June 2023 / ASSET ALLOCATION VIEWPOINT
Global Asset Allocation Viewpoints: June Insights
Discover the latest global market themes
1. Market Perspective
- The macroeconomic outlook remains mixed as data have been surprising to the upside, despite evidence of tightening financial conditions that are still expected to weigh on economic growth in the back half of the year.
- Global central banks are approaching peak tightening in the face of lower inflation, with the Federal Reserve (Fed) closer to pausing as it moves to data dependency, while the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of England remain on course as inflation remains stickier. Meanwhile, expectations for the Bank of Japan shifting yield curve control policy have been pushed out later into the year.
- Key risks to global markets include a deeper‑than‑expected decline in growth, central bank missteps, persistent inflation and geopolitical tensions.
2. Portfolio Positioning
As of 31 May 2023
- We maintain a cautious stance with an underweight to equities and government bonds in favour of cash. Equities remain vulnerable to a slowing economy and weaker earnings backdrop, while central banks’ bias, albeit moderating, towards inflation‑fighting remains a potential headwind to bonds. Cash offers liquidity in an uncertain environment and still attractive yields.
- Within equities, we reduced our modest overweight to US value and are now neutral between US growth and value. Despite still favourable relative valuations, cyclical value sectors could face headwinds amid lower growth. However, growth stocks, albeit with extended valuations, could remain supported by declining rates and investors seeking secular growth trends, such as artificial intelligence (AI), amid weakening economic backdrop.
- Within fixed income, we continued to increase the overweight to global high yield bonds to benefit from the attractive yield the asset class offers. We maintain overweights to emerging market dollar sovereigns and local currency because of their yield levels, potentially peaking central bank tightening and expectations of a weaker US dollar.
Back in Business
With the Japanese equity market trading near 30-year highs, investors are questioning if it has staying power this time. Japan has been on a long climb back since its ‘asset bubble’ burst in the early 1990s and was hampered by decades of weak growth and low inflation. However, today does seem different, underpinned by both structural changes and cyclical tailwinds, with inflation finally showing up—a good problem for Japan, unlike others—which can help stimulate consumption through higher wages. Corporate governance reforms, a key part of ‘Abenomics,’ are also starting to show real progress in improving shareholder value through higher buybacks and dividends. A weaker yen, pent-up demand from reopening, record foreign inflows and still relatively cheap valuations have been strong tailwinds. Despite the optimism surrounding Japan’s comeback, the months ahead will be closely watched as the more cyclically oriented economy navigates slower global growth and the Bank of Japan looks to unwind ultra-easy policy. For now, though, Japan looks back in business.
Finding an Uneasy Balance
Mega-cap technology stocks have powered the broader market higher this year, with the top five largest companies accounting for most of the S&P 500’s 8%+ return, supported by a decline in rates and expectations that the Fed is nearing the end of its tightening cycle. Better-than-expected earnings, cost‑cutting measures as well as the euphoria surrounding AI‑related technologies have supercharged the rally, prompting investors to come off the sidelines despite the sky-high valuations. Typically, such narrow market breadth would be a cautionary sign as it masks the broader markets’ concerns about weaker growth and earnings ahead. Ironically, those reasons for caution could continue to propel these mega-cap tech stocks higher as they are perceived as more defensive given their secular growth drivers. With the risks of growth stocks’ valuations becoming even further extended and challenging economic growth ahead weighing on cyclical sectors, investors are facing a tough balancing act today between value and growth.
For a region-by-region overview, see the full report (PDF).
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