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Alessio de Longis | September 10, 2021

Tactical asset allocation update: September 2021

Despite the weakening in global leading economic indicators, our framework still points toward an expansionary regime. Find out why from Alessio De Longis in this month’s tactical asset allocation update.

Macro update

Leading economic indicators have decelerated across all regions around the world. In the United States, declining consumer confidence and housing market indicators have been the primary driver of recent weakness. In the eurozone and the UK, peaking production expectations and falling inventories suggest that the rebound in the inventory cycle of the past few months is likely to pause in the near term. In Asia, deceleration in manufacturing surveys, housing indicators, and industrial production have contributed to a noticeable slowdown in growth.

Despite this broad-based softening in economic data, our macro regime framework remains in an expansionary regime, driven by a rebound in global risk appetite which, in our opinion, signals market expectations for a rebound in growth later in the year (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: While the global economy remains in expansion, some regions have shifted toward a slowdown cycle

Sources: Bloomberg L.P., Macrobond. Invesco Investment Solutions research and calculations. Proprietary Leading Economic Indicators of Invesco Investment Solutions. Macro regime data as of Aug. 31, 2021. The Leading Economic Indicators (LEIs) are proprietary, forward-looking measures of the level of economic growth. The Global Risk Appetite Cycle Indicator (GRACI) is a proprietary measure of the markets’ risk sentiment. For illustrative purposes only.

Figure 2: Invesco Investment Solutions leading indicators – GRACI and the global LEI

Sources: Bloomberg L.P., MSCI, FTSE, Barclays, JPMorgan, Invesco Investment Solutions research and calculations, from Jan. 1, 1992 to Aug. 31, 2021. The Global Leading Economic Indicator (LEI) is a proprietary, forward-looking measure of the growth level in the economy. A reading above (below) 100 on the Global LEI signals growth above (below) a long-term average. The Global Risk Appetite Cycle Indicator (GRACI) is a proprietary measure of the markets’ risk sentiment. A reading above (below) zero signals a positive (negative) compensation for risk-taking in global capital markets in the recent past. Past performance does not guarantee future results. For illustrative purposes only.

Among potential drivers of the recent improvement in market sentiment, we are witnessing early evidence of a peak in delta variant infections and a well-telegraphed tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed):

  • Recent experience with the delta variant in the UK suggests daily reported cases could decline rapidly in the coming weeks. Short-term fluctuations in asset prices still show a high sensitivity to COVID-related news, as shown by the positive market reaction to the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Hence, positive news flow on the COVID front could provide another catalyst in favour of risky assets, cyclical factors/sectors, and higher bond yields. Importantly, we believe emerging market (EM) equities and currencies should prove resilience against (gradually) rising long-term U.S. bond yields, given the meaningful cheapening in EM assets caused by China’s regulatory crackdown over the past two months.
  • Fed Chair Jay Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium confirmed the well-telegraphed tapering in asset purchases in the fourth quarter. The dovish market reaction post-Jackson Hole confirms to us some negative risk premia were built into asset prices ahead of the meeting. Going forward, we don’t expect communication around tapering to matter as much, and the attention should shift to what the Fed described as a “different and substantially more stringent test for liftoff” in interest rates later next year.

We believe inflation has peaked. Our inflation momentum indicator (introduced last May) suggests U.S. inflation statistics over the past three months have stabilized and begun to roll over (Figure 3). These developments provide tentative support to our thesis that the spike in inflation would prove transitory, and that inflation should soon return to an average annual rate in line with recent history.

The bottom line is that while there are several economic and market developments that could shake markets in the near term (COVID infections, monetary policy communication, and upcoming U.S. debt ceiling and budget deadlines, to name a few), our macro framework still points toward a positive backdrop for equities, cyclical assets, and emerging markets, leading us toward a tactical buy-the-dip strategy rather than a risk reduction strategy.

Figure 3: U.S. Inflation Momentum Indicator (IMI) and categories 

Source: Bloomberg L.P. data as of Aug. 31, 2021. Invesco Investment Solutions calculations. The U.S. Inflation Momentum Indicator (IMI) measures the change in inflation statistics on a trailing three-month basis, covering indicators across consumer and producer prices, inflation expectation surveys, import prices, wages, and energy prices. A positive (negative) reading indicates inflation has been rising (falling) on average over the past three months.

Investment positioning

  • Within equities, we favour emerging markets, driven by above-trend global growth, rising risk appetite, and medium-term U.S. dollar depreciation to support the asset class. We remain tilted in favour of (small) size and value across regions. In addition, we are tilted in favour of momentum, which currently captures value and smaller-capitalization equities, therefore concentrating risk in cyclical factors and reducing factor portfolio diversification relative to the past few years.
  • In fixed income, we favour risky credit despite tight spreads, seeking income in a low-volatility environment. We are overweight high yield, bank loans, and EM debt at the expense of investment grade credit and government bonds. We favour U.S. Treasuries over other developed government bond markets given the yield advantage.
  • In currency markets, we maintain an overweight exposure to foreign currencies, positioning for long-term U.S. dollar depreciation. We remain constructive on EM foreign exchange given attractive valuations, an improving cycle, and a favourable backdrop for capital inflows, favouring the Indian rupee, the Indonesian rupiah, the Russian ruble, and the Brazilian real. Within developed markets, we favour the euro, the yen, the Canadian dollar, the Singapore dollar, and the Norwegian kroner, while we underweight the British pound, the Swiss franc, and the Australian dollar. (see Figure 4)

Figure 4: Relative tactical asset allocation positioning

Source: Invesco Investment Solutions, Aug. 31, 2021. DM = developed markets. EM = emerging markets. For illustrative purposes only.


Important information

Header image: Demetr White / Stocksy

Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses may all be associated with mutual fund investments. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Please read the simplified prospectus before investing. Copies are available from your advisor or from Invesco Canada Ltd.

As illustrated in our previous research, we define the four stages of the business cycle based on the expected level and change in economic growth: recovery, when growth is below trend and accelerating; expansion, when growth is above trend and accelerating; slowdown, when growth is above trend and decelerating; and contraction, when growth is below trend and decelerating.

Size (in factor investing) represents the potential higher-than-benchmark returns associated with relatively smaller stocks within the universe being considered.

Value (in factor investing) applies to investments trading at discounts to similar securities, based on measures like book value, earnings or cash flow.

Momentum (in factor investing) identifies investments with positive momentum (recent strong returns) or negative momentum (recent weak returns) in order to calibrate portfolio exposure to either.

Companies that issue quality stocks may experience lower than expected returns or may experience negative growth, as well as increased leverage, resulting in lower than expected or negative returns to Fund shareholders.

Spread represents the difference between two values or asset returns.

Diversification does not guarantee a profit or eliminate the risk of loss.

The risks of investing in securities of foreign issuers, including emerging market issuers, can include fluctuations in foreign currencies, political and economic instability, and foreign taxation issues.

Fixed-income investments are subject to credit risk of the issuer and the effects of changing interest rates. Interest rate risk refers to the risk that bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise and vice versa. An issuer may be unable to meet interest and/or principal payments, thereby causing its instruments to decrease in value and lowering the issuer’s credit rating.

Junk bonds involve a greater risk of default or price changes due to changes in the issuer’s credit quality. The values of junk bonds fluctuate more than those of high quality bonds and can decline significantly over short time periods.

Issuers of sovereign debt or the governmental authorities that control repayment may be unable or unwilling to repay principal or interest when due, and the Fund may have limited recourse in the event of default. Without debt holder approval, some governmental debtors may be able to reschedule or restructure their debt payments or declare moratoria on payments.

The dollar value of foreign investments will be affected by changes in the exchange rates between the dollar and the currencies in which those investments are traded.

Stocks of small and mid-sized companies tend to be more vulnerable to adverse developments, may be more volatile, and may be illiquid or restricted as to resale.

A value style of investing is subject to the risk that the valuations never improve or that the returns will trail other styles of investing or the overall stock markets.

There is no guarantee forecasts/outlooks will come to pass.

The opinions referenced above are those of the author as of Sep. 10, 2021. These comments should not be construed as recommendations, but as an illustration of broader themes. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions; there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations.