+1 Added to my documents.
Please be aware your selection is temporary depending on your cookies policy.
Remove this selection here

Global Asset Class Spotlights - Top Down Quarterly Assessment


2018 Q4 Asset Class Spotlight FINAL-1 header



1 - Setting the scene

2 -Assessment - Spotlight on Global Asset Classes


1 - Setting the scene

Financial risk to dominate cyclical risk

High Conviction Ideas

The confluence of financial forces such as: physiological credit cycle deterioration, stronger USD, high leverage, less supportive valuation on multiples that won’t expand on tighter margins (i.e. tighter labour market, tariffs, higher PPI) call for financial risk to dominate economic risk.

For these reasons, we identified some trackers of potential market turnaround: global liquidity and credit spread to track financial and financing conditions, EPS revision and momentum to take the temperature on profit cycle and risk adjusted valuation gaps.

It is challenging to forecast the timing of the next turnaround and it is worth monitoring when we think this will occur.

At this stage, the best strategy is to remain cautious with a modest OW to equity, preferably US, altering the composition of the portfolio towards defensive sectors and quality names.

We are maintaining a short duration bias and have progressively reduced credit exposure.

What to Watch

  • Financial and financing conditions
  • Credit spreads and Commodity prices
  • EPS revisions and momentum
  • Currencies (TW$ broad, USD, EUR)

Key Charts

Financial Conditions

US and Europe FCIs reflect movements in several financial assets ranging from Money Market, short and long term interest rates, credit spreads and equities’ realized and implied volatilities. A reading below zero means financial conditions are tightening.



TW$ Broad and risk sentiment

TW$ broad (50% EM) proxies global liquidity. Historically, huge appreciations have been accompanied by equity market corrections.




Moody’s spread BAA – AAA

Historically credit cycles have anticipated risky asset downturns. While some deterioration occurred recently, it is not yet capitulating (100 alert threshold)


Earnings Yield / Moody’s spread BAA – AAA ratio

Walking on a tight rope: corporate leverage, default rates, VIX has to be monitored


Global Asset Classes and Cross Asset views

2018 Q4



Assessment - Spotlight on Global Asset Classes

Core Gov. Bonds – LT yields driven by Fed and US cycle, ECB gradual in QE exit

High Conviction Ideas

Long-term yields remain under pressure because of uncertainty related to global growth (flight to quality). Investors are worried about (1) the impact of a trade war on growth, (2) tensions on emerging currencies and (3) the rise in political risk in Europe. Greater confidence in growth projections and lower political risk are the catalysts needed for a rise in long term rates.

Record US-German bond yield gap on CBs’ asynchrony. In the US, the normalisation of monetary policy is well under way while in the eurozone it is turning out slower than expected. The ECB announced the end of QE in 2018 but communicated a dovish outlook on interest rates. Key interest rates are expected to remain at their present levels at least until the summer of 2019.

A gradual increase in long-term yields is in line with our growth scenario in developed economies.

In H1 2019, we expect US bond yields to stabilise/increase slightly, while in H2 2019 we expect some pressure on the back of the slowdown of US growth and Fed finally coming to a pause.

What to Watch

  • Developments in trade policies and political risk in Europe
  • Core inflation trends in the US and in the EZ
  • Fed’s monetary policy
  • Appointment of Mario Draghi’s successor

Monetary Policy Views



FED: we’re expecting the FED to deliver one additional rate hike in December, and two hikes in 2019, in line with market expectations. The market remains far from the dots in 2020.

ECB: the ECB reiterated its forward guidance: “interest rates to remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019”. The markets point to no rate hike until the first quarter of 2020 and to a prolonged period of reinvestments. The minutes of the last meeting show that, despite the positive growth outlook, risk to activity is tilted to the downside.

BoE: against such a difficult political backdrop, the BoE pledged to continue with “an ongoing tightening of monetary conditions” at a gentle pace. We do not expect any other interest rate hike in 2018, as no rush in further hikes has been underlined and Brexit negotiations are entering a critical period.

BoJ: kept its monetary policy unchanged, and introduced more flexibility in its asset purchasing programme (upper limit of fluctuation on the JGB increased from 0.10% to 0.20%).





Consensus has become more dovish about QE exit, not only on FWD rate guidance but also on reinvestment period, expected now to last 3 years.

The minutes of the last meeting show that downside risk is currently the major one on the radar screen, “with risks relating to rising protectionism, vulnerabilities in emerging markets and financial market volatility having gained more prominence recently”.

Some representatives of the ECB recently suggested that a wait and see attitude until the beginning of 2019 could be best, in order to better assess if and how risks may impact communication on eventual changes in implementing QE exit.

DM Credit – Resilient to Italy in Europe, valuations look tighter in US HY

High Conviction Ideas

The risk scenario is getting stronger. Global growth remains strong. Investors are worried about (1) the impact of a trade war on growth, inflation or exchange rates, (2) tensions on emerging currencies and (3) the rise in political risk in Europe.

Technicals are expected to be less supportive in the coming quarters. The ECB will end the corporate bond purchase programme this year. The ECB will reinvest maturing debt but reinvestment amounts will not be significant before 2020/2021 (unless a switch from govies occurs). Demand/supply balance is relatively neutral, supported by lower primary market activity.

Diverging fundamentals. European companies continue to be very cautious: low leverage, high cash ratios. US companies continue to remain very confident in the economic cycle: increase in leverage, decrease in cash ratio. Record amount of share buybacks and M&A operations.

Valuations are now more attractive, with the exception of US HY. In the Euro credit market, despite better valuations, we moved to a tactical neutral stance on EUR credit market, on uncertainties about Italian politics and budget law. In the US credit market, we prefer well-rated issuers. We remain cautious on US HY.

What to Watch

  • Global trade tensions and political risk 
  • Inflation data, commodity prices, wage trends in the US 
  • Italian developments on European credit, especially financials


EUR credit is resilient with a more attractive valuation



CSPP will provide limited support in 2019, “in theory”




Default rates to slow down in US and Europe

Distress ratios point to lower default rates in DM



Peripheral corporates resilient vs. BTPs on a relative basis

Peripheral corporate bonds once again suffered but much less than Italian sovereign bonds


US HY at a historically tight premium vs. US IG

US BBs are currently paying low spread vs. US BBBs


G4 FX used to mae adjustments in flows

High Conviction Ideas

The essential: Central banks’ ongoing policy normalisation, trade tensions and political issues will be the key drivers to watch in the FX market. Brexit and political noise in the Eurozone might weigh on GBP and EUR for some time. We expect the USD to remain strong in the short term, and weaken with a medium term horizon.

EUR/USD: Short term headwinds, more positive medium term outlook. Diverging financial conditions with respect to the US, concerns over the impact of a trade war on European exports, rising political risks will keep on weighing on the EUR in the short term. With the negatives that seem to already be priced in, with ECB expected to normaliseand increase rates in H2 next year and with very supportive external sector, we remain EUR bullish in the medium term.

USD/JPY: downward trend for the year ahead. While in the short term the currency might keep on trading around current levels, we expect the JPY to be subject to upward pressure in 2019 especially driven by monetary policy, persistent trade protectionism talks and extremely cheap valuations. In addition to that, the JPY will tend to appreciate further on the back of rising US bond volatility, and due to the second effect caused by position rebalancing and capital repatriation back in Japan.

 GBP/USD: it’s all about politics. As many uncertainties remain over the future of the British economy, we expect currency volatility to remain high in the short/middle run and the potential upside to be limited. We believe a Brexit deal will be reached but the path to it will be rocky.

What to Watch

  • More aggressive than expected tightening on FED monetary policy 
  • Weak data figures and political developments in Europe 
  • US trade policy development

U$ at peak - € to gain momentum - ¥ to strengthen


When looking at fundamentals, the USD seems overvalued against the entire G10 universe, thus pointing to further downside risks going towards 2019.


Higher US bond volatility puts some upward pressures on JPY. Convergence (though mild) in monetary policy, repatriation issues and persistent protectionism talks are the other drivers.


European political risks (with Italy at the forefront) are causing financial conditions to diverge from the US and this is putting a cap on EURUSD potential upside.


Options market participants are still betting on a strong USD in the short term (3M), especially against EUR and GBP – Brexit related uncertainties remain the big question mark.


Signs of caution, but beware of relief rallies…



The 2018 divergence between rising US stocks and the declining rest of the world was finally resolved by a downward convergence.



Historically, two macro factors are key to endorsing a lasting reversal in favour of defensive stocks. The rate factor, largely led by the US and which remains pro-cyclical at the moment, and the industrial raw material factor, largely under China's influence since the 2000s. The cyclicals/defensives ratio clearly followed this second factor on the downside, indicating the prevalence of risk on global growth.

US Equity – The leading equity market in this cycle

High Conviction Ideas


The 12-month trailing P/E eventually consolidated sharply (from 22x to 18x) thanks to strong EPS growth in 2018 and a just positive performance YTD. But the relative forward PER is rich.


The strong rise of EPS in 2018 (+23% due to tax reform and share buybacks) will be a one-off. Ibes EPS forecast of 10% for 2019 will be revised downward given the expected slowdown of the economy (see the strong link between ISM New orders and the Net up). But EPS growth is due to remain above the MSCI World.


The S&P 500 has come back towards its rising 200-day moving average which is still on an uptrend. Relative to the MSCI World, it presents some short term excess.


Clear preference for Quality, but beware valuations. Some bottoming out of MinVol (positive watch)

What to Watch

  • The current earnings season 
  • Monetary policy, flattening of the yield curve and credit spreads 
  • The development around IT and possible retaliation measures (+ regulation in the longer term)

EMU – Under the threat of political risk

High Conviction Ideas


With a relative P/E one standard deviation below its average, valuation looks attractive but the political situation (Brexit) warrants a risk premium.


EPS growth is fading from a peak in 2017 to 10% in 2018 and 8% in 2019 according to Ibes. This typical late cycle play - proxy of Energy/Industrials and high DY (4.7%) – could eventually suffer from a rising GBP, should a deal be reached on Brexit (Amundi core scenario).


Death cross in place, but the market is oversold (80% of FTSE100 stocks below their 200D Moving Average)


Quality first. Min Vol bottoming out (positive watch)

What to Watch

  • The earnings season 
  • Bond yields (Key given UK’s high div. yield) and GBP (key for EPS) 
  • MSCI Europe Energy / Industrials 
  • Brexit negotiations



UK – A late cycle play but Brexit is disturbing

High Conviction Ideas


The setback of the relative PER is due both to the underperformance of the index and the earnings. The political risk (Italian budget, Brexit, EU elections) requires a risk premium.


EPS growth, possibly one of the weakest in the world in 2018 (+6%), is due to accelerate to about 10% next year according to Ibes, slightly below the US. But the economic slowdown, already high margins and EMFX turmoil are serious headwinds.


MSCI EMU is now trending down, below its declining 200-day moving average. The breath is extremely low approaching the level of Feb 2016. − Style/Size/Factors Prefer Quality, but beware valuation. Bottoming out of High Div (positive watch).

What to Watch

  • The earnings season 
  • A too strong rebound of the euro would be a headwind 
  • The political developments (Italian budget, Brexit negotiations, EU election) 
  • EMU is vulnerable to external shocks (oil, China, US cycle, and a trade war)



Japan – The profit cycle has already peaked

High Conviction Ideas


The P/BV is rising from a very low level in parallel with a rise in RoE. Japanese companies’ leverage is also rising from a low level. The P/BV is still below average compared to the MSCI World.

The relative position of the Topix vs. MSCI World, both in terms of the index and in terms of EPS, is rather neutral. Japanese earnings growth will fade to ca. 4% next year, according to Ibes.

The relative performance very much depends on the Yen. As the trade war is far from ending, not sure that this cheap currency has a lot of room to depreciate much further.

No clear preference at the moment.
The earnings season

  • If the BoJ was to remove monetary accommodation (impact / Yen)
  • Risk of unbundling of carry trade (impact / Yen)
  • Discussion around trade war

Pacific ex-Japan Equity - Cheaper but still trending down

High Conviction Ideas


Pacific ex-Japan remains cheap with a relative PER to MSCI World at -1 standard deviation below average.

The EPS trend is clearly negative vs. the MSCI World. Otherwise, Australia makes up 57% of the region and Hong Kong 29%. Hence, it is highly affected by China’s policy and its impact on industrial commodity prices and trade. A pro-infrastructure stimulus in China would help this regional market to bounce back, but the timing and sustainability of this movement are uncertain.

A MSCI Pacific ex-Japan death cross is in place both in absolute and relative terms to the MSCI World.

What to Watch

  • The earnings season
  • China / Commodity complex / USD
  • Developments on trade dispute

Emerging Market Equity – Neutral

High Conviction Ideas


Implied COE and PE are close to historical average. Also in terms of macroeconomic fair value (the over/undervaluation coming from the comparison with the global and domestic cycle) we are close to neutrality at the current levels: however our internal scenario is coherent with a limited upside on a 12-month horizon


The deceleration in EPS growth has already been happening since the beginning of 2018. Revisions are decreasing. Taking into account the not brilliant scenario we have in mind in terms of global demand, EM exports and oil, GEM EPS is expected to decelerate further; our internal forecasts for 2019 are low single digit (+5%) and below IBES consensus (that is close to +12%).
We are neutral on EMs

The cycle is mature and favours quality and dividend yield. Asia – China, the Philippines, Indonesia and, to some extent, India – show a good combination of supportive fundamentals, valuations and macroeconomic solidity. Indonesia’s external vulnerability is expected to remain a bit worrying. India, Indonesia and the Philippines should benefit also from lower oil prices. In Latam, Brazil and Peru are attractive. In Brazil’s case, fundamentals improved in terms of valuations, expected profitability and dividends but big uncertainties remain on the elections and on the reform agenda that will be implemented by the new leader.

What to Watch

  • Protectionism and politics (geopolitics, reforms and elections for example in Brazil. Trade war tensions). Deceleration in global growth has to be monitored.
  • Commodity prices: a strong rally could hurt Asia.
  • Fed rate hike and USD appreciation. More restrictive monetary policy in GEM


GEM not so cheap vs. World considering the expected earnings growth gap.



Country Selection Paramount in EM Equity Equity

Score based on fundamentals and valuations meet Macro Momentum



Emerging Market Bonds (Hard Currency) – Selective Opportunities

High Conviction Ideas

  • Global macro environment and recent geo-political events are not particularly risk-asset friendly. The trends in US rates will be key to assessing the attractiveness of emerging bonds
  • Valuations look marginally negative on the EMBI index. In terms of EMBI spread, our target for the end of 2019 is close to 410 (currently 390). Further tightening expected for 2019 is justified by the less brilliant scenario in terms of global growth, by the growth differential between EM and DM turning in favour of DM (at least in H1 2019), by EM government debt and volatility increasing.
  • We prefer to be selective, favouring countries with strong fundamentals (low vulnerability), credible reform agendas, attractive valuations and risk adjusted carry.
  • Sentiment: Outflows from HC EM bonds have been limited during 2018 but the environment is not supportive and many headwinds will remain.

What to Watch

  • Fed policy, US Dollar and EM Central Banks tightening
  • China macro & monetary policy
  • Commodity prices (i.e. sentiment)
  • Geo-political risk events: Trade war risks, contagion of idiosyncratic stories

Valuations looks marginally negative on EMBI Index.

EMBI Spread is expected to widen further by around 20bps from current levels (around 390bps)


Sticky flows










Outflows have been limited until now in 2018

  • Investors have remained in EM throughout the sell-off.
  • The lack of outflows seems to be the best explanation for the reluctance of EM investors to move underweight despite poor price action
  • Positioning is not too stretched. However, it will be difficult to see significant inflows into EM bonds in the coming months due to the lower risk-appetite of global investors.

Emerging Market Bonds (Local Currency) – Sell-off pressure to persist

High Conviction Ideas

Economic Backdrop

Real rates are expected to increase in 2019, remaining slightly lower than the post tapering average. EM central banks are in a tightening mood. We expect that inflation will remain almost always inside the central banks’ target range.
Valuation-wise we remain Neutral

EM real rates offer attractive pick-up: real yield differential between EM and DM is very high. However liquidity momentum is less favourable to risky assets. The attractiveness in terms of valuation is balanced, on the negative side, by GBI aggregated EM FX expectations that confirm the overvaluation on 12 months horizon

Flows remained sticky during 2018 but have been showing some weakening signals in recent weeks. The negative sentiment vs. emerging markets has until now hit mainly EM FX and to a lesser extent equity. Some contagion effects to bonds can happen due to the headwinds on the asset class (tariffs, politics, idiosyncratic stories, US rate hikes, strong USD).
We continue to prefer a Relative Value approach 

As idiosyncratic country risks have risen. External vulnerability has to be strictly monitored.

What to Watch

  • Fed policy and US Dollar
  • Progress with Chinese Inclusion in Bond Index
  • Commodity prices (i.e. key for LatAm)
  • Geo-political risk events: Trade war tensions, idiosyncratic stories.
2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlight-page 24-1


EM Real Rates (GBI-weighted): Still attractive ‘carry’

2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlight-page 24 -2


EMFX Valuation (GBI-weighted): Overvalued, negative for LC Bonds

2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlight-page 24 - 3

EM Currencies – Important to be selective

High Conviction Ideas

  • EM FX catalysed most of the investors’ worries regarding an environment that is not particularly supportive for emerging markets. The external environment remains relatively carry friendly but geo-political risks will limit any further significant inflows into EM local currencies.
  • Valuations remains slightly attractive on a 1 year horizon: USD will remain strong in the short term but the EM – DM growth differential will still move in favour of EM in the second half of 2019. Real rates are expected to increase, due to the tightening bias among EM Central banks. In terms of USD broad vs. EM FX we see a marginal appreciation of EM FX vs. USD mainly due to still undervalued MXN and to our view of appreciation of the CNY (in case of no trade war escalation).
  • It will be very important to be selective among countries that show still supportive EM FX valuations. We will continue to prefer the high carry/low vol currencies with low external vulnerabilities and not excessive valuations.
  • RMB strengthens further and is now approaching 7.Policymakers sent clear messages to guard RMB from significant depreciation. We continue to expect USDCNY to move to 6.7 at the end of 2019


EMFX Outlook: Preference for high-carry with low volatility, less externally vulnerable and under/fairly valued Currencies.


2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlight-page 25-2


Commodities – All in all, global conditions still supportive

High Conviction Ideas

  • Performances of base metals and oil diverged quite significantly 2018 (oil outperformed the base metal index by more than 30%). This event is almost extraordinary even in a very volatile world like commodities; however there are some important and clear reasons for such this dislocation, most of them related to oil movement, and they will likely last until next year. Base metals suffer during dollar appreciation especially, with economic momentum deterioration driven by trade war concerns. In addition, the deceleration in overcapacity cuts for base metal producers did not help to underpin those commodities.
  • Our target ranges for 2019 are still $65-$75 for WTI and $70-$80 for Brent. Oil moved up remarkably by supply disruption concerns in Iran and Venezuela due to Trump restoring sanctions and the political situation in LatAm countries. So far, Iran cut its oil exports by 0.9m b/d since April inflating concerns of a oil global shortage. At the same time, actual OPEC oil production is very close to OPEC’s overall capacity production, with OPEC’s production/capacity ratio reaching its highest level since 2008. As a result, oil prices are quite vulnerable to supply disruption as the buffer in production increase is limited and likely, not enough to fill the gap in case of huge disruption in the troubled countries (Iran and Venezuela)


OPEC production/capacity ratio is at its highest level since 2008



Inventories cycle moved is neutral zone recently


Commodities are still relatively cheap despite their recent rally

  • US inventories are at their lowest level since 2015 and remain supportive for oil, and the risk is skewed to the upside.
  • Gold still a cheap macro hedge as fair value remains above actual levels on weak dollar and accommodative monetary policies. The target is still $1350 at the end of 2019.
  • Base metals remain relatively cheap and they are not yet fully pricing in the economic fundamentals in terms of global growth.

Cross Asset - Navigating a mature financial cycle

High Conviction Ideas

  • The most likely scenario going forward is still the late/mature cycle phase where risky assets historically deliver positive returns although with more volatility. Despite global economic momentum has lost some grip the central macro scenario is still driving profits higher and they should move close to the peak of this cycle. From a pure economic point of view the major concern is still related to the potentially negative consequence from trade restrictions. Having said that according to our fair value there still some room for an upside going forward, mainly in laggard regions like Europe and emerging.
  • Even if recession is not likely in the year and in the near term global financial conditions remain generally accommodative, the picture has been deteriorated in the latest months and strong dollar and higher US interest rates drained liquidity deteriorating somehow the risk sentiment.
  • Credit spreads and fundamentals are the key variables in understanding potential triggers for a structural change in risky assets.
  • Mounting geopolitical risks could materially dampen the base scenario.

What to Watch

  • Trade relationships (US/China) and spillover to confidence and eventually growth perspectives
  • Liquidity (diminishing), financial conditions (tightening), volatility (increasing)
  • US EPS reporting season to confirm continuation of growth
  • Geopolitical risks linked to Russia/Syria/USA/Europe

Advanced Investment Phazer

Points to a late cycle financial phase, which is usually good for equities, as long as the (EPS) cycle is intact.


Fair Value vs Mature cycle average returns

There is still room to extend returns



Q4 2018 Cross Asset Assessment (model driven)

2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlightbulle-Cross Asset box.jpg

2018-Q4-Asset-Class-Spotlight-tab2018-Q4 page 29.jpg


Amundi Research & Investment Insights Unit
AINOUZ Valentine , Deputy Head of Developed Markets Strategy Research
BERTONCINI Sergio , Senior Fixed Income Research Strategist
CESARINI Federico , Cross Asset Strategist
DEFEND Monica , Global Head of Research
DELBÓ Debora , EM Macro Strategist
MIJOT Eric , Head of DM Strategy Research
PORTELLI Lorenzo , Head of Cross Asset Research
WANE Ibra , Senior Equity Research Strategist
Send by e-mail
Global Asset Class Spotlights - Top Down Quarterly Assessment
Was this article helpful?YES
Thank you for your participation.
0 user(s) have answered Yes.
Related articles