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August 2021 / MARKET OUTLOOK

Global Asset Allocation: August Insights

Discover the latest global market themes

1.    Market Perspective

    Global economic growth remains strong but varied across regions, balancing progress on vaccination distribution with setbacks from growing delta variant cases.

    While still supportive, global monetary policy is expected to continue a gradual trend toward tightening as central banks weigh moderating growth and increased coronavirus risk against more persistent inflation.

    While global fiscal impulse continues to fade from crisis level highs, the European Union (EU) recovery fund and potential US infrastructure spending, along with China’s efforts to stabilise growth, could offset the pullback.

    Longer-term interest rates could trend higher on the growth and inflation outlook, but upside may be limited as both factors move past peak levels. Short-term rates could begin to price in tighter central bank policy, leading to flatter yield curves.

    Key risks to global markets include: the path forward for the coronavirus, elevated inflation, central bank missteps, higher taxes, a stricter regulatory environment and increasing geopolitical concerns.

    2. Portfolio Positioning

      We remain modestly underweight equities relative to bonds and cash as the risk/reward profile looks less compelling for equities and could be vulnerable to fading policy support, higher rates, elevated inflation and potential tax increases.

      Within equities, we continue to favour value-oriented equities globally, US small-caps and emerging markets (EM) stocks as we expect cyclically exposed companies to continue to benefit from strong economic growth and global reopening.

      Within fixed income, we continue to have a bias toward shorter-duration and higher-yielding sectors through overweights to high yield bonds, emerging market debt and cash.

      3. Market Themes

      Balancing Act

      At the same time that China has taken steps to stabilise its slowing economy with measures such as a surprise reserve requirement ratio cut and pledge to increase fiscal support, policymakers continued to advance social policies through increased regulation, the latest of which rattled markets. These new regulations are tied to specific priorities around ensuring data security, improving the quality and sustainability of economic growth, reducing the wealth gap and protecting the environment. Some of the enforcement measures, such as forcing education companies to transition to not‑for‑profit, were seen as severe and prompted concerns that additional stringent measures for other industries may be forthcoming. Recent comments from government officials seem to indicate that this is unlikely but were sufficient enough to worry investors. As China moves forward, stabilising its economy while pursuing its social agenda could prove to be a tricky balancing act.

      Double Reversal

      After lagging growth stocks for over 15 years, value was finally positioned to outperform growth last fall on expectations of sharply rebounding economic growth, higher inflation and the unleashing of pent-up demand as lockdowns eased. That was just how the story played out until late March when markets quickly reversed and rates moved lower as the narrative changed to ‘peaking’ growth and inflation and concerns surrounding potential Fed tapering as well as increases in delta variant cases led to a more defensive tone across markets. However, the story for value may not be over just yet, as recent underperformance has led to more attractive relative valuations, global growth remains above trend and supply/demand imbalances continue to keep inflation stubbornly high. With the hopeful containment of the delta variant and increasing regulatory pressure on growth stocks, investors may start betting on value pulling off a double reversal this cycle.

      For a region-by-region overview, see the full report (PDF).

       

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