Soccer team in red jerseys deliberating their next play.
2023 GLOBAL INVESTMENT OUTLOOK

A new investment playbook

The regime of greater economic and market volatility is playing out – and not going away. Central banks won’t ride to the rescue in recession, contrary to what investors have come to expect. This regime requires a new investment playbook. It involves more frequent portfolio changes and more granular views that go beyond broad asset classes.

Investment themes

01

Pricing the damage

Central banks are deliberately causing recession by overtightening policy to tame inflation, in our view. That makes recession foretold. What matters: our view on the pricing of economic damage and our assessment of market risk sentiment. Investment implication: We stay underweight DM equities but expect to turn more positive at some point in 2023.

02

Rethinking bonds

We see higher yields as a gift to investors long starved of income in bonds. And investors don’t have to go far up the fixed income risk spectrum to receive it. Investment implication: We like short-term government bonds, investment grade credit and agency mortgage-backed securities for income. We stay underweight long-term government bonds.

03

Living with inflation

Long-term trends of the new regime, such as aging workforces and geopolitical fragmentation, will keep inflation persistently above pre-pandemic levels, in our view. Investment implications: We stay overweight inflation-linked bonds on both tactical and strategic horizons. We are strategically overweight DM equities.

Read details of our 2023 outlook:

Paragraph-2
Paragraph-3,Paragraph-4,Advance Static Table-1,Paragraph-5,Advance Static Table-2,Paragraph-6,Advance Static Table-3
Paragraph-7,Image-1,Paragraph-8,Image-2,Paragraph-9,Image-3,Paragraph-10,Image-4

New regime playing out

The Great Moderation, the four-decade period of largely stable activity and inflation, is behind us. The new regime of greater economic and market volatility is playing out – and not going away, in our view. Central banks are deliberately causing recessions by overtightening policy to try to rein in inflation. That makes recession foretold.

We see central banks eventually backing off from rate hikes as the economic damage becomes clear. We expect inflation to cool but stay persistently higher than central bank targets of 2%. Repeated inflation surprises have sent bond yields soaring, crushing equities and fixed income. Such volatility stands in sharp contrast to the Great Moderation era.

A key feature of the new regime, we believe, is that we are in a world shaped by production constraints. The pandemic shift in consumer spending from services to goods caused shortages and bottlenecks. Aging populations led to worker shortages. This means DMs can’t produce as much as before without creating inflation pressure. That’s why inflation is so high now, even though activity is below its pre-Covid trend.

A brutal trade-off

Central bank policy rates are not the tool to resolve production constraints; they can only influence demand in their economies. That leaves them with a brutal trade-off.

Either get inflation back to 2% targets by crushing demand down to what the economy can comfortably produce now, or live with more inflation. For now, they’re all in on the first option. So recession is foretold. Signs of a slowdown are emerging. But as the damage becomes real, we believe they’ll stop their hikes even though inflation won’t be on track to get all the way down to 2%.

Production constraints
Some production constraints could ease as spending normalizes. We see three long-term trends keeping production capacity constrained and cementing the new regime:

1. Aging populations mean continued worker shortages in many major economies.

2. Persistent geopolitical tensions are rewiring globalization and supply chains.

3. The transition to net-zero carbon emissions is causing energy supply and demand mismatches.

What’s clear to us is that what worked in the past won’t work now.

Our new playbook

Navigating markets in 2023 will require more frequent portfolio changes and a new investment playbook. It also calls for taking more granular views by focusing on sectors, regions and sub-asset classes, rather than on broad exposures. What matters most for our tactical portfolio outcomes, we think, are two assessments: 1) our assessment of market risk sentiment, and; 2) our view of how much economic damage is already reflected in market pricing.

Scenario

Equities

Credit

Short-dated

govt. bonds

Long-dated

govt. bonds

Risk off, damage not priced: We are here!

 Underweight -1  Underweight +1 Underweight +2 Underweight -1

Risk off, damage priced

Underweight +1  Underweight neutral Underweight +1 Underweight -1

Risk on, damage priced

 Underweight +2 Underweight -1 Underweight -1 Underweight -1

Risk on, damage not priced

Underweight +1  Underweight neutral Underweight +1 Underweight -1

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: Blackrock Investment Institute, November 2022. Notes: The boxes in this stylized matrix  show how our tactical views on broad assets classes would switch if we were to change our assessment of market risk sentiment or assessment of how much economic damage is priced in. The potential view changes 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.

The table above shows how we plan to change our views as markets play out in the new regime. A few key conclusions:

  • We are already at our most defensive stance. Other options are about turning more positive, especially on equities.
  • We are underweight nominal long-term government bonds in each scenario in this new regime. This is our strongest conviction in any scenario.
  • We can turn positive in different ways: either via our assessment of market risk sentiment or our view on how much damage is in the price.

View the outlook in charts (PDF)

Our investment views

Our new investment playbook – both strategic and tactical – calls for greater granularity to capture opportunities arising from greater dispersion and volatility we anticipate in coming years.

Directional views

Strategic (long-term) and tactical (6-12 month) views on broad asset classes, November 2022

Asset Strategic view Tactical view Commentary
Equities Equities: strategic Overweight +1 Equities: tactical Underweight -1 We are overweight equities in our strategic views as we estimate the overall return of stocks will be greater than fixed-income assets over the coming decade. Valuations on a long-horizon do not appear stretched to us. Tactically, we’re underweight DM stocks as central banks look set to overtighten policy – we see recessions looming. Corporate earnings expectations have yet to fully reflect even a modest recession.
Credit Credit: strategic Overweight +1 Credit: strategic Overweight +1 Strategically, we add to our overweight to global investment grade credit on attractive valuations and income potential given higher yields. We turn neutral high yield as we see the asset class as more vulnerable to recession risks. Tactically, we’re also overweight investment grade and neutral high yield. We prefer to be up in quality. We cut EM debt to neutral after its strong run. We see better opportunities for income in DMs.
Government bonds Government bonds: strategic Underweight -1 Government bonds: tactical Underweight -1 The underweight in our strategic view on government bonds reflects a big spread: max underweight nominal, max overweight inflation-linked and an underweight on Chinese bonds. We think markets are underappreciating the persistence of high inflation and the implications for investors demanding a higher term premium. Tactically, we are underweight long-dated DM government bonds as we see term premium driving yields higher, yet we are neutral short-dated government bonds as we see a likely peak in pricing of policy rates. The high yields offer relatively attractive income opportunities.
Private markets Private markets: strategic Underweight -1 - We’re underweight private growth assets and neutral on private credit, from a starting allocation that is much larger than what most qualified investors hold. Private assets are not immune to higher macro and market volatility or higher rates, and public market selloffs have reduced their relative appeal. Private allocations are long-term commitments, however, and we see opportunities as assets reprice over time. Private markets are a complex asset class not suitable for all investors.

Note: Views are from a U.S. dollar perspective, November 2022. 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 2022

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.

Euro-denominated tactical granular views

Six to 12-month tactical views on selected assets vs. broad global asset classes by level of conviction, November 2022

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 euro perspective, November 2022. 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.

Taming inflation = a deep recession

Production constraints are fueling inflation and economic volatility. Central banks cannot solve these constraints. That leaves them raising rates and engineering recessions to fight inflation. The chart shows we expect a 2% fall in GDP for central banks to get inflation down to what the economy can comfortably produce now.

U.S. GDP and potential supply, 2017-2025

It would take a 2% drop in GDP to close the gap between demand and supply in 2023.

Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, with data from Haver Analytics, November 2022. Notes: The chart shows demand in the economy, measured by real GDP (in orange) and our estimate of pre-Covid trend growth (in yellow). The green dotted line shows our estimate of current production capacity, which we infer from how far core PCE inflation has exceeded the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target. Closing the gap between current activity (orange line) and production capacity (green dotted line), assuming some recovery in production capacity, would entail a 2% drop in GDP between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023  (orange dotted line). Forward-looking estimates may not come to pass.

Damage already clear

The chart shows that housing sales this year are already steeper than past mega-Fed-hiking cycles, such as in the 1970s and early 1980s – as well as the unwind of the mid-2000s U.S. housing boom. We don’t think equities are fully priced for recessions. But we stand ready to turn positive.

U.S. new home sales during policy rate tightening cycles, 1972-2022

The sharp decline in new home sales this year is already steeper than several other housing declines during other mega-Fed-hiking cycles going back to the 1970s.

Source: BlackRock Investment Institute and U.S. Census Bureau, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, November 2022. Notes: The chart shows how quickly in months sales of new family houses changed during policy rate tightening cycles between 1972 and 2022. The colored, labeled lines highlight 2022 and the years when housing sales fell most quickly.

Stock-bond relationship breaks down

A hallmark of portfolios in recent decades was that bond prices would go up when stocks sold off. We think this relationship has broken in the new regime. The lure of fixed income is strong, as surging yields mean bonds finally offer income. Yet long-dated bonds face challenges, we believe, making us prefer short-term bonds and high-grade credit.

Correlation of U.S. equity and government bond returns

The charts shows the correlation between U.S. 10-year Treasury and S&P 500 returns turned positive this year. That’s a reversal from a negative correlation that was the hallmark of portfolios in recent decades where bond prices would go up when stocks sold off.

Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, November 2022. Notes: The chart shows the correlation of daily U.S. 10-year Treasury and S&P 500 returns over a rolling one-year period.

Short over long

We favor short-term government bonds and high-grade credit for income. We believe long-term government bonds won’t serve as traditional portfolio diversifiers due to persistent inflation. And we see investors demanding higher compensation for holding them.

U.S. Treasury yields, 2000-2022

The chart shows 10-year and 2-year treasury yield lines at their highest levels since 2007. That makes the income they offer attractive.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. Source: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, November 2022. Notes: The chart shows U.S. 10-year and two-year Treasury yields.

Meet the authors
Philipp Hildebrand
Vice Chairman, BlackRock
Jean Boivin
Head of BlackRock Investment Institute
Wei Li
Global Chief Investment Strategist, BlackRock Investment Institute
Alex Brazier
Deputy Head of BlackRock Investment Institute
Vivek Paul
Head of Portfolio Research, BlackRock Investment Institute
Scott Thiel
Chief Fixed Income Strategist