UBS: Now is not the time to reduce exposure

Alex Cowie

Mark Haefele, the Global Chief Investment Officer at UBS penned a short note on the US market’s drastic pullback, calling for calm and suggesting it is not time to reduce exposure, not unless rates or inflation keep rising. Here’s his comment in full:

“The primary cause appears to be concerns of higher inflation and tighter central bank policy after data showed that average hourly earnings increased 2.9% in the year to January, the fastest pace since 2009.

10-year US Treasury yields climbed to 2.84%, the highest level in four years, raising the risk that borrowing costs could dampen growth.

But the sharp market move should be put in context.

The S&P 500 is still up 3.3% year-to-date, after the best January since 1997. Although concern about tighter policy is an important factor, stocks had already started to fall on Friday after several top technology and energy firms missed earnings estimates. And investors should remember that we are coming out of an exceptional environment. It has been more than 400 trading days since a greater than 5% drawdown, the longest run since the 1950s.

US monetary policy is in the process of normalizing after a period of unusually ultra-easy monetary policy and record-low bond yields. Investors should expect volatility to return to normal too. History shows that during a bull market we should ordinarily expect five days per year with greater than 2% drops.

As long as the recent rise in bond yields moderates, we are confident that market conditions will remain orderly.

So far, economic data suggests this should be the case. Inflation releases around the world have been relatively benign. The US core Personal Consumption Expenditure Index – the Federal Reserve's favorite measure of inflation – was stable in December at 1.5%. In the Eurozone, core CPI inflation stood at just 1% for January.

With this in mind, we don’t believe that now is a time to reduce exposure to stocks.

Global growth and earnings remain strong, with the recent tax cuts providing a boost to growth. We recently upgraded our global growth forecast to 4.1%, from 3.9%. Despite some high profile disappointments, the fourth quarter earnings season in the US has surpassed expectations. Emerging markets continue to perform well. The recent weakness of the US dollar – the DXY Index is down around 3% so far this year – should keep financial conditions in emerging markets favorable.

We will continue to monitor key indicators. If bond yields continue to rise at the recent pace, if inflation data starts to accelerate further, or if central banks start to send more hawkish signals, we may need to revisit this outlook.


Alex Cowie

Alex has a decade in the production and distribution of research for financial institutions and investment publications. He supported Livewire at its launch before then joining the team as Editorial Director.

Expertise

equities inflation bonds dollar yields correction

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