Although fundamentals are positive with a global economy firing on all cylinders, risky assets are expensive. Technical factors are not helping either: towards the end of this year, central banks will be leaving a void which will be virtually impossible for private investors to fill. Our positioning is cautious but active.
Still, there’s no reason to panic either. In fact, this is when active managers come to life. With the Fed in Quantitative Tightening (QT) mode, and the ECB about to taper its Corporate Sector Purchase Programme (CSPP), volatility is set to increase. This will cause higher dispersion in our universe and this offers opportunities for issuer selection.
Within a global context, we have a clear preference for Europe, where high yield offers extra carry and investment grade companies tend to be more conservative than in the US. We also like financials, believing that insurance companies and banks can be a hedge in an environment of rising interest rates.
There are several indicators that the cycle is maturing. It is hard to predict the exact turn of the cycle and markets can stay in ‘peakish’ periods for quite a while. We believe that US markets are leading and have drawn their dot just behind the peak of the bull market.
In our outlook, we always look at three factors: fundamentals, valuations and technicals.
Fundamentals are still favorable for credits. Global growth is driven by three locomotives: the US, Europe and China. Whereas the former two show synchronized growth, growth in China is moderating but still high.
How long will the US economic cycle last? True, fiscal stimulus may extend it a little, but at the same time it will only aggravate the imbalances and ultimately deepen a potential recession. Inflation is still very much subdued, but all ingredients for higher inflation are already there. Labor markets are tight. The labor force is shrinking due to the withdrawal of baby boomers, making labor scarce and thus more expensive. Other ingredients are the US twin deficit and increasing protectionism.
US corporate leverage is unsustainably high. European growth is solid, with broad participation of the entire euro area. Risks are certainly not coming from Europe, but if the US were to slow down, Europe will not be immune.
For emerging markets, it is important to watch the dollar. The market is very relaxed in expecting further dollar weakness. It is easy to see why the dollar would drop further, given the ballooning twin deficit. However, if this does not happen, emerging debt could be seriously at risk. Foreign borrowers have used the dollar market for funding. When dollar depreciates it helps their balance sheets, but dollar strength would do exactly the opposite.
No matter which way you look at it, credit markets are expensive in all rating categories, both in Europe and in the US. We still prefer Europe, though. For European high yield, we still get some extra spread compared with similarly rated US high yield companies. For investment grade, spreads are pretty similar, but European companies tend to be more conservative.
Within Europe we still see some value in financials. Insurance bonds should provide some sort of hedge against rising rates, as their profitability tends to increase when interest rates rise. The same goes for banks, which benefit from falling levels of Non-Performing Loans and stronger balance sheets.
We have extensively discussed the LIBOR-OIS spread widening. This spread reflects the difference between the risk free central bank rate and the rate banks pay in the interbank market. It is considered a measure of health in the banking system. A wider spread means that it is more expensive to borrow dollars. This makes hedging dollar risk more expensive for foreign investors, which could lower their appetite for US fixed income assets or even cause them to sell out of them.
Global central banks are still a key factor to watch. Although the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are still buying more than what the Fed is shrinking, expansion will turn into reduction by the end of 2018.
We have seen a dramatic increase in capital market funding by corporates, shifting away from bank lending. As capital markets tend to respond faster to a changing environment than loan officers, credit conditions for corporates could tighten much faster than has historically been the case.
This report is not available for users from countries where the offering of foreign financial services is not permitted, such as US Persons.
Your details are not shared with third parties. This information is exclusively intended for professional investors. All requests are checked.
The content displayed on this website is exclusively directed at qualified investors, as defined in the swiss collective investment schemes act of 23 june 2006 ("cisa") and its implementing ordinance, or at “independent asset managers” which meet additional requirements as set out below. Qualified investors are in particular regulated financial intermediaries such as banks, securities dealers, fund management companies and asset managers of collective investment schemes and central banks, regulated insurance companies, public entities and retirement benefits institutions with professional treasury or companies with professional treasury.
The contents, however, are not intended for non-qualified investors. By clicking "I agree" below, you confirm and acknowledge that you act in your capacity as qualified investor pursuant to CISA or as an “independent asset manager” who meets the additional requirements set out hereafter. In the event that you are an "independent asset manager" who meets all the requirements set out in Art. 3 para. 2 let. c) CISA in conjunction with Art. 3 CISO, by clicking "I Agree" below you confirm that you will use the content of this website only for those of your clients which are qualified investors pursuant to CISA.
Representative in Switzerland of the foreign funds registered with the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority ("FINMA") for distribution in or from Switzerland to non-qualified investors is ACOLIN Fund Services AG, Affolternstrasse 56, 8050 Zürich, and the paying agent is UBS Switzerland AG, Bahnhofstrasse 45, 8001 Zürich. Please consult www.finma.ch for a list of FINMA registered funds.
Neither information nor any opinion expressed on the website constitutes a solicitation, an offer or a recommendation to buy, sell or dispose of any investment, to engage in any other transaction or to provide any investment advice or service. An investment in a Robeco/RobecoSAM AG product should only be made after reading the related legal documents such as management regulations, articles of association, prospectuses, key investor information documents and annual and semi-annual reports, which can be all be obtained free of charge at this website, at the registered seat of the representative in Switzerland, as well as at the Robeco/RobecoSAM AG offices in each country where Robeco has a presence. In respect of the funds distributed in Switzerland, the place of performance and jurisdiction is the registered office of the representative in Switzerland.
This website is not directed to any person in any jurisdiction where, by reason of that person's nationality, residence or otherwise, the publication or availability of this website is prohibited. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply must not access this website.