GLOBAL INVESTMENT OUTLOOK Q2 2018

Our views for the second quarter

Apr 2, 2018

We see the overall environment as positive for risk assets, but expect more muted returns and higher volatility than in 2017. The U.S. tax overhaul and public spending plans have supercharged growth and earnings estimates, but also have added uncertainty to the economic outlook. We see two major risks to the global expansion and risk assets: trade wars and a spike in real yields.

Themes

1. Room to run

The U.S. economy is getting a fiscal shot in the arm just as it reaches full capacity. We see tax cuts and public spending driving faster growth, but that could hasten the economic expansion’s expiration date if it does not come with productivity gains. We expect emerging market growth to quicken in 2018, and still see robust growth in Europe, albeit at a slower pace than consensus.

We remain constructive on equities, despite the fact that we are nine years into a bull market.

Hello, big stimulus

This is the first time in decades that hefty U.S. stimulus is coming outside of a recession.

Hello, big stimulus

2. Inflation comeback

Inflation in perking up, led by the U.S. We see U.S. inflation move back toward target – and this should help the Federal Reserve forge ahead with raising rates. Inflation remains muted in Europe and Japan, supporting ongoing monetary accommodation there.

In the U.S., we expect that inflation will reach the 2% target of the Fed, and slightly above that.

Bowing to the Fed

Market expectations for U.S. interest rates are finally catching up with those from the Federal Reserve. The market-implied path of interest rates for the coming 12 months has lagged that indicated by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policymakers.

Bowing to the Fed

3. Reduced reward for risk

We see the low-volatility regime sticking for longer, but see potential for episodic spikes amid rising risks. Steady-above trend global growth is supportive of low-vol regimes, yet we see the potential for greater macroeconomic uncertainty – and volatility.

A comeback of inflation and Fed normalization may create a challenge for investors looking for high risk-adjusted returns.

Back to earth

Returns may be more muted this year, as volatility bounces from a 2017 trough and potential risks lurk. A hypothetical global portfolio of 60% equities and 40% bonds would see its Sharpe ratio – a measure of returns over cash relative to realized volatility - plunge from its 2017 peak.

Back to earth

Risks

Rising U.S. protectionism is the clearest menace to the near-term global outlook, in our view. We see increasing U.S. actions against China and other countries sparking bouts of volatility but not derailing the benign economic and market backdrop. Yet any escalation into a trade war could deal knock-on blows to sentiment and change our view. A renewed surge in bond yields is another risk, but we believe equities can do well as long as yield rises are steady and driven by improving growth.

Market views

We like equities. U.S. earnings revisions have rocketed higher to factor in the boon from lower corporate taxes — and earnings momentum is rising across the world. We favor U.S. and emerging market (EM) equities but we see choppier markets and less-heady returns than last year ahead. We prefer technology, financials and the momentum style factor. We are negative on government bonds overall but see short-maturity Treasuries now offering a compelling risk/reward proposition. We are neutral on credit amid tight spreads and increasing sensitivity to rate rises.

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Richard Turnill
Global Chief Investment Strategist, BlackRock Investment Institute
Richard Turnill is Global Chief Investment Strategist for BlackRock. He was previously Chief Investment Strategist for BlackRock’s Fixed Income and active ...
Jean Boivin
Head of Economic and Markets Research
Jean Boivin, PhD, Managing Director is Head of Economic and Markets Research at the Blackrock Investment Institute, a global platform which leverages ...
Isabelle Mateos y Lago
Chief Multi-Asset Strategist
Kate Moore
Chief Equity Strategist
Jeffrey Rosenberg
Chief Fixed Income Strategist