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Boats in the sea

Asset allocation update – Too rich for a recession

As markets continue to gyrate between concerns over recession and worries over persistently high inflation in the wake of the annual Jackson Hole conference of central bankers, we note that US bonds and equities have very much moved in lockstep. Notably in Europe, our valuation frameworks now point to considerable downside still for equities.  

Both US equity and fixed income risk premia have recently ticked up to similar levels, but are around 100bp below where they were in June. Fixed income moves have been limited somewhat by tighter US high-yield spreads.

In equities, earnings expectations have held (surprisingly) steady. Valuations appear rich in the context of where trend earnings are and should be at this point in the cycle.

For instance, a return to trend earnings for US equities would point to a 20% fall in total returns; a halfway move to trend would suggest -12% or so. While after a correction, the techheavy Nasdaq index now looks less frothy, also compared to the broader US market, we believe the segment remains particularly vulnerable in a rising rates scenario.

Within equities, China and Japan are the outliers. Attractive valuations means we favour them. Set against a cautious view on Europe, we are neutral on equities overall (see table below).

As for fixed income, the UK is arguably in the ‘eye of the storm’ of rampant inflation and associated policy pressures. The UK bank rate is now priced to peak at 4.5% in six months’ time, at around the same time as the zenith in US and euro policy rates. Here the expected peaks are 4% and just above 2%, respectively.

In the UK and US, rate cuts are priced to occur soon after; in Europe, the jury is out on whether the ECB will reverse its interest rate rises over a five-year horizon.

Disclaimer

Please note that articles may contain technical language. For this reason, they may not be suitable for readers without professional investment experience. Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. This document does not constitute investment advice. The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns. Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions). Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

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