Upside Protection

Monday, November 21st, 2022

The need to hedge against unexpected good news

Our models are slightly conflicted at the moment. The multi-asset models, which mimic sophisticated institutional portfolios, are significantly more bearish than our simple equity vs government bond models, which are more retail-orientated. Before we dismiss the latter is just being wrong, we should at least try to explain the difference. Retail investors may be trying to hedge against the possibility of unexpected good news: a shallow US recession; a peace deal in Ukraine; or an end to zero-Covid in China. Any one of these could result in significant upside for global equities and the joint probability that none of them will happen is lower than you think.

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Switch Off the Autopilot

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Currency impact on equity allocation is now extreme

The strength of the US dollar has hugely overstated the attractiveness of US equities to both US and international investors. The currency effect against developed markets is more powerful than it has been in all but 3% of weekly observations, going back to 1995. This is fine while it lasts, but one day it will go into reverse. Meanwhile, the dollar index is approaching generational highs. After the last tech-bust and peak dollar, US equities underperformed the rest of the world, in dollar terms, for the next five years (2003-08).

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Messy Reality

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Using sector betas to evaluate investor attitudes to risk

We wanted to get a handle on which equity regions had the most risk-averse investors, so we measured the beta of our recommended overweight and underweight sectors. We found that reality is much messier than we thought and that pre-conceived, US-centric attitudes to risk do not translate well to other regions. Our numbers suggest that Eurozone investors are the most risk averse, but the sectors they use to express this view are not the ones that US investors would choose.

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The Great Undiscounted Risk

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Our models expect a bear-steepening in the US yield curve

There is a widespread and unspoken assumption that the Fed will curtail QT if the US economy starts to suffer and that there are no circumstances in which it would accelerate it. We think this assumption needs to be tested. Our models suggest a bear-steepening in the US yield curve is more likely than continued inversion or a bull-steepening. If we are right, this can only be bad news for US and global equities, because our models suggest that the equity rally is completely explained by the recent collapse in 10-year yields. Indeed, equities have underperformed bonds on a risk-adjusted basis since the end of June. If the bond market becomes less supportive later this year, we think there is another significant down-leg in store for equities.

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What’s Working Now

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Our equity sector models do well when markets are under stress

Asset allocation is difficult at the moment, with bonds and equities falling in tandem in Q1. We are in favour of broader diversification strategies including other asset classes, but they should not be the result of hasty decisions after a bad quarter. All of our equity sector models have produced excess returns in the year to date and have a history of doing well when markets are under stress. Their best year for excess returns was 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, and so far, 2022 is shaping up to be another good year.

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So Much Choice

Friday, February 4th, 2022

The opposite to US growth is not US value

If investors decide to get out of the growth style in the US, there are several other strategies they can follow apart from US value: (1) low volatility in US equities; (2) growth in non-US equities; (3) low volatility in other US asset classes; (4) non-US value. The problem with the value style is that cheap stocks tend to stay cheap, unless there is a clear and obvious catalyst for them to outperform, like a massive earnings surprise (as in Energy) or a surge in corporate activity (which may happen in the UK). We think the most popular destination for flows out of US growth will be low volatility in US equities, into sectors such as Consumer Staples and, possibly, Utilities.

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The Roundabout Accelerates

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Global equities are about to start rotating faster than usual

We expect global equities to start rotating faster than usual on a country/regional basis. We discuss the technical rationale in some detail, but the important message is that this not about the recent winners such as the US and India, or the losers like China and Korea, but all the others, which are somewhere in the middle. There are several European countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, which are at risk of dropping down the ranking, while selected EM countries in Asia and Latin America could benefit. If our analysis is correct, this should happen before Christmas.

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The China Question

Friday, July 30th, 2021

China’s problem may be Europe’s opportunity.

Our recommended weight for Chinese equities has just hit its all-time low since the beginning of this century. They have been in extreme underweight territory for their longest period ever. We think this is more than a temporary misunderstanding. It could represent the breakdown of the pro-China consensus that has dominated US investment thinking for over a decade. There may be parallels with what happened when the US became disillusioned with Russia 10 years ago. US investors who want international equity diversification will be forced to have another look at Europe.

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Saviours of the World

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Global Pharma no longer threatened by US price controls

The global Healthcare sector has begun to rally hard after hitting an all-time low in terms of its recommended weight relative to benchmark. It had previously been ignored because it doesn’t fit well into the current debate about growth vs value. We think it is time for another look, chiefly because the risk of price controls on US prescription drugs is much lower than previously feared. There is no time for Congress to consider this legislation before the run-up to the mid-term elections, and politicians may find that public opinion has changed after the success of anti-Covid vaccines.

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So, You Want to Buy the Dip

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Three rules for how to do it

Nothing in the last two weeks has changed our view that a correction in global equities is coming. If you are one of those investors who has waited all year to buy the dip, we have three rules about how to do it. One, decide your tactics in advance and don’t pay too much attention to the narrative behind the correction. Two, don’t add complexity to a market timing trade by using it to rebalance your equity portfolio. Three, if you want to front run a correction, make sure you have enough defensive exposure at a sector level. Our top pick here is European Telecom.

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