The year began with expectations that have continued to evolve until turning around completely. Investors were enthusiastic about American equities, waiting for Trump to implement some of his electoral promises, such as tax reform and infrastructure investment, while they regarded Europe with suspicion due to its political instability and upcoming elections. "In the first few months of the year, the opposite has happened," says Wei Li, Head of Investment Strategies at iShares (BlackRock) for the EMEA region.
In fact, the appetite for the European stock market versus the American stock market has been noticed in the flows. In this context, the firm’s investment preference goes includes equities, with European and Japanese markets as favorites, as well as emerging markets. "Our expectation of higher yields emphasizes our overall preference of stocks over bonds. Historically, stocks have performed better in reflation environments because, in our view, they are geared towards global growth and offer profit while maintaining diversification," she says.
The firm believes that global yields will increase further, but they will find certain restraints, as for example the effect of the monetary policies. "That's why we believe that investors need to go beyond traditional equity and bond exposures to diversify portfolios in this environment, and include allocations based on alternative factors and assets," adds Li.
In addition, the expert believes that, in this environment, trade is the key factor, and that there is a lot of headroom to invest in assets linked to it. Li argues that the best option is to use diversification as a strategy, as well as focus on company fundamentals, “particularly in those regions that can benefit most from trade, such as Japan, Europe, and emerging countries,” she adds. She also believes it’s logical to return to value strategies in view of the expected rise in interest rates by central banks: “We expect to start seeing more value and for the momentum factor to have more weight in the strategies” she says.
The firm points out that we are at a turning point in global economic growth, about which Li explains that "it is an extraordinarily long and slow cycle;" which means that there is no rapid acceleration of the economic recovery, but rather that it is constant, and which, according to Li, is seen, for example, in the very parallel behavior of currencies such as the Dollar and the Euro.
In general, there have been two main trends in these first months, the consequences of which can still be seen. On the one hand, the “extraordinarily low volatility,” she says, partly because of the role central banks have played; and, on the other, the reflation. “Reflation will be global. We see signs indicating this, such as a rebound in inflation expectations and an improvement in economic activity and business estimates indicators," she says. And that inflation mentioned by Li is another of the dynamics that is already a reality and which will continue over the next few months. According to Li, “this increase will come mainly from energy, and will be reflected in the costs, of for example, transport.
According to BlackRock's vision of the first quarter of the year, there has been a strong movement of investment flows that have shifted from American to European equities. “The reason for this was disillusionment with Trump's policies, which have difficulties in getting through Congress, and good business results in Europe, where the recovery continues slowly but steadily,” Li says.
For Li, following Macron's victory in the French elections, sentiment on Europe changed radically, which has been fundamental for investment in the Old Continent. “We no longer see such danger in European politics and populism is perceived to be waning. This optimism is reinforced by the countries’ macro indicators, which show how recovery is general and not just being pulled along by one or two countries,” she argues.
Another important aspect of these first three months has been the positive behavior of emerging markets. "We see that, in general, they have stabilized and are creating investment opportunities. Including China, where the fiscal stimulus announced last year has been very effective," Li summarizes.