The investment landscape in 2019

Annual outlook: asset allocation and financial markets

If the stars were aligned for risk assets during most of the past decade, they look distinctly less bright for the coming year. An end to monetary stimulus across much of the world, the fading effects of the US’s fiscal boost, trade wars, uncertainty over Italy and Brexit are all likely to play their part.

Slowing economic growth and a squeeze on corporate profit margins will take some of the shine off equities. And with wages at last growing and feeding through to inflation, bonds aren’t likely to be much of a haven either: both investment and speculative-grade credit look particularly vulnerable to a correction. On the other hand, a weaker economy could be good for long-dated and index-linked US Treasuries and gold, while an overvalued US dollar could give back some ground. Under the circumstances, cash is set to be the best performing asset class.

Our business cycle analysis suggests global economic growth will continue to slow – to 3.3 per cent from 3.5 per cent in 2018 – amid softening survey evidence, a winding down of US fiscal stimulus and rising bond yields. Underlying inflationary pressure will pick up, particularly in emerging markets. We’re forecasting global consumer price inflation of 3.0 per cent from 2.7 this year, with wage inflation already at a 10-year high across all major developed economies. A mix of slowing growth and rising inflation has historically been bad news for both bonds and equities, leaving cash the best alternative.

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