By: Joachim Fels & Andrew Balls
The global economy is likely to make good progress along the path to recovery over the cyclical horizon, especially in the second half of 2021. However, much of this growth is already priced in to markets. Investors should also beware of several macro risks that command careful portfolio construction to weather renewed bouts of volatility in financial markets.
In our January 2021 Cyclical Outlook we discuss the outlook for global growth, policy, and inflation in 2021, together with the implications for markets and investors. This blog post is a distillation of our views.
Baseline outlook: growth rebound, elusive inflation
Following an outsized contraction of economic activity in 2020, global output and demand are likely to rebound strongly this year. We expect the current renewed weakness due to lockdowns in major economies to give way to accelerating gross domestic product (GDP) growth from around the second quarter, driven by the broadening rollout of vaccines and continued fiscal and monetary policy support. Coming off a low base, world GDP growth in 2021 is expected to be the highest in more than a decade.
Consumer price inflation is likely to creep up only moderately during this year and generally remain below central banks’ targets in all major economies.
Monetary and fiscal policy support growth
Central banks will likely keep borrowing costs low in order to enable ongoing fiscal support for years to come. Policy rates are likely to remain at present levels in the foreseeable future or could even be reduced further in some countries. Asset purchases are likely to continue throughout, and likely well beyond, 2021.
Fiscal policy remains a key swing factor in our cyclical outlook. Most governments are likely to keep propping up household incomes via transfers and supporting companies via loan guarantees, subsidies, and tax breaks.
Three key risks to the baseline outlook
An onset of fiscal fatigue (in which governments return to a more cautious stance) would be a significant risk to the expected economic recovery, particularly in the second half of this year and more so in 2022.
Also, with China exhibiting strong growth momentum coming into 2021, we expect policymakers to refocus on deleveraging in the course of this year. We see a risk of overtightening, which could cause a sharper-than-expected growth slowdown.
The greatest uncertainty in the economic outlook stems from potential scarring effects that could inhibit or even prevent a swift return to pre-pandemic levels of consumer spending as well as corporate investment and hiring decisions.
We see both upside and downside risks to government bond yields in the near term, reflecting the push and pull between lockdowns and reduced activity and vaccine rollout. In most of our portfolios, we anticipate being fairly neutral on overall duration. We may employ curve-steepening positions in our core bond portfolios, given our view that while central banks will anchor front ends, over time markets will likely price greater reflation into the longer ends of curves.
Though we see little inflation upside risk over the cyclical horizon, we continue to see U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) offering a reasonably priced hedge against higher inflation in the U.S. over the longer term.
We expect to favor agency and non-agency mortgages and other structured product positions, carefully selected corporate credit overweights, and hard-currency-denominated emerging market sovereign credit exposures. We will be careful to avoid generic tight corporate credit positions, preferring to rely on the active picks of our credit teams. On currencies, we expect to maintain a modest U.S. dollar underweight.
While risk markets can continue to perform well over the coming months in response to broadening vaccine rollout and policy stimulus, investors may have become too complacent in light of the risks. We see this as a time for careful portfolio positioning and not for excessive optimism or risk-taking. Given the overall low level of yields, tight spreads, and low volatility, we plan to place significant emphasis on capital preservation and careful liquidity management.
Once the easy pandemic recovery trades have played themselves out, we expect a difficult market environment. As active managers, we will look to add value with security selection across credit sectors, with a focus on high quality sources of income, and seek to find the best global opportunities.
For more details on our outlook for the global economy in 2021 and the investment implications, please read the full Cyclical Outlook, “Bounded Optimism on the Global Economy.”
Originally Posted on January 12, 2021 – Cyclical Outlook Takeaways: Bounded Optimism on the Global Economy
All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bonds and bond strategies with longer durations tend to be more sensitive and volatile than those with shorter durations; bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise, and low interest rate environments increase this risk. Reductions in bond counterparty capacity may contribute to decreased market liquidity and increased price volatility. Bond investments may be worth more or less than the original cost when redeemed. Inflation-linked bonds (ILBs) issued by a government are fixed income securities whose principal value is periodically adjusted according to the rate of inflation; ILBs decline in value when real interest rates rise. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are ILBs issued by the U.S. government. Mortgage- and asset-backed securities may be sensitive to changes in interest rates, subject to early repayment risk, and while generally supported by a government, government-agency or private guarantor, there is no assurance that the guarantor will meet its obligations. Investing in foreign-denominated and/or -domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. Currency rates may fluctuate significantly over short periods of time and may reduce the returns of a portfolio.
Statements concerning financial market trends or portfolio strategies are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice.
All investments contain risk and may lose value. This material is intended for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America L.P. in the United States and throughout the world. THE NEW NEUTRAL is a trademark of Pacific Investment Management Company LLC in the United States and throughout the world. ©2021, PIMCO
Disclosure: Interactive Brokers
Information posted on IBKR Traders’ Insight that is provided by third-parties and not by Interactive Brokers does NOT constitute a recommendation by Interactive Brokers that you should contract for the services of that third party. Third-party participants who contribute to IBKR Traders’ Insight are independent of Interactive Brokers and Interactive Brokers does not make any representations or warranties concerning the services offered, their past or future performance, or the accuracy of the information provided by the third party. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
This material is from PIMCO and is being posted with permission from PIMCO. The views expressed in this material are solely those of the author and/or PIMCO and IBKR is not endorsing or recommending any investment or trading discussed in the material. This material is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. To the extent that this material discusses general market activity, industry or sector trends or other broad based economic or political conditions, it should not be construed as research or investment advice. To the extent that it includes references to specific securities, commodities, currencies, or other instruments, those references do not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold such security. This material does not and is not intended to take into account the particular financial conditions, investment objectives or requirements of individual customers. Before acting on this material, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.