SNAPSHOT2 min read

Views at a glance – July 2023

Higher interest rates could take a heavier toll on economic activity in the second half of the year.

03/07/2023
Bank of England

Authors

Caspar Rock
Chief Investment Officer

Market performance diverges 

Earlier this year, investors were expecting developed market interest rates to have peaked by the summer. This now looks unlikely, especially in the UK. In the US, inflation is at least moving in the right direction, but core inflation remains well above target and higher than the Fed is comfortable with. The headline performance of global equities might suggest investors are shrugging off the economic risks associated with even higher rates. In reality, however, there has been significant divergence in the performance of sectors and markets this year. US equities have been led by technology stocks, where investors see earnings driven by developments in AI rather than broad economic strength. The performance of other sectors has been far less impressive. On an international basis, Japanese stocks have soared, while UK equities have flatlined. Indeed, the performance spread between the best (Japan) and worst (UK) performing developed markets is near the highest level in 20 years (in local currency terms).

Higher interest rates and recession await the UK

It has often been noted that the performance of the FTSE100 is a poor reflection of the outlook for the UK economy. This is very evident at the moment. While the large cap index has lagged global markets this year, it is just 7% below its all time high. The FTSE250, on the other hand, is 25% below its highs. Domestic stocks fared particularly badly after last month’s inflation data, which prompted the Bank of England into a surprise 0.50% interest rate increase. The Bank also announced it would launch an external review of its forecasting process after being wrongfooted for so long by the path of inflation. Schroders’ economists suggest that the UK is suffering from an unfortunate combination of “European energy problems and US-style tightness in its labour market.” Markets now expect UK interest rates to exceed 6% later this year, which would likely drive the economy into recession.

Economic progress in Japan

The end of China’s zero-Covid restrictions led to much excitement about prospects for its economy and stock market in 2023. Both have underwhelmed so far. It is in fact Japan that has been leading Asian  and global – markets this year. Two key shifts mean that the revaluation of Japanese equities could have further to run. Firstly, the economy. Japan finally appears to have escaped the threat of deflation that has stalked its markets for the best part of 40 years. The second shift is a newfound focus on corporate profitability. Japanese companies have been more willing to restructure their businesses and are returning more capital to shareholders than ever before. The corporate sector has the firepower to keep the momentum going: close to 50% of large-cap, non-financial companies have a net cash position, compared to less than 20% in the US and Europe, according to Schroders’ research.

Portfolio positioning

Given our view that the US will fall into recession late this year, our underweight exposure to equities remains appropriate. Within equities, we have been moving to an actively-managed strategy in Japan given the more dynamic market outlook. We are now slightly overweight government bonds. We have continued to gradually increase the average maturity of our core government bond holdings. This should help protect portfolios if the global economy slows significantly and central banks start to shift their focus from curbing inflation to protecting financial stability and growth. High levels of inflation in the UK have made meeting inflation plus return targets more challenging in the shorter term. Despite this, we remain confident in the ability to meet inflation-plus targets over the longer term.


Outlook

Economics

  • The growth outlook has improved, with robust labour markets allowing for resilient consumer demand in developed markets. However, the full impact of rate increases to date have not been felt and risks remain.
  • China’s economic recovery remains on track, although weakness in recent activity data suggests that momentum is slowing and property remains under pressure.
  • We continue to expect headline measures of inflation to moderate, although core inflation will remain above central bank targets.
  • Interest rates are likely to continue to rise in the near term in the UK, US and Europe.

Valuations

  • Global equities have re-rated this year driven by improving investor sentiment. Valuations still look favourable relative to recent history, especially outside of the US.
  • Credit spreads remain relatively tight given economic concerns, although yields are attractive.
  • Government bond valuations look more attractive given the sizeable yield moves we have seen since the start of 2022.
  • Valuations of both equities and credit remain vulnerable to a meaningful deterioration in corporate earnings.

Sentiment

  • Investor sentiment has improved this year and volatility is now back to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Sentiment could be tested by weaker economic data, further interest rate rises and weaker corporate earnings.
  • Consumer confidence has improved but remains weak compared to historic levels and could be tested further as the economic impacts of rising interest rates become more apparent.

Risks

  • Further disruption to US regional banks, tighter lending standards and the potential for a ‘credit crunch’.
  • Persistently elevated levels of inflation, which would warrant continued hawkish central bank policy.
  • A further escalation of the Russia Ukraine conflict and the European energy crisis remains a possibility.
  • The European economic outlook has improved, whilst global growth could be supported by China.


Key

🟢 Positive

🔵 Positive/neutral

⚪ Neutral

🟠 Negative/neutral

🔴 Negative


🔼 Up from last month

🔽 Down from last month


Asset Classes

Asset classes

Current positioning

Medium term view

Current views

Equities

🟠

🔵

We remain underweight equity in the near term, although we continue to look for opportunities to increase exposure. Corporate earnings have positively surprised to the upside in the recent reporting season. Valuations have re-rated driven by better sentiment and arguably do not reflect the risks to economic growth. Market leadership has been very narrow this year, particularly in the US which has been led by large cap technology companies. A broadening of market leadership would suggest the recovery could prove more sustainable.

Bonds

🔵


🔵

Nominal government bonds have defensive characteristics in an uncertain economic environment and look more attractively valued relative to recent history. We have continued to gradually lengthen interest rate duration as we move closer to the end of the rate cycle. Within credit we continue to prefer higher-quality securities with attractive yields and emerging market debt, where growth prospects are brighter.

Alternatives

🔵

Continue to offer attractive diversification characteristics in a potentially volatile environment. Within absolute return, we favour strategies with the ability to deliver less correlated returns. We remain positive on real assets with long-dated visible revenue streams and commodities where supply and demand dynamics could support prices.

Cash

🟠

Rising interest rates offer more attractive returns relative to recent history, whilst cash offers optionality in potentially volatile markets.

Equities

Asset

Current positioning

Medium term view

Current views

Equities

🟠

🔵

We remain underweight equity in the near term, although we continue to look for opportunities to increase exposure. Corporate earnings have positively surprised to the upside in the recent reporting season. Valuations have re-rated driven by better sentiment and arguably do not reflect the risks to economic growth. Market leadership has been very narrow this year, particularly in the US which has been led by large cap technology companies. A broadening of market leadership would suggest the recovery could prove more sustainable.

UK

🔵

🟠

The UK economic outlook remains challenging as the Bank of England attempts to bring inflation under control. Interest rates are set to continue rising, which could lead to a recession later this year. While domestic companies face an uncertain backdrop, valuations are cheap and there will be opportunities.

Europe

🟠



A warm winter has helped to reduce the near term economic impacts of the Russia Ukraine war and its disruption to energy supply. Sentiment has adjusted to reflect improved near term prospects, although challenges remain with the potential to cause further uncertainty. Valuations remain supportive despite the recent re-rating and corporate earnings continue to be relatively resilient in the near term.

North America

🟠


US equities have performed well recently as a result of growing confidence in the likelihood of a soft landing and the opportunities in AI. Market leadership has been narrow, focussed on a small number of large cap technology companies although there are signs that leadership could broaden out which would suggest a more sustainable recovery. Recent re-rating has left valuations looking less supportive, although in the near term corporate earnings are holding up.

Japan

Japan’s increased focus on corporate reform has led to a re-rating of its equity market which could have further to run over the medium term. In the near term, Japan’s large cap exporters may face headwinds from slowing global growth. Despite the recent rally, valuations remain relatively supportive.

Asia/ Emerging markets


🔵



🔵


The relaxation of China’s ‘Zero Covid’ and reopening of the economy, as well as continued support from the PBoC, should continue to support China’s economy and the region more broadly. Valuations remain relatively attractive although investors remain cautious and we have not yet seen significant domestic flows into financial markets.

Bonds

Asset

Curren positioning

Medium term view

Current views

Bonds

🔵

🔵


Nominal government bonds have defensive characteristics in an uncertain economic environment and look more attractively valued relative to recent history. We have continued to gradually lengthen interest rate duration as we move closer to the end of the rate cycle. Within credit we continue to prefer higher quality securities with attractive yields and emerging market debt, where growth prospects are brighter.

Government bonds

🔵





Valuations look more attractive given the sizeable yield moves we have seen since the start of last year. We have continued to gradually lengthen interest rate duration as we move closer to the end of the rate cycle to add defensiveness in a potentially volatile economic environment.

Investment grade



🔵


Yields continue to look attractive, although valuations are less supportive at current levels. We prefer shorter-duration and higher-quality credit in the near term given uncertainty around corporate earnings, but could look for opportunities to increase exposure to riskier credit if spreads widen.

High-yield

🔵

Higher yields and shorter duration characteristics look attractive. Default rates remain low although face headwinds from a rising cost of debt, tighter margins, weakening earnings and a more challenging economic backdrop. There remains the potential for spreads to widen if corporate earnings deteriorate which could present opportunities.

Inflation-linked

🔵


Valuations are looking more attractive with 10 year US TIPS offering a positive real yield of close to 1.5% for the first time since 2010. Inflation linked bonds continue to offer a hedge against more persistent than expected inflation.

Emerging markets

🔵

The re-opening of the Chinese economy and improved growth outlook for the region, as well as potential for further USD weakness is supportive for the asset class, although risks from a global recession remain. Valuations are attractive relative to other credit markets, particularly in select local currency markets.

Alternatives and cash

Asset

Current positioning

Medium term view

Current views

Alternatives

🔵


Continue to offer attractive diversification characteristics in a potentially volatile environment. Within absolute return we favour strategies with the ability to deliver less correlated returns. We remain positive on real assets with long-dated visible revenue streams and commodities where supply and demand dynamics could support prices.

Absolute Return

🟠

🟠

We see select opportunities in equity long/short strategies given increased stock dispersion and diversification characteristics. However, government bonds are now looking more attractively valued and may provide a better source of portfolio diversification over the medium term.

Liquid private real assets


🔵



🔵


Long-dated revenue streams and income characteristics remain attractive in select parts of the market. Within this space we see good opportunities in renewables, digital infrastructure, specialist property and and exposure to private companies. Valuations are more attractive following recent market volatility.

Commodities


🔵



🟢


Broader commodities can hedge against further disruption to energy markets, although areas of the asset class are sensitive to slowing economic growth. Longer term, increasing demand from energy transition could support industrial metal prices against a backdrop of tight supply.

Equity-linked income strategies

Offer attractive returns especially in times of heightened volatility, but we acknowledge the shorter-term correlation with equities.

Gold

🔵


Gold should provide portfolio insurance in the event of a meaningful equity market correction or economic growth shock and will benefit from further USD weakness, although could continue to face headwinds from rising real yields.



Terms

Spread: the difference in yield between a non-government and government fixed income security.

Duration: approximate percentage change in the price of a bond for a 1% change in yield.

This article is issued by Cazenove Capital which is part of the Schroders Group and a trading name of Schroder & Co. Limited, 1 London Wall Place, London EC2Y 5AU. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. 

Nothing in this document should be deemed to constitute the provision of financial, investment or other professional advice in any way. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.

This document may include forward-looking statements that are based upon our current opinions, expectations and projections. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements.

All data contained within this document is sourced from Cazenove Capital unless otherwise stated.

This article is issued by Cazenove Capital which is part of the Schroders Group and a trading name of Schroder & Co. Limited, 1 London Wall Place, London EC2Y 5AU. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. 

Nothing in this document should be deemed to constitute the provision of financial, investment or other professional advice in any way. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount originally invested.

This document may include forward-looking statements that are based upon our current opinions, expectations and projections. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements.

All data contained within this document is sourced from Cazenove Capital unless otherwise stated.

Authors

Caspar Rock
Chief Investment Officer

Topics

The value of your investments and the income received from them can fall as well as rise. You may not get back the amount you invested.