For the M&G Multi Asset team, 2016 was not so much about learning new lessons as being reminded of some of its key rules for investing: avoid getting caught up in short termism, do not waste time on forecasting, and beware lazy assumptions about what ‘should’ happen based on previous experience.
They consider Brexit and Trump have been surprises, but even if we could have predicted the results, subsequent price action went against the consensus view. Markets bounced back quickly from an initial ‘Brexit’ sell-off and the ‘risk-off’ volatility expected to be triggered by a Trump victory in the US presidential elections did not materialize.
The team feels this demonstrates the point that it is more important to focus on the facts we can know today about asset pricing and the fundamental economic backdrop, than attempting to predict how geopolitical events will be interpreted by the market. In their opinion, it also proved that no asset will be a ‘safe haven’ at all times, as mainstream bonds sold off strongly after the US election, from the historically low yields they had reached in the summer of 2016. This supports their view that the risk characteristics of asset classes are not static, rather value should be the starting point of assessing risk.
“We have arrived at a pivotal and potentially critical moment in time, where a material change in investor thinking and behavior is needed. The strategies that have been successful for the last decade are now likely to struggle”. They say.
So when looking ahead to next year and beyond, it is not about predicting what events will dominate headlines, but about being ready to respond to the changing mood of the market. The team adds: “The biggest risks investors will face next year are probably ones that we are not even aware of today, or that have faded from the headlines.”
The market appears to be pricing in a more favorable environment, with profits picking up globally and positive trends in data such as Purchasing Managers’ Indices and employment in certain areas. There is also a perception of inflation picking up and we have seen breakeven move a long way.
“While global equities in aggregate may not be as compellingly valued as at the start of the year, there are still very attractive opportunities at regional and sector level. We are still strongly favouring Europe and Asia (including Japan), as well as US banks. There are also plenty of interesting opportunities within non-mainstream government bond and credit areas of fixed income.” They conclude.