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A defensive market that is looking increasingly risky

A defensive market that is looking increasingly risky

11-12-2018 | インサイト

Historically, switching to the US is an obvious choice at a late stage of the bull market when a shift towards more defensive equity allocation is desired. However, this time may be different.

  • Peter van der Welle
    Peter
    van der Welle
    Strategist
Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream, Robeco

America first! It's hard to deny that the US stock markets have set the tone of President Trump's first term in office. The US also finds itself in the exceptional situation that the economy is doing so well that monetary policy normalization is well underway, in contrast to what is happening in Europe and Japan. The US economy is now running at full throttle, spurred by a president who claims to be an expert in the rules of the economic game. Investors are pricing in uncertainty and seem to believe Trump's vow to put “America first”.

Since he was elected in November 2016, it's remarkable how much the risk premium that investors demand for investing in equities in the US has fallen compared to the rest of the world. Large corporate tax cuts and a market with a sector bias towards growth and tech stocks which have so far performed well, also play a role.

This article is part of our investment outlook 2019: ‘Turbulence ahead’.
This article is part of our investment outlook 2019: ‘Turbulence ahead’.
Read more

Mind the gap

The risk premium* investors demand for investing in stocks in the US is now at a low compared to what they demand in other countries. This reflects the relatively high level of confidence of US investors. The rules of the economic ‘game’ in Trump's America seem more transparent than elsewhere in the world. Take Europe, for instance, where politicians quarrel about Italy and the future of the euro project still seems uncertain. However, this negative perception of risk about Europe is nothing new. Since the Eurozone crisis erupted in 2011, the gap between the equity risk premium investors demanded in Europe compared to the US has continued to widen.

However, the current, exceptionally large difference with the average risk premium in the US indicates that European investors may overestimate the risks, while US investors could be underestimating them.

First, the thorny Brexit situation must take a decisive turn before March 2019; regardless of the outcome, this will reduce uncertainty for European equity investors. Second, there are ‘market forces’ at work, i.e. yields on Italian government bonds are rising, which will eventually force Italian populists to compromise and submit a budget more in line with the EU's rules, thus providing temporary respite from the risks associated with Italy. Third, Trump's economic policy is losing clout.

The US versus the rest of the world

In other words, by now, the lingering, well-known European risks have been amply priced in, as the political playing field in the US grows increasingly complex. Although a higher risk premium on European equities is therefore still justifiable, looking ahead, the downside risk of European equities compared to their US counterparts is, in fact, more limited. This observation also applies more broadly, because in Japan, too, the political risks seem more limited, since Abe’s re-election and the continuation of ‘Abenomics’.

Our analysis demonstrates that with equity risk premiums in the US at their current, astonishingly low levels relative to the rest of the world, the returns on US equities have historically lagged. In other words: based on current valuations, the rest of the world has an edge on the United States when it comes to return potential.

Historically speaking, switching to the US, which has traditionally been a defensive market for equities, is an obvious choice at a late stage of the bull market. However, in this case, there are actually reasons to prepare for an increasing share of equities from other countries, so that one can gradually reduce the weight of US equities. Take, for example, the sustained global economic growth, the attractively priced European and Japanese markets and the expected decrease in political/geopolitical risks in Europe compared to the US.

*Determination of the Z-score
We define the regional equity risk premium (ERP) as the earnings/price ratio of the regional equity index (the inverse of the price/earnings ratio, i.e. (1/K/W)) minus the return on the corresponding 10-year government bond. We calculate the US ERP as the S&P 500 earnings/price ratio minus the 10-year Treasury yield. For the global ERP, we subtract the yield on the Merrill Lynch global government bond (which has a comparable duration to the 10-year Treasury) from the MSCI World earnings/price ratio. Both data sets are denominated in dollars. Then monthly data from 1985 onwards was used to calculate a Z-score using the absolute difference between the US ERP and the global ERP.

Outlook 2019: Turbulence ahead
Download the full 2019 Outlook

重要事項

当資料は情報提供を目的として、Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V.が作成した英文資料、もしくはその英文資料をロベコ・ジャパン株式会社が翻訳したものです。資料中の個別の金融商品の売買の勧誘や推奨等を目的とするものではありません。記載された情報は十分信頼できるものであると考えておりますが、その正確性、完全性を保証するものではありません。意見や見通しはあくまで作成日における弊社の判断に基づくものであり、今後予告なしに変更されることがあります。運用状況、市場動向、意見等は、過去の一時点あるいは過去の一定期間についてのものであり、過去の実績は将来の運用成果を保証または示唆するものではありません。また、記載された投資方針・戦略等は全ての投資家の皆様に適合するとは限りません。当資料は法律、税務、会計面での助言の提供を意図するものではありません。

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商号等: ロベコ・ジャパン株式会社  金融商品取引業者 関東財務局長(金商)第2780号

加入協会: 一般社団法人 日本投資顧問業協会

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