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Getting granular in our strategic views

Market take

Weekly video_20231127

Vivek Paul

Opening frame: What’s driving markets? Market take

Camera frame

Elevated levels of bond volatility are evidence of the new macro and market regime in action, and confirm the benefits of being agile with our strategic views of five years or longer.

Title slide: Staying agile with our strategic views

We upgrade sovereign bonds in developed markets (DMs) to neutral but this masks two stories - we stay underweight long-term bonds but turn overweight short- and mid-dated bonds. We also trim our preference for inflation-linked bonds, though this remains our largest overweight, and cut DM stocks to neutral.

Here’s why: 

1: Yields to rise further

Our 3 1/2 year underweight to all DM government bonds is over, as market yields have risen in line with our positioning.  At an aggregate level we have turned neutral, but this is driven by a preference for short- and mid-maturity bonds – and what’s more noteworthy is what we didn’t shift.  We remain underweight long-term bonds. 


We think long-term yields will resume their climb as investors demand more term premium - compensation, for the risk of holding long-term bonds. 

2: Higher inflation for longer

We believe higher inflation, plus greater fiscal-and climate-related spending likely mean the level of policy rates will be materially higher than before the pandemic. 

Our updated view of higher neutral rates in the long term prompts a reassessment of equity valuations.  Our strategic overweight to DM stocks – which we’ve held since the before end of Western lockdowns - is now trimmed to neutral.  Long-term stock valuations look about fair to us, rather than warranting a higher allocation than usual.  Though even with the downgrade to neutral, U.S. stocks remains our largest portfolio allocation.

Outro: Here’s our Market take

We think the new volatile economic regime calls for more nimble and dynamic strategic views. 

Closing frame: Read details:

Quarterly strategic update

We turn more positive on short- to medium-term developed market (DM) sovereign bonds in our latest strategic update. We trim DM stocks to neutral.

Market backdrop

Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields steadied after their drop from 16-year highs. We think yields will stay volatile but ultimately resume their climb in the long term.

Week ahead

U.S. PCE inflation data out this week should gauge if price pressures are cooling further. We don’t see inflation coming down to the Fed’s 2% target long term.

We think granularity is key as government bond yields hit multi-year highs. We turn more positive on short- and medium-term DM bonds as we factor in high interest rates for longer in our strategic views of five years and over. We stay underweight long-term bonds, leaving us neutral DM bonds overall in our latest quarterly update. We like inflation-linked bonds and cut DM stocks to neutral on valuations. We remain underweight credit, preferring income in private markets.

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Riskier long-term bonds

DM government bond term premium, 1985-2023

A red dashed line in the chart shows our estimate for investors to demand term premium of 1-1.25% on a horizon of five years and beyond for the risk of holding long-term bonds in the U.S., Germany and UK.

Forward-looking estimates may not come to pass. Source: BlackRock Investment Institute, November 2023. Notes: The chart shows the historical and estimated term premium ranges. The range captures three regions: U.S., Germany and UK. Term premium is defined as the compensation investors demand for the risk of holding long-term bonds. Our historical estimates of term premium are based on the Adrian, Crump and Moench (2013)(只供英文)“ACM” model, described in detail here: Our estimated range represents a five-year view, from 2023 through 2028.

We had been underweight DM government bonds since March 2020 as we expected yields to rise. We gradually trimmed the underweight as our view played out, increasingly preferring shorter-dated bonds. Now with yields even higher, we explicitly carve out an overweight on DM short- and medium-term government bonds. We stay underweight long-term bonds as we see room for long-term yields to climb again. Why? Investors will demand more term premium, or compensation for the risk of holding these bonds across DMs, in our view. See the chart. This is due to more uncertain and volatile inflation spurring heightened bond market volatility. We also see weaker demand for bonds amid rising debt levels. Central banks are no longer reinvesting the proceeds of maturing bonds as part of quantitative tightening, and investors are struggling to digest a flood of new bonds.

The path to higher long-term yields is unlikely to be straight in the next five years. Indeed, we recently went neutral long-term Treasuries from a tactical, six-to-12-month view because we see more even odds of yields swinging in either direction. Inflation-linked bonds remain our highest-conviction overweight on the strategic horizon. Sure, inflation is falling in the near term as pandemic-era mismatches unwind, with consumer spending shifting back to services from goods. But in the long run, we see inflation well above 2% central bank policy targets. The reasons are big structural shifts constraining supply:  slowing labor force growth, geopolitical fragmentation and the low-carbon transition. That’s why we see central banks keeping interest rates high for longer. Our updated strategic views bake in the impact of this.

Staying nimble and selective

We also turn neutral DM equities, with U.S. stocks remaining our largest portfolio allocation. We had been overweight since the end of Western pandemic lockdowns due to attractive valuations. Bond and stock markets have been moving toward our view of high-for-longer rates in fits and starts, and long-term valuations for stocks now look about fair to us. This is why we have turned neutral on the broad asset class – and look for opportunities within. The new regime has created uncertainty, resulting in greater dispersion of sector and individual security returns. How to capture these potential opportunities to generate above-benchmark returns? Nimble portfolios, getting granular and investment skill are part of the answer, we think.

These changes demonstrate why we think it’s important to be agile with strategic views. This new, more volatile regime means the relative attraction of different assets is shifting faster than we have been used to for a generation. Credit is a case in point. Just a year ago, we were overweight investment grade credit because spreads looked attractive versus our long-run expectations. Then spreads tightened materially, and we turned underweight as we expect them to widen in the long run. High-for-longer rates will likely eat into corporate margins and earnings, in our view, especially as companies refinance debt. We see private credit lenders benefitting from refinancing activity as banks curb lending due to high rates reshaping the financial industry. That said, private markets are complex and not suitable for all investors. And private credit is not immune to the tough economic backdrop, but we think current yields compensate investors for the risks.

Bottom line

High rates are a core tenet of the new regime. We carve out a strategic overweight on shorter-term DM bonds and stick to our preference for inflation-linked bonds. We go neutral DM stocks but see granular opportunities.

Market backdrop

The S&P 500 hit a four-month high, taking its gains to about 11% from the October lows on a holiday-shortened trading week. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 hit its highest level since January 2022. Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields inched up back toward 4.5% but are still down about 50 basis points from their October peak. We think yields will stay volatile but resume their march as investors start to demand more term premium – a key part of our view on both tactical and strategic horizons

We are monitoring U.S. PCE inflation data – the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation – due this week to gauge if inflation is on track to fall to 2%. We think U.S. inflation will near the Fed’s 2% policy target in the second half of 2024 but will not stay there long term. We think euro area inflation will also head back to target next year as economic activity stagnates.

Week ahead

The chart shows that U.S. equities are the best performing asset year-to-date among a selected group of assets, while Brent crude is the worst.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. Indexes are unmanaged and do not account for fees. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from LSEG Datastream as of Nov. 23, 2023. Notes: The two ends of the bars show the lowest and highest returns at any point in the last 12-months, and the dots represent current year-to-date returns. Emerging market (EM), high yield and global corporate investment grade (IG) returns are denominated in U.S. dollars, and the rest in local currencies. Indexes or prices used are: spot Brent crude, ICE U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), spot gold, MSCI Emerging Markets Index, MSCI Europe Index, LSEG Datastream 10-year benchmark government bond index (U.S., Germany and Italy), Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global High Yield Index, J.P. Morgan EMBI Index, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Corporate Index and MSCI USA Index.

Nov. 29

Germany CPI

Nov. 30

U.S. PCE; euro area flash CPI and unemployment

Dec. 1

U.S. ISM manufacturing PMI

Investment themes


Holding tight

Markets have come around to the view that central banks will not quickly ease policy in a world shaped by supply constraints. We see them keeping policy tight to lean against inflationary pressures.


Pivoting to new opportunities

Higher macro and market volatility has brought more divergent security performance relative to the broader market. Benefiting from this requires granularity and nimbleness.


Harnessing mega forces

The new regime is shaped by five structural forces we think are poised to create big shifts in profitability across economies and sectors. The key is identifying catalysts that can supercharge them and whether the shifts are priced by markets today.

Directional views

Strategic (long-term) and tactical (6-12 month) views on broad asset classes, November 2023

Asset   Strategic view Tactical view Commentary
Equities Developed market Developed market equities: strategic Neutral +1 Developed market equities: tactical Underweight -1 We are neutral equities in our strategic views as high-for-longer interest rates lead us to re-evaluate our estimate for stock valuations from here. Tactically, we stay underweight DM stocks but upgrade Japan. We are underweight the U.S. and Europe. Corporate earnings expectations don’t fully reflect the economic stagnation we see. We see other opportunities in equities.
  Emerging market Emerging market equities: strategic Neutral Emerging market equities: tactical Neutral Strategically, we are neutral as we don’t see significant earnings growth or higher compensation for risk. We go neutral tactically given a weaker growth trajectory. We prefer EM debt over equity.
Developed market government bonds Nominal Nominal government bonds: strategic Neutral -1 Nominal government bonds: tactical Neutral Higher-for-longer policy rates have bolstered the case for short-dated government debt in portfolios on both tactical and strategic horizons. Strategically, we carve out an overweight for short- and medium-term bonds as yields have surged. We stay underweight U.S. and euro area long-dated bonds as we expect investors to demand more compensation for the risk of holding them. We are strategically neutral on government bonds overall. Tactically, we’re neutral long-term Treasuries as the yield surge driven by expected policy rates approaches a peak. We’re overweight euro area and UK bonds as we see more rate cuts than the market does.
  Inflation-linked Inflation-linked government bonds: strategic Overweight 2+3 Inflation-linked government bonds: Neutral We are strategically overweight DM inflation-linked bonds where we see higher inflation persisting. But we have trimmed our tactical view to neutral on current market pricing in the euro area.
Public credit and emerging market debt Investment grade Investment grade credit: strategic Underweight -1 Investment grade credit: tactical Underweight -2 Strategically, we’re underweight due to limited compensation above short-dated government bonds. We’re underweight tactically to fund risk-taking elsewhere as spreads remain tight.
  High yield Investment grade credit: strategic Neutral High yield credit: tactical Underweight -1 Strategically, we are neutral high yield as we see the asset class as more vulnerable to recession risks. We’re tactically underweight. Spreads don’t fully compensate for slower growth and tighter credit conditions we expect.
  EM debt Government bonds: strategic Neutral EM debt: tactical Overweight +1 Strategically, we're neutral and see more attractive income opportunities elsewhere. Tactically, we’re overweight hard currency EM debt due to higher yields. It is also cushioned from weakening local currencies as EM central banks cut policy rates.
Private markets Income Income private markets: strategic Overweight +1 - We are strategically overweight private markets income. For investors with a long-term view, we see opportunities in private credit as private lenders help fill a void left by a bank pullback.
  Growth Growth private markets: strategic Underweight -1 - Even in our underweight to growth private markets, we see areas like infrastructure equity as a relative bright spot.

Note: Views are from a U.S. dollar perspective. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding any particular funds, strategy or security.

Tactical granular views

Six to 12-month tactical views on selected assets vs. broad global asset classes by level of conviction, November 2023

Legend Granular

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Note: Views are from a U.S. dollar perspective. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast or guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon as investment advice regarding any particular fund, strategy or security.

Jean Boivin
Head – BlackRock Investment Institute
Wei Li
Global Chief Investment Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute
Vivek Paul
Global Head of Portfolio Research – BlackRock Investment Institute
Devan Nathwani
Portfolio Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute