Relatively low equity returns year-to-date, ongoing concerns over an escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the growth slowdown in China; investors might be tempted to give in to the “Sell in May” adage. According to ING IM, there are not enough reasons to do so and stay the course with their risk-on allocation stance.
With investor positioning now less concentrated and investor sentiment less euphoric, it seems likely that fundamentals will become more important drivers for markets again.
Global equities have lagged behind year-to-date
Sell in May?
With only a few days left in April, the temptation among investors might start to rise to give in to the “Sell in May” adage. Since most of the market evolution this year has been dominated by the behavioural side of investing (geopolitical fear factors and position squaring) it is not difficult to imagine that the old market mantra on cautiousness during summer might start to resonate over the coming weeks.
Positioning shake-out at an advanced stage
Before jumping to conclusions, however, it might be wise to consider what has changed and what has actually not changed since the beginning of the year. To start with the former, it seems fair to say by now that the needed positioning shake-out has progressed a long way. Especially in the performance of equity markets this has been visible, as global equities have lagged other risky assets like real estate, credit and commodities year-to-date. Also within equity markets the performance of sectors and regions has seen a clear pattern of outperformance by the most unloved segments at the start of the year (like defensive sectors) and underperformance of the most popular ones (like Japan).
On top of this, it is clear that investor sentiment has normalized. At the start of the year it stood at a 3-year high and not too far off the record-highs of the late ‘1990s. Since then, investor confidence has fallen back substantially and now hovers somewhat below its long-term average.
Fundamental picture is improving
At the same time, the fundamental undercurrent of support for risky assets still seems to be in place. Actually, the visibility on the evolution of the global business and earnings cycles has only increased. The weather distortions in developed market data releases is gradually fading, while the leading role and upward path of the “old economy” pack has only gotten more confirmation. In March, a “leading” index of business surveys from the US, Germany, Japan and European peripheral countries reached its highest level since September 2007.
To view the complete story, please click on the attached document.