Standard Life’s market strategist, Neil Matheson, highlights that 2016 has been typified by uncertainty in areas such as politics, US interest rates, China and European banking which has spurred many investors to build up high levels of cash. However, despite commentary being dominated by these downside risks, risk assets have been quietly moving higher.
The group believes this rally, which has been seen across credit, equities and global real estate, has been driven by an improvement in the global cycle and a move towards ‘pro-growth’ policies across many of the major economies.
Mr Matheson believes that as we head into 2017 global monetary conditions are supportive of growth, and there is now active discussion about fiscal easing globally.
“Against this more supportive backdrop in 2017, we anticipate only moderate returns from government bonds, and find better value in credit, particularly higher yielding credit,” he said.
“We also see opportunities in hard currency emerging market debt, as long as there is not a significant rise in US-led protectionism. In equities, although valuations appear high if considered in isolation, they still look cheap if viewed on a yield basis relative to government and corporate bonds.”
Across equity markets, Standard Life sees US stocks as the most dependable, however they also command the highest valuation.
“When it comes to emerging markets it will be important for Chinese policy to remain supportive, the Fed to ‘go slow’ and the Trump administration not to deliver any trade shocks. Meanwhile, in Europe and Japan, we are expecting support from stable-to-slightly weaker exchange rates,” Mr Matheson said.
“At long last authorities appear to ‘get it’ that continued, sustained expansion is required to get the world out of the stop-and-go cycle it has been stuck in since the Great Recession. Markets have only begun to anticipate these developments – assuming of course that political tail risks do not cause undue levels of market volatility.
“As long as the US President-elect avoids a disruptive increase in trade protectionism, this should reinforce the improvement in global growth, inflation and corporate earnings trends that were already underway before the US election, and was supporting the rotation towards a heavier equity and lighter government bond exposure in the House View.”
[Related: Pressure mounting on bank assets: Moody's]