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06 giu 2019

Heading for safer havens

Government bond yields have retreated since the world’s major central banks began their retreat from policy normalisation at the beginning of this year. Equity markets meanwhile have notched up near double-digit performance, but could it all be about to change?

Resurgent policy uncertainty, mainly relating to global trade conflicts, has amplified market concerns over the risks of a global slowdown just when cyclical downside risks are materialising. We may finally have reached the beginning of the end of the cycle.


The end is nigh

The economic backdrop today is one of moderating growth and low inflation. This has helped keep nominal interest rates near historic lows despite a decade of economic expansion. The current cycle’s longevity matches the best on record. Fundamentals still look relatively strong for now, with growth of between 2.0% and 2.5% likely for this year and strong employment figures so far. However, persistently low inflation prints and the escalation of the trade war between the US and China increase the chances of the cycle coming to an end.

Many market commentators have been using the slope of the treasuries yield curve as a leading indicator of recession in the US. History tells us that yield curve inversions have preceded each of the last seven recessions. There have only been two exceptions to this rule since the 60s. While such inversions do not in themselves cause recessions, they do serve to reveal any uncertainty surrounding the trajectory of GDP growth. The Federal Reserve of Cleveland publishes updates of such analysis and recently reported that the probability of a US recession materialising in the next year has increased to almost 35%. It was just above 15% in September last year.  

US Yield curve and Real GDP growth

Chart 1

Source: Bloomberg, Bureau of Economic Analysis, data as at 06/06/2019. Past results are not a reliable indicator of future results.

On top of all of the disruptive policy uncertainty, the US is set to reverse its expansive fiscal policy. A compromise between the Republican White House and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives looks distant – especially as we are already in the early stages of the next presidential election campaign

Fed impact falls

The future shape of the yield curve largely depends on the Fed’s outlook for economic activity and how it assesses progress towards employment and inflation goals. The data-dependent nature of its policymaking prompted a pause in policy normalisation (rate hikes) at the start of the year. And, when looking back at its policy actions during the latter stages of the previous two lengthy expansions, you can see a real sensitivity to any moderation of growth while inflation posed little upside risks. The FOMC dot-plot still holds the option of another hike in 2020, but the bond futures market is strongly pricing a rate cut by year-end. There could even be one as early as September. Recent comments from Fed officials on how closely they are monitoring trade dispute developments have also comforted the markets.  

Market implied probabilities on Fed Funds move – FOMC September meeting 

chart2

Source: Bloomberg, data as at 06/06/2019. Calculations are using Fed Funds futures data. 


Should the Fed start cutting interest rates or even implement some form of quantitative easing on early signs of a recession, it will certainly have an impact. However, it may not be enough to hold back the tide. Any policy change will have a lesser effect as the central bank’s balance sheet is much, much bigger than it was, and interest rates are already at historical lows. There’s little doubt the Fed will refrain from acting too strongly, too fast at the risk of disappointing markets.


More than a Sino-American problem

The greater uncertainty and the lesser confidence that have come with the US/China trade war go beyond the bilateral relationship. In fact, they’ve been magnified by other governments’ worries about what could happen to their own trading relationships with the US – especially the EU and Japan – which are both currently trying to negotiate trade terms.

Aside from having the capacity to depress international trade directly, these ongoing uncertainties have already weighed on general business sentiment and are likely to weigh on investment activity. A rebound in the broader macro picture looks unlikely should this environment persist.


Seeking shelter

Risk assets may continue to struggle in the coming weeks and asset allocations could need to change. Augmenting safer haven exposures like treasuries and smart beta strategies like quality income (see our latest update on this strategy) and low volatility at the expense of riskier strategies makes sense while the clouds of uncertainty linger.  

In these conditions, protecting more of what you already have may be front of mind. Our 50+ problem-solvers help you rise to any challenge, simply and cost-effectively. Whether you’re looking to find shelter against global markets volatility or guard against currency moves, we offer a range of unique and ground-breaking solutions.

Relevant products

Risk Warning​

This document is for the exclusive use of investors acting on their own account and categorised either as “Eligible Counterparties” or “Professional Clients” within the meaning of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2014/65/EU. These products comply with the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EC). Société Générale and Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM) recommend that investors read carefully the “investment risks” section of the product’s documentation (prospectus and KIID). The prospectus and KIID are available free of charge on www.lyxoretf.com, and upon request to client-services-etf@lyxor.com.

Except for the United-Kingdom, where this communication is issued in the UK by Lyxor Asset Management UK LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK under Registration Number 435658, this communication is issued by Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM), a French management company authorized by the Autorité des marchés financiers and placed under the regulations of the UCITS (2014/91/EU) and AIFM (2011/61/EU) Directives. Société Générale is a French credit institution (bank) authorised by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (the French Prudential Control Authority).

The products mentioned are the object of market-making contracts, the purpose of which is to ensure the liquidity of the products on the London Stock Exchange, assuming normal market conditions and normally functioning computer systems. Units of a specific UCITS ETF managed by an asset manager and purchased on the secondary market cannot usually be sold directly back to the asset manager itself. Investors must buy and sell units on a secondary market with the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. a stockbroker) and may incur fees for doing so. In addition, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Updated composition of the product’s investment portfolio is available on www.lyxoretf.com. In addition, the indicative net asset value is published on the Reuters and Bloomberg pages of the product, and might also be mentioned on the websites of the stock exchanges where the product is listed.

Prior to investing in the product, investors should seek independent financial, tax, accounting and legal advice. It is each investor’s responsibility to ascertain that it is authorised to subscribe, or invest into this product. This document is of a commercial nature and not of a regulatory nature. This material is of a commercial nature and not a regulatory nature. This document does not constitute an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, from Société Générale, Lyxor Asset Management (together with its affiliates, Lyxor AM) or any of their respective subsidiaries to purchase or sell the product referred to herein.

Research disclaimer

Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) or its employees may have or maintain business relationships with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that LIAM and its employees may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision. Please see appendix at the end of this report for the analyst(s) certification(s), important disclosures and disclaimers. Alternatively, visit our global research disclosure website www.lyxoretf.com/compliance.

Conflicts of interest 

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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