July 2016 marked an inflection point from deflation to reflation. Bond yields started to rise on a brighter growth outlook. We expect global inflation, led by the US, to increase very gradually. In our view, the expected rise in US policy rates is likely to be the most modest and gradual normalization in the history of the Federal Reserve. However, the path to growth is likely to be uneven due to various risks, particularly the balancing act which will be necessary to exit successfully from ultra-accommodative monetary policy.
Against this backdrop, after a protracted period during which beta (the market) has dominated returns, we see a shift toward portfolio manager skills (alpha) playing a much greater role in generating returns. , as rates have risen the pace of appreciation of equity markets has slowed. US equities in particular currently command rich valuation metrics and it is realistic to expect that over a 5 to 10 year forward view returns will be lower than those experienced over the past few years. In this phase of the cycle, every 50 basis points of alpha will be worth gold and the appetite for alpha-oriented strategies is likely to grow.
We see consumer spending, healthcare, real estate, and information technology as the key growth themes in emerging markets. However, the environment is dynamic. It is influenced by various diverging growth trends, and faces many political and economic challenges including industrialization and the digital revolution. We therefore believe that an active country, sector and security selection, based on exhaustive top-down and bottom-up research, is a prerequisite to add value to emerging markets portfolios.
Low yields have presented a significant challenge to investors for a number of years. We see a moderate but slow US-led reflation and expect inflation and interest rates to reach levels well below the average of past recovery peaks. While global growth is likely to pick up, yields are still at low or negative levels and we expect them to stay low in Europe and Japan in the foreseeable future.
In our view, there are three paths which could offer potential returns to investors, while endeavoring to avoid assets with low yields and possibly negative returns: 1) adding to higher yielding bond strategies; 2) within equities, a focus on unconstrained strategies; 3) increasing exposure to alternative asset classes.
Focused sustainable investing consists of three distinct approaches that can be used individually or in combination when building portfolios: 1) exclusion of objectionable investments, 2) integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors with traditional finance considerations to make investment decisions, and 3) impact investing.
For 20 years we have been developing sustainable investment solutions for institutional investors across the globe. Backed by our significant expertise, proprietary sustainability data, and a sophisticated research platform, we build tailored strategies for institutional investors that help them meet both their financial and sustainability requirements.
Where do you see the biggest risks and greatest opportunities in 2017?