The Case for Infrastructure in Uncertain Markets

Biden’s victory raised expectations for infrastructure spending in the US, sparking a surge of flows to end 2020. As an asset class, infrastructure can offer uncorrelated returns to equities and thus appeals to certain investors. Moreover, an exposure that combines both equities and corporate bonds can provide investors with a degree of downside buffer in uncertain markets.

Strong Demand for Infrastructure

Despite the market turmoil in 2020, investor demand for infrastructure assets remained strong. Last year, investors added $3.5 billion to European-domiciled equity infrastructure mutual funds1. Flows accelerated in November and December, with $900 million added in those two months alone. The flows surged as investors became more certain that Biden would win the US presidency and more hopeful that a raft of fiscal stimulus would be passed by Congress, including increases in infrastructure spending.

Although flows were strong during in 2020, returns were more disappointing for infrastructure equities. Of note, the S&P Global Infrastructure Index fell 6.5% last year while the MSCI World Index climbed 15.9%.2

A Balanced Approach to Infrastructure

A more balanced approach to infrastructure investing could have provided stronger returns last year. For example, the Morningstar Global Multi-Asset Infrastructure Index rose 8.6% in 2020.3  The index managed to achieve this performance due to the 50% allocation to infrastructure corporate

bonds, which help to reduce correlation to equities during market falls and therefore help to reduce drawdowns in down markets.

As Figures 1 and 2 illustrate, over the longer term the inclusion of corporate bonds has provided a downside buffer. During all periods when the market saw a significant fall, the Morningstar index performed far better than the S&P Global Infrastructure index.

Given a large reason to allocate to infrastructure assets is to reduce correlation to traditional equity markets, and thus achieve uncorrelated returns, using an equity-only strategy is not the most effective approach. Hence, we believe taking the more balanced approach by including an allocation to infrastructure corporate bonds gives a closer approximation to the underlying infrastructure asset class.

To learn more about infrastructure investing and the outlook for the asset class, please read our recent Insights article.

How to access this theme

With a SPDR ETF, investors can access the infrastructure universe with just one trade. To learn more about the ETF, and to view full performance history, please follow the link below:

SPDR® Morningstar Multi-Asset Global Infrastructure UCITS ETF (Dist)  




European-Domiciled ETP Segment Flows(Top/Bottom 5, $mn)

European-Domiciled ETP Asset Category($mn)

Sources: Bloomberg Finance L.P., for the period 21 – 28 January 2021. Flows are as of date indicated and should not be relied upon as current thereafter. This information should not be considered a recommendation to invest in a particular sector or to buy or sell any security shown. It is not known whether the sectors or securities shown will be profitable in the future.