Friday Highlight  

Optimism abounds for 2020

In 2020, it could be the source of more political stories in developed or emerging countries.

Early elections in Germany or Italy and the result of the US Presidential election are just some instances. 

As an example, short-lived drawdowns of 10 per cent or more in equity markets might be an obvious consequence.

Sadly at times of risk aversion, correlations between asset class movements become highly co-ordinated. Portfolio construction becomes more important.  

Putting politics to one side, the key driver for 2020 remains corporate cash flow.

We expect profits to be sufficient to meet dividend expectations, limiting any rise in corporate bond defaults, and allowing the yield premium demanded by most real estate investors to be met.

Our economic forecasts are consistent with slightly better top line revenue growth in 2020, and better still in 2021.

Late cycle margins pressure should be contained by cost-cutting, productivity enhancements and mergers and acquisitions to create economies of scale.

Put simply, the monetary and fiscal easing seen in 2019 – and expected for 2020 – means recession risks are limited, but not negligible, as there is potential for policy errors such as the reappearance of a full blown trade war.

To sum up, we favour a diversified portfolio – overweight global equities on growth prospects, especially emerging markets and Japan; global real estate for its relatively attractive yield, particularly offices, logistics and specialist areas but not retail, which usually faces structural pressures; and finally, selective approaches to emerging market, investment grade and high yield corporate debt reflecting increasing pressures in some countries or sectors such as automotive or energy.

As confidence grows about the future, emerging market assets are modestly favoured over developed – both equity, and especially debt.

Andrew Milligan is global head of strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments