Aktien wieder moderat übergewichtet, zunächst Emerging Markets und Asiatisch-pazifische Aktien. USA unter Beobachtung. Weiterhin Konzentration auf renditestarke Einzelwerte
It has been clear for some time that the driving force to markets this year has not been the macro backdrop but policy initiatives led by the authorities. We should not be surprised by this, but over the last few years the economic environment has been so extreme, we have become used to it dominating market returns and outcomes. Somewhat surprisingly therefore, risk assets have had a positive 2012. In sterling terms, equities have broadly speaking returned 10%, although the performance differential, particularly between large and mid/small cap in the UK has been more extreme than this. In credit, returns have been comfortably double digit, with the scale of the positive return being correlated with the riskiness of the credit rating. Similarly the returns for EM debt has been very strong, accompanied by very positive flows into the asset class.
From a macro perspective the situation in Europe continues to worsen. The austerity measure insisted upon by Germany for the periphery have had the predictable outcome of undermining growth for the entire region. The reduction in Government spending has posed an overwhelming headwind for Spain and Italy and have reduced demand for Germany's exports. The PMI's and other leading indicators indicate that Germany too will also be in recession imminently.
In the US, following President Obama's successful re-election, we are now in the eye of the storm of the debate regarding the fiscal cliff. As has been well rehearsed, in the first quarter of next year a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts will reduce US GDP by about 4% unless agreement can be reached on moderating their impact. Our research on the ground continues to suggest that companies are using this uncertainty as a reason to defer investment spending, containing both economic and employment growth. The market and ourselves, expect some form of agreement to be reached and this impact to be moderated by at least 50% but it is possible that the political deadlock takes the US economy over the cliff and into recession for 2013.
Against this backdrop it may be surprising to hear that we are becoming increasingly more constructive towards equities and have gone moderately overweight today, initially increasing our weighting in EM and Asia Pac. Indeed if the markets continue to be unsettled by the situation in the US we will use the market weakness to increase our equity exposure further. The key driver to our decision is valuation and what is currently discounted. Although the backdrop remains very challenging, it is not new news and in many respects we are closer to a resolution of the uncertainties. This is clearly true of the US, but also of Asia, where the regime change in China is now largely effected. In Europe, investors probably face crisis fatigue and an unexpected negative outcome is becoming increasingly unlikely. What is true is that against this backdrop, interest rates are going to stay close to zero for the medium term and high yielding equities are likely to remain well supported. Other valuation metrics remain attractive, and the robust balance sheet strength is another positive. Although not our central case, it is just possible that we get a positive growth surprise in the global economy in the second half of 2013. If that is the case, equities will start next year with significant positive momentum. Now that would be a turn up for the books!
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