Last updated: 22:51 / Monday, 20 February 2017
Standard Life Investments

Jonathan Gibbs: "I Do Not See Any Irrational Behavior In The Fixed Income Market or a Bubble"

Jonathan Gibbs: "I Do Not See Any Irrational Behavior In The Fixed Income Market or a Bubble"

As a specialist in SLI Fixed-Income Macro Strategies, Jonathan Gibbs rules out the existence of a bubble for this asset, and to make his case, he compares the situation with the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. "A bubble is a very specific concept, and is usually recognized by the irrational behavior of investors. Towards the end of the 1990s everyone bought shares in technology companies without even knowing what the business behind them was... I do not see that now in the bond market at all, I do not see any irrational behavior and, therefore, I do not see a bubble," says the expert during an interview with Funds Society.

Thus, Gibbs answers the big question: where is the value in fixed income now? In his opinion, this depends on our economic vision. "If we think that inflation will remain weak, then returns will remain low for a long time." Gibbs explains, however, that "if interest rates confirm their upward trend, some investors may suffer negative returns, but on the other hand, probably those who have opted for risky assets have done well." For the expert, "what we need to recover is the negative correlation between stocks and bonds."

Nor does the expert believe that we are seeing the end of the credit cycle in fixed income, a cycle which he considers "nebulous" and the beginning and end of which "is difficult to determine." In his opinion, although "we have been experiencing a long period of expansion in the credit market, it does not mean that it is expensive: the spreads remain low, but I see no great reason for the credit cycle to be over," he says.

As an investment specialist for the Absolute Return Global Bond Strategies Fund, Gibbs must explore market inefficiencies through active allocation to a wide range of positions. He uses a combination of traditional assets (such as bonds, cash and market instruments, and investment strategies based on advanced derivative techniques) embodied in a highly diversified portfolio. The fund can take long and short positions in markets, issues and groups of these through derivatives.

Inflation is coming

"We are very vigilant about the duration of sovereign debt, especially in the last weeks since Donald Trump’s victory," he informs. For Gibbs, governments and central banks are comfortable with what is happening because they are getting what they want: inflation, the key element for fixed income investors. However, "if we analyze the rise in prices and its second-round effects, we see that prices do indeed rise, but it is a movement of prices, whereas inflation is a process."

On Donald Trump's fiscal policy, Gibbs questions whether it is the right time to do so. "Fiscal policy is a traditional way of stimulating the economy, but, and this is important, it’s extremely unusual to implement fiscal stimulus eight years after the economic recovery begins. It's a strange moment to do so," he says. Of course, he admits that his influence (Trump's) in monetary policy may be greater outside the US, and "the shift from monetary policy to fiscal is probably a good thing."

Regarding emerging markets, he points out that despite their new-found appeal, "it is about selecting the winners and avoiding the losers. Sometimes the losers are obvious, but there are also less obvious losers," he warns. With their SLI Emerging Market Debt Fund, they are committed to countries like Peru: "It is a market that we like very much, for its political stability and its control over public spending." On the duration, Gibbs insists that "it depends on the country in question".

Finally, in Europe, they’re underweight in Italy and France. "We believe that political risk is high in these countries for the coming year. I do not think Marie Le Pen will win the elections in France, but the possibility can frighten. I think the French will avoid a radical party because of their more centrist tradition," he added.