that prevailed last year: the US dollar is weakening, bond yields are falling and stocks are rising. Are we witnessing a classical positive seasonal effect or is the improving sentiment a reflection of a macroeconomic and fundamental outlook improvement?
While inﬂation seems to have peaked in the US, central banks need to keep tightening for a while in order to bring it closer to their long-term target. This would probably imply a recession, with a negative impact on earnings growth.
While we believe that equity markets remain in a downtrend, the weight of the evidence leads us to upgrade our one-month tactical view on equities from “unattractive” to “cautious”. Our view on EM Asia equities moves from “cautious” to “positive”. We are also upgrading our stance on credit from “cautious” to “positive” (though favoring Investment Grade).
Our main scenario is a rise in downside risks for the global economy, ampliﬁed by antagonist policies. This is due to a global growth slowdown that governments aim to mitigate through ﬁscal support, as well as a simultaneous inﬂationary environment that central banks are trying to contain. This combination spurs macroeconomic volatility which itself keeps asset price volatility elevated. Consequently, we maintain an “unattractive” stance on equities and a cautious view on both rates and spreads. We are positive on commodities and have a very attractive view on hedge funds. We remain positive on the dollar against all currencies as the greenback remains the only true inﬂation hedge at this stage.
Global equity markets declined in August, ending the rebound that began in July. Most of the economic data released last month points to an economic slowdown. Central banks are choosing to ignore this as they focus efforts on fighting inflation amid an energy crisis of historic proportions. Meanwhile, market trends remain bearish as market breadth deteriorates. In this context, it is not the time to be brave in asset allocation choices. Market bounces are likely to be part of a more volatile environment which will continue until the conditions for a market bottom are met.
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