Investment Outlook - Q2 2018

Global equity investors entered 2018 seemingly happier than at any stage since the bull market began during the first quarter of 2009. As investors, we are generally happier when the consensus is worried and we highlighted some concern about this very point at the beginning of the year. Now, after a volatile and tricky first quarter, investors are generally more concerned again with many geopolitical concerns dominating the headlines and markets exhibiting more volatility than they have for many years.

From a fundamental perspective, the global economy is experiencing a strong synchronised growth led by the US and with Europe hot on its heels. Despite a tricky first quarter for equities and bonds, we remain constructive for coming quarters. Global equity valuations, after the recent setback, are closer to fair value and supported by strong and broadening bottom-up earnings growth. This will be THE driver of equity returns we believe, with central banks now firmly in the back seat. Global earnings (boosted by large US tax cuts) are growing at a healthy pace.

While generally positive in our outlook we do expect that the next coming quarters for equity markets will be more volatile. There are many reasons to expect such volatility to remain:

• Geopolitics, including trade wars, Brexit, North Korea etc.

• We are later stage in the economic cycle so markets are much more sensitive to higher inflation data and stronger economic data.

• The fact that the abundant liquidity of recent years will diminish as central banks tighten policy and remove quantitative easing.

• It is also reasonable to anticipate a phase where perhaps economic growth slows for a quarter or two.

In summary, a positive outlook but expect more moderate returns than recent years.

Asset class outlook: Equities

Our central scenario is as outlined. While we do expect equity volatility to be more of a feature we do not expect an imminent material correction in equity markets nor a bear market.

We are in a new phase for the equity market cycle. The previous strong phase was best characterised by abundant liquidity and scarce economic growth, which led to the equity market itself rewarding a very narrow list of technology names-the FANG’s. The phase we are now in, should best be characterised as having growth that is expanding and liquidity that is shrinking. The consequences of this for us as investors is that we expect to see a more meaningful rotation from very expensive growth-type technology stocks to a broader more value-focused leadership. Indeed the technology sector itself may also be more vulnerable to regulatory oversight which is topical at present.

Later in the cycle we look increasingly to avoid excesses:

– Increased corporate leverage (funding share buybacks)

– Excesses of valuation within markets e.g. technology stocks

– Companies funded by more expensive corporate credit

– Speculative crazes e.g. bitcoin

Asset class outlook: Bonds

Government bonds should be avoided as we believe they are fundamentally overvalued and vulnerable . If incorrect in our view, it will be for example a political crisis or unexpected slowdown in growth which will be bond market positive.

To conclude, the fundamentals remain supportive for further gains in global equity markets but expect a trickier and more volatile path. Investors are less bullish today which we like. A switch from liquidity to stronger earnings growth is where we will focus our stock picking. We do anticipate more rapid style leadership change as the year progresses.

Noel O’Halloran
Chief Investment Officer

KBI Global Investors Ltd. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority are available from us on request. KBI Global Investors (North America) Ltd is a registered investment adviser with the SEC and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. The views expressed in this document are expressions of opinion only and should not be construed as investment advice.