It turns out, quite a lot. The ability of real assets to retain their inflation-adjusted value over time is hugely valuable. Relatively small differentials in annual returns can compound up into huge differences in outcomes over long periods of time. However, knowing whether an asset is in a bubble comes down to a debate about appropriate discount rates.
US inflation was lacklustre in 2017, despite falling unemployment. This combination was very supportive for equities. In 2018, a key risk is that we see a similar wage pick-up in the US to what we’ve already seen in Central and Eastern Europe, where labour markets are also tight. As a result, we believe there are potential benefits in holding US dollar and US inflation exposure in portfolios to help mitigate the risk of higher interest rates undermining equities and other risk assets.
In at least one respect, I can identify with Millennials: FOMO. The ‘fear of missing out’ on things such as Game of Thrones, tickets to FC Cologne vs Arsenal, that perfect powder run on my snowboard holiday or front row seats at my daughters’ nativity plays. But looking at markets at the moment, it’s pretty obvious I’m not the only one with FOMO!
In pricing fixed income securities, a lot hangs on the difference between the mean, median and mode. Markets reflect a probability-weighted average of potential outcomes (i.e. the mean); policymakers typically focus on the single most-likely outcome (i.e. the mode). Thinking carefully about the difference has important implications for how we view interest rate risks.
It’s easy to build a buy case for European equities at the moment. The economy is booming, earnings are growing, politics look as stable as they have been for years and the European stock markets have lagged behind for so long that surely it’s time for some catch up? But perhaps constructing this buy case is a bit too easy?