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16 Oct 2017

Q4 2017 Outlook: The fairytale continues

At the start of last quarter we considered whether the fairytale of strong performance from equity and bond markets alike could continue. Well... it has so far. But what can we expect for Q4?

Will they all live happily ever after? 

There’s no doubt economic growth has been a plus point this year, with 2017 Bloomberg consensus estimates for the US and eurozone revised up to over 2% and to 1.5% for Japan. Yet low inflation is proving a much trickier problem to remedy across the developed world. 

In all likelihood, central banks will only normalise their monetary policies gradually over the coming months, so there should be no rapid removal of the support they’ve been providing the financial markets. Risk assets are expensive, but as long as economic growth maintains its pace a major correction looks unlikely. And that’s good news for investors.

But where exactly do the best opportunities lie over the coming months?

No bond bonanza

With wage and core inflation expected to pick up in the US over the medium term, the Fed looks likely to stay the course when it comes to normalising its monetary policy. It’s ready to start shrinking its balance sheet in October and a rate hike is pencilled in for December, so we’re slightly underweight treasuries. And with the ECB set to taper slowly throughout 2018 we’re also slightly underweight bunds.

Hop into high yield

European high yield credit remains an interesting option for the less risk-averse bond investor, although historically tight spreads do sound a note of caution. We’re overweight high yield as fundamentals look supportive and we see little chance of a reversal over the next few months.

Full steam ahead for eurozone equities

The relatively poor performance of eurozone equities last quarter was puzzling, but probably due to profit-taking after a period of double-digit gains. The asset class is still trading at a considerable discount to US equities and, with reflation in full swing, we expect foreign and domestic investors to pile back into eurozone equities this quarter, resulting in renewed rises. We’d advocate being selective though; some areas should do better than others. 

Choosing the best areas within the eurozone

Banks continue to heal and should benefit from reflation, while the construction sector looks interesting not only because it’s cheap, but because it should benefit from a pick-up in real estate and infrastructure investment.  Conditions look ripe for households to increase their spending beyond their basic needs, so we still prefer discretionary to staples.

At the country level, we’re big fans of “Macronomics”, hence our slight preference for French rather than German stocks. And, after their long-term underperformance, we also like Greek equities as we believe the eurozone is determined to find a solution to the country’s debt problems.

A selective approach to US equities

The S&P 500 has hit record highs, so there’s no denying US equity valuations are looking even more stretched than they were last quarter. What’s more, they’re vulnerable to the Fed’s balance sheet reduction. And yet fundamentals remain impressive and some risks have passed – for now at least it looks less likely the Trump presidency will fail. The debt ceiling has been raised, and there’s plenty of time to pass tax reform.

With these conflicting drivers, we’re neutral on US equities. But delving deeper we favour some areas of the market over others: for instance, we prefer large-caps over their smaller peers and domestic-focused stocks. We’re bullish on banks over the long term, but low inflation could prove a headwind in Q4.

Overweight Japanese equities for the long run

With the economy on the mend, the Bank of Japan has no reason to alter its accommodative stance. This, combined with foreign investment at low levels, has led us to upgrade our long-term stance towards Japanese equities to positive.

We can’t however recommend a headlong rush into Japan just yet, so it’s more of a tactical play for now. EPS growth is slightly slower than we’d like and the North Korean nuclear threat remains a worry. Yet, periods of renewed yen weakness could offer interesting windows for outperformance.

Go easy on emerging equities

Emerging equities posted some solid gains last quarter, but their performance could soften if Treasury yields rise – as we expect. We’re neutral on the asset class for now. South Korea (which has so far proven resilient to the threat from the North) is our preferred market.

Cautious on commodities

It’s an intricate picture for the price of oil. Risks include a possible increase in supply and a potential US dollar rebound. However, robust global growth should keep demand high while OPEC producers are unlikely to let prices fall far below USD 50 / barrel. Our expectation is for Brent to continue to trade within the USD 47–55 / barrel range, so we’re neutrally positioned.

Since we recommended buying copper last quarter its price has risen by 25%, making it look a lot less attractive for Q4. We’ve downgraded our stance to neutral. Gold also performed well last quarter, but we’re struggling to see catalysts for it to rise much further. We’re keeping it at neutral for hedging purposes. 



*Lyxor CAR,  October 2017.

Our key calls

Our key calls

Key: U/W = underweight, O/W = overweight, s= soft, ST = short-term, LT = long-term

Source: Lyxor CAR, July 2017


All data sourced by: Lyxor & SG Cross Asset Research teams, Ocober  2017. Opinions expressed are as at 12 October 2017. 

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