It’s safe to say no one will be sorry to see the end of the first half of 2020, but what does the second half have in store?
With the reopening of the global economy following the coronavirus-forced shutdown and the U.S. presidential election just five months away, investors can expect more challenges but also opportunities, according to a report released Thursday by State Street’s SPDR business.
In the short term, the paper notes, the reopening of the economy, optimism about prospects for health solutions to COVID-19 and staunch commitments by policymakers have bolstered market sentiment.
“But, make no mistake about it, this temporary reprieve from fundamentals driving asset prices will likely end soon.”
Risk assets will have a hard time maintaining their momentum without economic recovery (“regardless of which letter of the alphabet it most resembles”), a reversal of job losses and a breakthrough on corporate profits.
Moreover, as the election nears, political headlines will generate more market-moving volatility.
The paper urges investors “with courage, capital and conviction” to look beyond the first-half devastation to opportunities in the post-pandemic environment.
It posits three themes for investors to consider in building portfolios.
1. Focus on Innovation
As reopening and rebuilding begin, new industries will be created and current ones will work to adjust to a new sociological paradigm, according to the report. This inflection point may present opportunities not currently well represented in traditional market exposures.
Technological innovation will be instrumental in reshaping the American way of life, touching every industry and catalyzing new ones. Demand is likely to emerge for advanced medicine, improved structural health care processes and remote access capabilities to support reduced contact interactions.
Digital payments will become more standard, while currently discretionary items, such as video games, streaming networks, virtual reality, social media and interactive home workout equipment, will likely become staples in the future.
2. Pursue Total Return
Low rates from stimulus measures in response to the pandemic have upended the risk/return paradigm for certain credit-sensitive instruments, and created income-oriented opportunities that may be worth the risk even though volatility remains high.
According to the report, extremely low interest rates have made it nearly impossible for investors to generate much-needed income by using traditionally low-risk investments. However, these funds may help investors thoughtfully invest alongside the Federal Reserve and pursue total return.
To balance income and play defense, the report suggests targeting traditional sectors that have explicit Fed support, such as mortgage-backed securities and short-duration corporates.
To pursue higher levels of income that now may be worth the risk, it suggests focusing on high yield corporates that have implicit Fed support.
3. Look for Relative Value Opportunities
The future remains profoundly uncertain, and chaotic markets can create deviations from the norm across asset classes. The report says that although economic uncertainty and rocky growth projections may prompt investors to take a defensive, high-quality approach in the larger parts of their portfolio, relative value opportunities could emerge amid ongoing volatility, helping them strike a balance.
For one, looking beyond U.S. borders and further down the market capitalization spectrum may uncover some interesting relative value investments. The report acknowledged that trimming portfolios’ home bias by adding more foreign exposure was a contrarian call, but said it could also be an opportunity if the regime cycle changes and valuations become too cheap to ignore.
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