This year has proven to be challenging for portfolio construction, as well as regarding returns. To put this into perspective, for 2009-17, our analysis shows that each year, on average, 76% of major asset classes (including different regional government bonds, equity, inflation-linked, currency and commodities) recorded positive performances.
In 2018, the story has changed: we are heading towards an unprecedented year in which less than 20%of asset classes have been in positive territory*. Markets have started to price in a slowdown in global growth and tighter liquidity conditions, in a more complex than expected political environment (trade tariffs and populism). Vulnerabilities in the more stretched areas of the market (growth stocks in equities and credit markets) and idiosyncratic stories (Argentina, Turkey, Italy) are the main consequences of this new narrative.
Moving into 2019, Central Bank policy will be crucial again with regard to determining market sentiment. Given a potential slowdown in growth and weak financial conditions, a Fed shying away from further tightening would give new oxygen to the markets. Also, the ECB will likely be increasingly uncomfortable with raising rates in such a scenario. In the meantime, the risk of policy mistakes will remain high: How far can Trump trade policy go? What could the implications for input prices and corporate margins be? Can China growth hold on? These are all elements that could fuel volatility, but also lead to an opening up of opportunities in the market.
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