Asset Allocation

Why We Are Neutral Between U.S. and non-U.S. Stocks

August 11 2020
Key Insights

  • Our Asset Allocation Committee is neutral between U.S. and non-U.S. stocks.
  • U.S. stocks are supported by massive stimulus measures and are exposed to innovative sectors that have proven to be resilient in this environment.
  • Non-U.S. stocks may have a smoother recovery from the pandemic and could benefit from a weakening U.S. dollar. 

Transcript

In our Asset Allocation Committee, we like Emerging Market stocks relative to developed markets, but at the top level, we are neutral between U.S. and non-U.S. stocks. No one likes a two-handed economist, but I’m not an economist, so let me give my top two reasons to favor U.S. stocks, and my top two reasons to favor non-U.S. stocks.

In favor of U.S. stocks, there is a clear stimulus advantage. The year-over-year increase money growth (a proxy for stimulus measures) in the U.S. has been more than four times the increase in Europe, Japan, the UK, and China. US authorities just had more dry powder available than the rest of the world. 

Second, U.S. stocks enjoy an important sector advantage. U.S. stocks are comprised of 27% technology companies, compared to 7.5% in Europe, for example. So the U.S. economy has been and could continue to be more dynamic, more innovative, or vibrant if you will. And U.S. stocks remain more resilient in a continued low interest rate environment.

Now perhaps I’ve convinced you to overweight U.S. stocks. But wait…

In favor of non-U.S. stocks, we likely have a smoother recovery from the pandemic. Markets typically look not for the resolution of economic shocks, but rather for the “stop-getting-worse moment.” With regards to the number of cases and the impact of the pandemic on economic activity, it appears the U.S. is lagging the rest of the world.

The second of my top two reasons in favor of non-U.S. stocks is a potentially weakening U.S. Dollar. The narrowing of the growth differential and interest rate differential that have favored the U.S., and the massive supply of liquidity I mentioned, could continue to push the U.S. Dollar lower. Equity investors sometimes underestimate the impact of currencies on their unhedged foreign equity exposures. This factor could play an important role in the months ahead.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned the valuation advantage for non-U.S. stocks as one of my top two reasons to like the asset class. It is a factor we look at, but it has poor historical performance as a tool for tactical asset allocation at the 6-18 month time horizon, and sector differences can weaken the signal significantly.

The bottom line? When it comes to U.S. vs. non-U.S. stocks, we believe diversification is the name of the game. As we tell our clients, don’t be a hero, stay invested, and stay diversified. 

Important Information

This material is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investment advice or a recommendation to take any particular investment action.

The views contained herein are those of the authors as of August 2020 and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price associates.

This information is not intended to reflect a current or past recommendation, investment advice of any kind, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any securities or investment services. The opinions and commentary provided do not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any particular investor or class of investor. Investors will need to consider their own circumstances before making an investment decision.

Information contained herein is based upon sources we consider to be reliable; we do not, however, guarantee its accuracy.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. All investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of principal.

T. Rowe Price Investment Services, Inc., Distributor.

© 2020 T. Rowe Price. All rights reserved. T. Rowe Price, INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE, and the Bighorn Sheep design are, collectively and/or apart, trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.

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