Favoring Cash Against High Yield: Tactical Trading Decisions for September 2022
Each month, the State Street Global Advisors’ Investment Solutions Group (ISG) meets to debate and ultimately determine a Tactical Asset Allocation (TAA) that can be used to help guide near-term investment decisions for client portfolios. By focusing on asset allocation, the ISG team seeks to exploit macro inefficiencies in the market, providing State Street clients with a tool that not only generates alpha, but also generates alpha that is distinct (i.e., uncorrelated) from stock picking and other traditional types of active management. Here we report on the team’s most recent TAA discussion.
The economic growth outlook remains cloudy and numerous risks have led us to periodically reduce our growth forecasts. Recession fears have intensified as growth continues to downshift from the post-COVID-19 recovery, an energy crisis threatens Europe, China struggles with COVID-19 lockdowns and the housing sector is battered, all while central banks continue to become more hawkish. Despite the downgrades, we are not forecasting a recession and continue to believe that sources of resiliency remain.
Growth has slowed and will likely slow further as elevated inflation and rising rates reduce real disposable income and corporate profits. Activity measures have deteriorated, and while the US Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) unexpectedly strengthened in August, PMIs globally are generally weakening. Additionally, leading indicators point to further declines with the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index declining for a fifth consecutive month in July. However, while activity is slowing, employment remains robust and wage growth is still solid, both of which can support demand. Healthy corporate balance sheets and profits should help maintain demand for labor.
We continue to see signs of declining prices but are steadfast in our belief that inflation will remain elevated for quite some time barring a deep recession. Headline inflation in the US moved lower in August, the second consecutive month of declines, but core inflation spiked signaling that price pressures continue to strengthen broadly. Gas prices have been the big driver of easing price pressures, but shelter, medical, food, electricity and others continue to grind higher. Prices paid measures have softened and supply chain pressures are abating, both of which should pass through to consumers, but absolute levels are still high and risks remain.
OPEC+ agreed to cut output in October as recession fears have weighed on prices while little is being done to increase overall supply. Labor unions at major US freight railroads have been unable to reach an agreement, setting the stage for potential strikes, which would negatively impact supply chains. Overall, an easing of inflation pressures from extreme levels can help further support demand, but a meaningful decrease may not be imminent.
Despite the heightened recession fears, central banks continue to strike a more aggressive tone while reiterating their intent to bring inflation down to targets. Unfortunately, banks have not provided an indication of which rate levels will trigger a pause, which only increases the fears of a policy mistake. In our view, the Fed is likely to slow the pace of hikes by year-end to assess the economy and the impact of higher rates, decelerating growth and inflation. We still believe it is wiser to pause in restrictive territory rather than continue to push until the economy is in a recession. Outside the US, the European Central Bank (ECB) will need to continue raising rates to gain credibility in its fight against inflation, while the Bank of England (BoE) is expected to hike again despite increased recession fears.
Ongoing uncertainty around growth and monetary policy will continue to weigh on investors and create a challenging macroenvironment.
Figure 1: Asset Class Views Summary
Source: State Street Global Advisors, as at 10 September 2022.
Directional Trades and Risk Positioning
Risk aversion intensified during the second half of August as mounting fears of an energy crisis in Europe and more hawkish central banks threatened global growth. Our Market Regime Indicator (MRI) began the month moving down into a normal risk regime before pivoting and finishing in high risk. The move was driven by implied volatility on equity and currency with both measures moving up meaningfully into a normal and crisis regime respectively. Risky debt spreads narrowed, but the measure remains in high risk.
Global equities suffer from poor price momentum, but meaningful improvements in sentiment along with still attractive valuations helped upgrade our forecast. However, the deterioration in risk appetite largely offset this improvement and propelled us to make a minor adjustment to equity, further increasing our underweight. The result was a small sell in US large cap equities.
Contrary to last month, our model is now looking for higher government rates, which depressed our fixed income forecasts. We sold both aggregate bonds and high-yield bonds while also increasing our overweight to cash. The sell in high-yield bonds now brings us underweight from neutral. The biggest change in our outlook for bonds was a flip in interest rate momentum, which along with a higher nominal Gross domestic product (GDP) print relative to longer-term yields suggests higher rates ahead. For high yield, poor seasonality and higher levels of government yields weighed on the outlook, but the recent decline in risk sentiment soured our forecast, which now suggests wider spreads. Cash offers a healthy yield and provides some downside protection in this challenging environment.
Relative Value Trades and Positioning
In line with our directional trades, we moved from neutral to underweight in high yield, which also leaves us underweight at the total portfolio level. Elsewhere, we increased our overweight allocations to cash and intermediate government bonds. While our models are now forecasting higher yields, on a relative basis, intermediate government bonds offer a more attractive opportunity.
From a sector perspective, energy and utilities remain targeted sectors while we rotated out of healthcare and upgraded financials to a full allocation. Healthcare benefits from positive macroeconomic factors, and even though price momentum remains positive, a decline in August pushed the sector down in our rankings. Despite weakness in oil markets, energy remains our top-ranked sector. Price momentum has softened but remains solid, while robust sentiment and enticing valuations all support the sector. Utilities experienced improvements in sentiment, which combined with sturdy price momentum and supportive macroeconomic factors buoy our outlook. Price momentum has been poor for financials but improving sentiment and attractive valuations keep the sector near the top of our rankings.
To see sample Tactical Asset Allocations and learn more about how TAA is used in portfolio construction, please contact your State Street relationship manager.
The whole or any part of this work may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted or any of its contents disclosed to third parties without SSGA's express written consent.
The views expressed are of Investment Solutions Group as of 10 September 2022 and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This document contains certain statements that may be deemed forward looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
The information provided does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security. It does not take into account any investor's particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. You should consult your tax and financial advisor. All information is from State Street Global Advisors unless otherwise noted and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed.
There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk including the risk of loss of principal.
The trademarks and service marks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners. Third party data providers make no warranties or representations of any kind relating to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the data and have no liability for damages of any kind relating to the use of such data.
For EMEA Distribution: The information contained in this communication is not a research recommendation or ‘investment research’ and is classified as a ‘Marketing Communication’ in accordance with the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2014/65/EU) or applicable Swiss regulation. This means that this marketing communication (a) has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research (b) is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.
Equity securities may fluctuate in value in response to the activities of individual companies and general market and economic conditions.
Investing in foreign domiciled securities may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuation in currency values, withholding taxes, from differences in generally accepted accounting principles or from economic or political instability in other nations. Investments in emerging or developing markets may be more volatile and less liquid than investing in developed markets and may involve exposure to economic structures that are generally less diverse and mature and to political systems which have less stability than those of more developed countries.
Investing in REITs involves certain distinct risks in addition to those risks associated with investing in the real estate industry in general. Equity REITs may be affected by changes in the value of the underlying property owned by the REITs, while mortgage REITs may be affected by the quality of credit extended. REITs are subject to heavy cash flow dependency, default by borrowers and self-liquidation. REITs, especially mortgage REITs, are also subject to interest rate risk (i.e., as interest rates rise, the value of the REIT may decline).
There are risks associated with investing in Real Assets and the Real Assets sector, including real estate, precious metals and natural resources. Investments can be significantly affected by events relating to these industries.
Bonds generally present less short-term risk and volatility than stocks but contain interest rate risk (as interest rates raise, bond prices usually fall); issuer default risk; issuer credit risk; liquidity risk; and inflation risk. These effects are usually pronounced for longer-term securities. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to a substantial gain or loss.
Investing in commodities entail significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Commodities investing entail significant risk as commodity prices can be extremely volatile due to wide range of factors. A few such factors include overall market movements, real or perceived inflationary trends, commodity index volatility, international, economic and political changes, change in interest and currency exchange rates.
Illiquid risk/Asset investments may have difficulty in liquidating an investment position without taking a significant discount from current market value, which can be a significant problem with certain lightly traded securities.
Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. To obtain a prospectus or summary prospectus which contains this and other information, call 1-800-997-7327, download a prospectus or summary prospectus now, or talk to your financial advisor. Read it carefully before investing.
Distributor: State Street Global Advisors Funds Distributors, LLC, member FINRA, SIPC, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of State Street Corporation. References to State Street may include State Street Corporation and its affiliates. Certain State Street affiliates provide services and receive fees from the SSGA Funds.
THIS SITE IS INTENDED FOR U.S. INVESTORS ONLY.
No Offer/Local Restrictions
Nothing contained in or on the Site should be construed as a solicitation of an offer to buy or offer, or recommendation, to acquire or dispose of any security, commodity, investment or to engage in any other transaction. SSGA Intermediary Business offers a number of products and services designed specifically for various categories of investors. Not all products will be available to all investors. The information provided on the Site is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation.
All persons and entities accessing the Site do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with applicable local laws and regulations. The Site is not directed to any person in any jurisdiction where the publication or availability of the Site is prohibited, by reason of that person's nationality, residence or otherwise. Persons under these restrictions must not access the Site.
Information for Non-U.S. Investors:
The products and services described on this web site are intended to be made available only to persons in the United States, and the information on this web site is only for such persons. Nothing on this web site shall be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security to any person in any jurisdiction where such offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction.