Our Asset Allocation Committee is overweight emerging markets stocks, as risks—such as the coronavirus pandemic and unresolved trade issues—seem fairly priced in. Emerging markets stocks could also benefit from attractive valuations, a weaker U.S. dollar, selective opportunities within a vibrant tech sector and financials, and potential liquidity from the Fed.
We are fairly close to neutral between stocks and bonds in our portfolios, but we do maintain an overweight position in emerging markets stocks.
There are risks associated with emerging markets stocks. Of course, the pandemic and also the lingering issue of trade—the effect of the pandemic on trade and the negotiations and all the geo-political aspect of trade. Those are risks, but we think they are more than fairly priced at the moment.
As of June, emerging markets stocks have underperformed U.S. stocks by over 50% on a cumulative return basis for the last five years and just 9% underperformance relative to the U.S. just year-to-date. So, we are entering extreme valuation territory, where emerging markets stocks have become quite attractive, all else being equal, by historical standards.
Also, a weaker U.S. dollar should favor emerging markets and as the U.S. has driven the rate differential with the rest of the world towards zero—as monetary policy in the U.S., like the rest of the world, is now at the zero-bound—there is no positive or very little positive interest rate differential with the rest of the world that could sustain a stronger U.S. dollar going forward.
Also, in favor of emerging markets, we think there are very good active management opportunities in the asset class at the moment. Emerging markets are not all linked to commodities as they used to be, at least not as much as they used to be. We now have a vibrant tech sector in emerging markets, and we have companies that are secular winners that have sold off with the asset class. And, also the financials sector can benefit from slightly higher interest rates and some net-interest margin revenue in their favor relative to non-emerging markets financials.
So active management and security selection in those markets can provide some real opportunities.
And lastly, just the usual flow of liquidity between the Fed and emerging markets hasn’t made its way yet. But historically it has and typically it does so that could—given the valuation buffer in favor of emerging markets—if we get a recovery phase in the pandemic in those markets and the Middle East and South America eventually recover from this, we could see that liquidity in a typical stock market recovery broadly make its way into emerging markets stocks.