End of summer lull makes us cautious about big calls
We are always wary of making big calls on the basis of thin summer markets, so here are three quick ideas. First, Japan produced an important technical buy signal just before Prime Minister Suga announced his resignation. It is very similar to the one at the start of the Abenomics rally in 2012. Second, the recommended weight of US equities to the rest of the world is at a 10-year high and it does not normally hold this level for more than a month. Third, we think European industrials are out of line with US Industrials and potentially vulnerable.
But we don’t know when, why or how much
With very few exceptions, our main risk-appetite indicators are at or close to maximum risk-on. We see evidence of peaking behaviour in global equities vs global fixed income, in US Credit, and cyclicals vs defensives in the US, Japan and the UK. There is one indicator – Italian vs German government bonds – which is already past its peak. Most investors understand this and intend to use any correction as a buying opportunity. However, it still makes sense to take some risk off the table now, if only to put it back on at a lower price. We are also concerned that investors may be ignoring an uptick in geo-political risk.
US investors have few diversification opportunities in Europe
Eurozone equities may be cheap when compared to the US, but that’s not really important. Over the last10 years, US investors have never been able to generate a superior risk-adjusted return by diversifying into the Eurozone index, no matter what tactical allocation strategy they follow. The picture is marginally better if we look individual sectors over a shorter time-frame, but Japan and Asia ex Japan, do much better on this test.
The value trade won’t work everywhere
This report is a real-time survey of how the great rotation is progressing in different regions of the world. Our conclusions are (1) Many of the important sector infection points happened back in September; so talking about them now in terms of factors suggests that people missed them the first time round. (2) The UK has much the most aggressive sector rotation and China the least. (3) There are different winners and losers in each region and any attempt to apply one paradigm to all of them is likely to fail. (4) Many value-rich sectors in each region have hardly moved, suggesting that the value trade has already been differentiated into those sectors which have catalysts and those which don’t.
Investors need a process which highlights what they don’t know
One of the great virtues of our process is that it is sensitive enough to identify sudden changes in the relationship between risk and return, which have no apparent justification in real life – until the news story which prompted them finally breaks. We have just had a classic example of this with the resignation of Prime Minister Abe, which was announced in late August, eight weeks after our weighting in Japan was suddenly reduced. There is always an explanation, even if you don’t what it is, and this note highlights ten other recent moves at sector or country level, which we think are only partially explained.
China plays a different game and Healthcare suffers
Yesterday’s sell-off was so brutal that it probably marks the start of a different regime in equity markets. We are out of Phase 1 of the recovery and into a second more sceptical and nervous regime. Both the US and the UK broke of out the uptrends in our daily indicator that have been in place since March. The technical situation is better in the Eurozone and Japan, while the level of financial repression is China so severe, in our view, that the indicator has lost most of its signalling power.
Already producing better risk-adjusted returns
The recent volatility shock is as big as the one in the middle of the GFC and it isn’t over yet. It has also happened three times faster, in three weeks rather than nine. Fear is inevitable, but the are some interesting opportunities, especially in Asia. Countries like Taiwan and South Korea have managed the corona virus better than the US or Europe, while China is already recovering. If you wait for the bounce in the West, you may miss it in the East.
Why does nobody like Japan? - continued
Behind the US, Japanese equities have the second-highest, risk-adjusted returns over the last 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. Over the last five years, they have generated the fastest EBIT and dividend growth. They have the lowest pay-out ratio of the major regions (therefore most potential for growth). They have been our preferred equity region since early October and, as of this week, are ranked #1 in our combined asset allocation model.
And why does nobody like Japan?
Two weeks ago, we had the lowest number of net buying opportunities for individual countries since May 2000. It’s hard to be bullish about global equities as an asset class when there are so few leaders. Japan is one of just three countries which look attractive on our system, but nobody seems to care.
Where to look in advance of the Q3 results season
The macro picture is confused. Our last note argued that we are in the late late-cycle for equities, but we could go on like this for months and there are no new developments to prove or disprove this view. So, our focus shifts to sector selection. We highlight six sector ideas – one from each region we cover – where we think there is potential for a major upgrade or downgrade in the near future.