Investing today is harder than ever amid uncertain earnings growth and periods of high market volatility. To navigate these challenges, many investors diversify their portfolio across stocks and bonds.
However, even a well-diversified portfolio may still be exposed to tremendous risk given the historically high correlation between the performance of a traditional 60/40 balanced strategy and equity markets. The problem is that a seemingly unrelated collection of assets can still be exposed to common sources of risk—like inflation, central bank policy moves, or a slowing global economy. As a result, the diversification that investors need can often be very difficult to find.
The good news is that factor investing can potentially deliver more effective diversification to help investors achieve their investment goals. Factor investing is about identifying and precisely targeting broad, persistent and long recognized drivers of returns.
BlackRock’s research suggests that we can explain more than 90% of the returns across asset classes through six primary drivers of returns, or factors. Economic Growth, Real Rates and Inflation are the most important drivers of returns across asset classes; Credit, Emerging Markets and Liquidity are also important drivers to understand and manage, particularly in times of crisis. Over the long run, our research has shown each of these have delivered a positive return due to bearing additional risk.
The reward for taking on the risk of economic uncertainty
The reward for taking on the risk of interest rate movements
The reward for taking on the risk of changes in inflation
The reward for taking on default risk
The reward for taking on political and sovereign risks
The reward for holding illiquid assets
These six macroeconomic factors are the building blocks of asset class returns, and multiple factors can impact individual asset classes. We believe that navigating today’s markets requires a balanced mix of these macro factors.
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