Risks to investment markets are rising, as major economies start to show signs of slowing and central banks are tightening policy.
While economic growth remains solid for now, divergences are building between solid US growth and slightly softer growth across other regions.
As the US increases interest rates, ANZ’s chief investment office continues to expect “the good times to fade”, with growth continuing to ease through 2019, while shares return in the mid-to-high single digits this year.
US economy powers ahead
In response to solid US growth, the nation’s central bank (the US Federal Reserve) has slowly been raising its federal funds rate. But while the US grows solidly, reinforced by recent positive company earnings, there are signs the European Union, Japan, China and other emerging nations are slowing.
Near-term prospects for emerging-market shares in particular are at greater risk from higher US rates and possibly a stronger US dollar. Recent troubles in Argentina and Turkey flag that risks are rising, though we don’t expect a sharp spill-over into other vulnerable markets in the region.
Looking toward 2019
As we approach the mid-year mark, we are now looking much more closely at what 2019 may bring. At this stage it appears next year is shaping up as a year of slower growth and higher uncertainty as central banks continue to tighten monetary policies further.
Exactly how this plays out depends on inflation:
- If central banks can gradually raise rates, withdrawing economic stimulus, as inflation gradually lifts, then we’ll have a gradual slowdown and the current investment cycle would extend.
- If inflation and policy rates were to rise more quickly, the investment cycle would tip to slowdown much more sharply.
To date, US wages and inflation have continued to rise slowly and this supports our “good times fade” baseline view. However, with the US unemployment rate at a historic low level, a more pronounced lift in wages is becoming much more likely.
Our investment positions
Given the current balance of strong growth and rising, although still relatively contained, risks, the chief investment office is retaining a “neutral” positioning to growth assets such as shares.
Equities, fixed income and cash are relative to benchmark. Currencies are relative to an absolute return outlook (short term).
1. Comprises of 50/50 split between global real estate investment trusts and infrastructure securities.
2. Cash is the balancing asset class. Cash is a residual to portfolio manager’s overall implementation of other asset-class strategies. It continues to form part of the overall defensive asset allocation, with PMs having flexibility in terms of how to implement the stated defensive asset strategy across fixed income and cash. In the regional investment council model cash overweight to facilitate an underweight position we hold in international bonds and to manage overall fund duration.
As at June 2018.
Access the full June 2018 chief investment office House View (PDF 174kB)