Turning points

Year Ahead 2019

05 Dec 2018

Though it didn’t quite deliver the political bombshells of previous years, 2018 was a notable year for financial markets as heightened US-China tensions, tighter monetary policy, and a maturing global cycle contributed to more turbulent conditions.

With the right strategies in place, we believe this is navigable. Prospering in this environment will require selectivity, diversification, and a clear financial plan.

Not sure where to begin? Start your digital Year Ahead 2019 journey to steer your way. 

So, what can we expect in 2019?

The investment environment is clearly becoming more challenging as the global economic cycle matures. With economic growth, global politics, and central bank stimulus all at turning points, volatility has risen and drawdowns are becoming more commonplace. Investors should expect more of the same in 2019, as markets begin to try to anticipate an end to the cycle.

How much longer can the bull run?

Cumulative return for the MSCI All Country World Index over its longest bull markets (1970–88 data approximated based on MSCI World Index data), in %

Source: Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, UBS, as of 1 November 2018

Where are we now?

While the average bull market tends to last for 10 years, it doesn’t just die of old age. Although this year has been a lot more volatile than the last, we think this is consistent with a maturing cycle and think there’s still room for stocks to grow.


Bull market

A period in which stocks rise by more than 20% from a low

Bear market

A period in which stocks fall by more than 20% from a peak

What’s on the horizon?

Challenge 1: Investors are looking to the end of the cycle.

1: our view

Challenge 1: Slower growth and tighter monetary policy

We anticipate slower global economic growth in 2019. US growth will be dented because taxes are not going to be cut again. Meanwhile, China faces tariffs on its trade with the US and needs to control its rising debt. Tariffs will have knock-on effects for its suppliers, including those in Europe.

Monetary policy is also tightening. Over the past decade loose monetary policy, in the shape of low interest rates and “quantitative easing” has created a rising tide, which has lifted all boats – stock markets, bond prices, and real estate values. But in 2019 that tide will start ebb. 2019 will be the first year since the global financial crisis that central bank balance sheets end the year smaller than they started.

Thinking of battening down the hatches? Here’s why we don't think it's time yet.

1: your action

Solution 1: Stay invested

It’s been over a decade since the financial crisis, and stock markets are becoming more volatile . But we aren’t expecting a recession in 2019. Inflation remains contained, central bankers remain sensitive to growth and are raising rates in a measured way, and we think momentum should be sufficient to see us through some of the headwinds, such as tariffs.

This is good news because, historically, global bear markets have tended not to happen in the absence of a recession in a major economic region. So we think this is still a market in which investors should maintain a healthy allocation to equities. And in any case, trying to time the market tends not to pay off over the long term.

Test the waters and see how well you can time the market.

Buying and selling

The rules are simple. Press start, and the market ticker will show you how prices are moving. You'll start off holding cash and when you're ready to enter the market, click the "buy" button. When you want to exit the market, click the "sell" button. You'll have 2 minutes to test your skills.


We'll provide you with a few points of reference - the stock's index level, its price relative to its earnings (showing how cheap/expensive the market is), as well as how much money you've made relative to a buy-and-hold-investor.

Market events

Daily swings in the market are a normal part of investing, but certain events can cause more volatility than others. When a "market event" pops up, it's up to you to decide whether it's better to exit the market or stay invested.

Challenge 2: Earnings growth outlook is weak

2: our view

Challenge 2: Weaker overall earnings growth

Companies are unlikely to grow their profits as quickly in 2019 as they did in 2018. In the US market, which represents more than half of all global equity market capitalization, we expect profit growth to fall to roughly 4% in 2019 from a multi-year high of 21% in 2018. Meanwhile, we expect about 9% earnings growth in emerging markets and around 5% in the Eurozone. So how should investors respond to this slowdown?

2: your action

Solution 2: Be selective

Economic and earnings growth are waning, but this slowdown will not be felt uniformly across every country, sector, or company, and there are still growth opportunities and pockets of value. For instance, we expect robust growth in firms exposed to secular trends like population growth, aging, and urbanization – think medical device companies, those developing financial technology products, or those pushing the frontiers of space travel.

Meanwhile, some assets have already begun to factor in a more challenging backdrop. In particular, we like global energy stocks and US financials.

Challenge 3: The world faces key political turning points

3: our view

Challenge 3: Political challenges

Political challenges span the globe. US-China tensions look like they run much deeper than disagreements about trade policy. And we face elections of note in India, South Africa, Greece, Canada, and Argentina. Europe will also vote for the EU parliament, US presidential campaigning will begin, while instability could also provoke a return to the polls for citizens in Italy, Germany, and the UK.

Individual issues, including but not limited to Brexit, North Korea, the Eurozone, and the Middle East, will inevitably surface at some point in the coming year. How can you navigate your way?

3: your action

Solution 3: Diversify

While some risks, like a global trade war, bear close monitoring, concerns about individual countries usually don't upset global markets as a whole. By diversifying across a range of regions and asset classes you can reduce risk. Diversification means spreading your money across many different investments, across regions, asset classes, and companies, rather than sticking with just a few.

Challenge 4: The world continues to use resources in an unsustainable way

4: our view

Challenge 4: Environmental credit crunch

The world continues to use resources in an unsustainable way, which is becoming an issue for financial markets as much as for the environment and society. Social media means corporate behavior is more closely scrutinized than ever, and companies have come to appreciate that consumers can vote with their wallets. Read on to learn how to invest in line with your values.

4: your action

Solution 4: Go sustainable

Investors can play a role in improving sustainability while earning comparable returns to equivalent traditional investments. For example, investors could take advantage of the fact that a wealthier world is willing to spend more on such ecological goods as better air quality for its children. There is plentiful evidence that sustainable investing does not hurt your portfolio. Subscribe to download the full Year Ahead 2019 report to learn more.

Challenge 5: Long-term returns are going to be lower

5: our view

Challenge 5: Limited long-term return potential

After a decade in which stock market returns have vastly outperformed economic growth and central banks have provided unprecedented support for bonds, the return potential for the future is now more limited. It’s important not to ignore these changing long-term prospects. You will need to keep this in mind when building financial plans for the future.

5: your action

Solution 5: Plan for the unexpected

Life’s unpredictable; things don’t always turn out the way you’d like them to. What happens then? It’s this uncertainty that makes long-term financial planning so important.

Planning early gives you the best chance of meeting your long-term objectives and can help reduce uncertainty. A clear financial plan can help you navigate a time of heightened uncertainty and more limited longer-term return potential.

Our Liquidity. Longevity. Legacy. approach allows investors to maintain a healthy liquidity buffer to prepare for market volatility, while helping portfolios remain on track to grow toward achieving longer-term goals.

Our specialists are here for you

Many people delay planning for the future. But this can mean you are not adequately prepared for tomorrow. Our specialists are here to make your financial goals more tangible and find the right plan for you to achieve them.

Get in touch or make an appointment to discuss your financial plan.

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Timeframes may vary. Strategies are subject to individual client goals, objectives, and suitability. This approach is not a promise or guarantee that wealth, or any financial results, can or will be achieved.