Monday Jan 15, 2024

Equity Strategy: Is the long duration trade done?

Speaker: Mislav Matejka, CFA, Head of Global Equity Strategy

The question is whether the move lower in bond yields is over for the time being, and can it resume further down the line without a clear bout of activity weakness materializing? We called last October to position for the rollover in bond yields, but post the sharp fall of 100bp in 3 months, a pause is likely. Central banks rate projections have already moved substantially, now pricing in a cumulative 150-170bp of cuts by the Fed and ECB over the next 12 months, and markets digested a raft of benign inflation prints. Big picture, we believe that the long duration call will stay relevant for 2024, but the near-term stabilization could happen due to the exhaustion in negative convexity impact, on potentially more longer-dated government bond issuance, and along with likely some more mixed inflation prints ahead. We are unlikely to see another leg lower in bond yields near term unless or until there is a clear deterioration in activity dataflow. Now, what could be the implications of this for equity markets? In November and December equities took the fall in bond yields as an overwhelming positive, fueling a risk-on market rebound. Cyclicals outperformed Defensives, with the exception of Real Estate and Utilities; however, the typical defensive bond proxies significantly lagged. If yields stall near term, this likely stalls the rally too, and crucially we do not expect that the decidedly one-sided interpretation of why bond yields have fallen will continue. This is especially if we do see some weakening in consumer dataflow, which was solid to date – most recently US ISM services employment component fell sharply. If the consumer setup changes, then Defensive names could have a catchup, especially as their valuations vs Cyclicals are now attractive, and as Cyclicals have moved further away from activity dataflow. We note that Healthcare, Telecoms and Staples have started the year on a stronger note in both the US and in Europe, and we expect this to continue.

This podcast was recorded on 14 January 2024.

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