Talking Point 

Asset class correlation not a cause for concern

 

The correlation between bonds and equities is nothing like the financial crisis, according to Alastair Baker, a multi-asset fund manager at Schroders.

He said the market conditions were quite different, even if asset prices were moving in similar directions.

Mr Baker said: "The first thing to say is what we really saw in 2018 was that central banks were raising interest rates, which meant bonds were no longer acting as a defensive asset in your portfolio.

"Both bonds and equities were falling together, so you didn't have that protection in the portfolio.

"What we've seen now is a shift to where we've got quite nice correlations between equities and bonds, in the sense that when bonds rally, equities go up because there's more liquidity.

"But if growth really deteriorates, we do feel that central banks will respond, with cutting interest rates, therefore bonds can continue to perform.

"So that's where we do think the correlation has shifted in our favour, versus where we were in 2008, where we were seeing financial conditions tightening."

He added that the situation at the moment was completely different.

He said: "The second thing to say about the financial crisis is because it was such a dramatic event, it's very much imprinted on investors' minds.

"We're in a situation where this is a much more normal, slow-moving cyclical environment, so you wouldn't necessarily draw direct parallels in terms of the severity of the slowdown we potentially can see."

Much of this has come about due to big changes in the positioning of central banks, which has had a big impact on the valuations of bonds and equities.

The news that the Federal Reserve is planning to stop its tapering programme has been a big impetus on valuations for bonds, which has also led to equities to move upwards as well.

If this easing policy continues, then markets will continue to rise, Mr Baker said.

Government bonds are still a favoured option when it comes to investor choice, especially since there are question marks over the direction of global growth. The same cannot be said about equities, which if there is a slowdown, then Mr Baker said fund managers would need to be a bit more "nimble" on that front.

melanie.tringham@ft.com