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What a difference a few weeks can make in the equity market! The sharp, swift sell-off through the first month of this year is raising some difficult questions for investors, chiefly: Are we just witnessing a long-overdue short-term correction in the more speculative areas of the market, or perhaps something more fundamental (and enduring) that could portend a broader unwinding of equity risk?
My take: I suspect the market is in fact in the midst of recalibrating to a new environment where liquidity is going to be tighter, real interest rates higher, and corporate profits a bigger driver of share prices. As my colleague Trevor Noren suggests in his latest blog post, Value versus growth: Expect volatility more than a smooth transition of leadership, this potential “regime change” is likely to show up in sporadic and sometimes violent reversals of the multi-year outperformance of momentum and growth equity factors.
In that vein, I expect the nascent rotation from growth stocks to their value-oriented counterparts (Figure 1) to continue and think now may be an opportune time for investors to consider upgrading their equity portfolios to higher-quality companies that have taken significant market hits but are growing their revenues and profits.
Expect higher market volatility: After a period of plentiful fiscal and monetary liquidity due to the pandemic, the specter of less liquidity going forward may continue to weigh on markets, especially stocks of companies that have relied on liquidity rather than earnings for multiple expansion.
Think about upgrading your equity portfolio: With this month’s market sell-off, many investors are finding opportunities in higher-quality companies with growing revenues and profits at potentially attractive entry points.
Diversify your equity exposure: Investor portfolios appear to be still biased toward growth equities, as the market share in large-cap growth mutual funds is currently around twice that of value funds (according to Morningstar). Asset allocators should consider shifting some of their growth exposure to value, where (as noted) I expect continued outperformance.
Respect the possibility of regime change: No one can know if “this time is different,” but given today’s backdrop of higher, “stickier” inflation, policy tightening, and geopolitical risks, I believe it is prudent to be prepared for that possibility and to favor real assets, value-oriented equities, commodities, floating-rate credit, and TIPS over US Treasuries.