Last updated: 23:30 / Thursday, 1 December 2016
Interviewing Rick Rieder

BlackRock: “Flexible Income Strategies Have Never Made more Sense than They Do in the Present Environment”

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BlackRock: “Flexible Income Strategies Have Never Made more Sense than They Do in the Present Environment”
  • BlackRock anticipates the Committee will make a quarter-point move in December
  • Payrolls growth in recent months has slowed from its extraordinary pace of recent years, but in BlackRock’s view that has more to do with the economy’s approach toward full employment
  • With firming wages, and the modest increase in inflation that should follow, Rieder thinks the Fed should be able to continue its path of slow interest rate normalization

According to Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s Chief Investment Officer of Global Fixed Income, investing in flexible fixed income strategies has never made more sense than it does in the present environment. In a world in which developed market interest rates are extraordinarily low or even negative, and where monetary policy regimes diverge across the globe, Rieder believes that maintaining investment flexibility is vital to successfully navigating markets. In an interview with Funds Society, he talks about the lack of utility of the extraordinarily low interest rate levels for stimulating real economic growth, and the anticipation of a rate hike as the Fed to continue its path of slow interest rate normalization. Hereunder, his answers:

What does the most recent payroll growth slowdown mean for the timing of an interest rate hike?

Without question, payrolls growth in recent months has slowed from its extraordinary pace of recent years, but in our view, that has more to do with the economy’s approach toward full employment and the diminished ranks of qualified applicants searching for positions. Interestingly, this has also resulted in the improvement of wage levels, which are now running at an impressive 2.8% year-over-year, which is a clear representation of growing tightness in the labor markets. Overall, payrolls are fairly strong for this stage in the economic cycle, so with firming wages, and the modest increase in inflation that should follow, we think the Fed should be able to continue on its path of slow interest rate normalization.

Do you think a December rate hike is imminent and what would that mean for the broader economic outlook?

Understandably, the Fed held off from raising policy rates at its recent meeting, coming nearly a week before a highly contested general election in the U.S., but we do anticipate the Committee will make a quarter-point move in December. Still, we believe bond markets have largely priced in such a move, and the gradual rise in interest rates should have only a modest impact on the overall economic outlook. Indeed, as we have argued many times in the past, the utility of extraordinarily low interest rate levels has long since passed in stimulating real economic growth and for some time now has solely been influencing the financial economy as a price-supporting mechanism.

Does a flexible fixed income strategy still make sense in today’s environment?

In our view, flexible fixed income strategies have never made more sense than they do in the present environment. Indeed, we live in a world in which developed market interest rates are extraordinarily low (and in some cases, are negative), monetary policy regimes are continuing to diverge across the globe, a monetary-to-fiscal policy transition is potentially in the cards, and the inflation outlook is evolving globally. And that is to say nothing of the political and event risks that abound in the world today, or the fact that the sources of global growth are rapidly shifting by region. In this environment, we believe that maintaining investment flexibility is vital to successfully navigating markets, and within that framework, the critical importance of “globalizing” ones’ view of fixed income cannot be overstated.

What elements differentiate the BGF Fixed Income Global Opportunities Fund's strategy from its peers?

For this strategy, we focus on generating consistent, attractive risk-adjusted returns through various market cycles while maintaining the risk profile of traditional fixed income investments. To do this, we invest in a diversified portfolio of beta and alpha sources, and aims to lower absolute risk while achieving attractive risk-adjusted returns. The fund employs BlackRock’s best ideas to identify attractive opportunities across global fixed income markets and is supported by the firm’s vast risk management platform and resources.

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