LAST WEEK IN A NUTSHELL
- Inflation data in the US came out softer than expected following the average hourly earnings miss in the payrolls report.
- US equity markets outperformed their international peers thanks to the leadership of technology shares.
- Geopolitical risk and the trade conflict remains a concern.
- The Bank of England sends mixed messages: hawkish rhetoric but downward revisions in its inflation forecasts.
- In Italy, the election winners are in a final push to form an unorthodox government.
- The progress of the US economic growth will be gauged through retail sales, industrial production and housing data.
- Geopolitics will be in focus on Tuesday as China Vice Premier Liu He is traveling to Washington and Russian state Duma is discussing retaliatory measures against US sanctions.
- Core scenario
- We expect an underlying favourable background and look for an entry point to increase risk exposure
- Growth cycle may have peaked, but the growth momentum is expected to continue beyond H1 2018
- Gradual rise in inflation in the US, but no inflation fear
- US Fed monetary tightening is progressive, other central banks are in no hurry to tighten
- Market views
- Global equities face temporary headwinds but solid earnings growth is a support for the asset class
- Valuations have become less stretched after the recent correction and solid earnings reports
- Credit is expensive, leaving little room for improving fundamentals going forward
- US equities are supported by the tax reform, buybacks and still attractive valuation vs. bonds
- We note an increase in downside risks since the start of the year
- The macro momentum is peaking, concerns about protectionism are intensifying, geopolitical risks have increased and US monetary tightening is making progress,
- Moving towards a higher volatility regime would require a shock on growth and the fear of recession in one key region, or an unexpected acceleration in inflation.
RECENT ACTIONS IN THE ASSET ALLOCATION STRATEGY
We are neutral on equities and keep a short duration
CROSS ASSET VIEWS AND PORTFOLIO POSITIONING
- We have kept our exposure to equities unchanged but we are looking for an entry point to increase risk exposure as we expect an underlying favourable background.
- Global growth momentum outside the US is likely to have peaked but the growth momentum is expected to continue.
- We are neutral on the euro zone. The region still displays a robust economic expansion but activity indicators show some signs of weakness. The ECB remains accommodative, and is not in a hurry to become hawkish. Corporate earnings momentum has weakened and euro zone equities currently lack new catalysts, not only a weaker currency.
- We are underweight Europe ex-EMU equities. The region has a lower expected earnings growth and thus lower expected returns than the continent, justifying our negative stance. “Brexit” negotiations remain a risk, while negotiations on new trade relations are stalling.
- We have a neutral stance on US equities. We acknowledge, the improving earnings growth and the positive impact of Donald Trump’s tax reform and deregulation. Nevertheless, the US trade policy is a major policy unknown as risks start to materialise..
- We keep our Japanese exposure to neutral. An accommodative policy mix and an above-potential expansion remain good news for Japan. The recent currency weakness is a support for the stock market which remains highly correlated with the performance of the JPY.
- We are neutral on emerging markets equities. Emerging equities benefit from improving fundamentals and a stronger growth. The region is nevertheless vulnerable in case of a global trade conflict. In addition, the high weighting of the tech sector (28%) and USD strength are adding volatility.
- We are underweight bonds and keep a short duration
- We expect a gradual rise in inflation, but no inflation fear.
- Global monetary tightening is progressive. Outside of the US, other developed markets central banks are in no hurry to tighten.
- However, we note an increase in downside risks: macro momentum is peaking, monetary normalisation is accelerating in the US and concerns about protectionism remain.
- With a tightening Fed and expected upcoming inflation pressures, we expect rates and bond yields to continue their uptrend. In addition to rising producer prices, rising wages, fiscal stimulus and trade tariffs could push inflation higher.
- The overall improvement in the European economy could also lead EMU yields higher over the medium term. The ECB remains dovish in its Quantitative Easing plans and is opposed to a strong euro.
- We have a neutral view on credit as spreads have already tightened significantly and a potential increase in bond yields could hurt performance.
- The emerging market debt faces headwinds with a strengthening USD and we believe spreads can tighten further. The carry is among the highest in the fixed income universe. It is an attractive diversification vs other asset classes.