Top 10 Investor Trends

These trends are driving investor asset allocation.
Each day professional investors login to RFPnetworks asset class research feeds.
They use our feeds to follow markets & managers, and capture new ideas.
Below are the top 10 most read investment manager research papers.
Floating bubbles representing investment trends on RFPnetworks

Asset-Backed Securities Outlook 2023 Mixed but Positive

Alternative Fixed Income
RFPnetworks asset-backed securities outlook 2023 depicted by elephant swimming in pool

The Asset-Backed Securities (ABS) market contains many different types of securities backed by different assets. So to understand the outlook for asset-backed securities, investors need to look at examples of how these asset pools will perform in 2023. The latest research from ABS investment managers inside RFPnetworks suggests that the outlook for Asset-Backed Securities in 2023 will be mixed. Some ABS segments may do well. Whereas some ABS segments may face headwinds.

Examples of Asset-Backed Securities with a positive outlook

In general ABS investment managers seem comfortable taking short duration consumer related ABS exposure. Despite immediate recessionary pressures, labour markets remain tight, wage inflation is the norm, and the consumer finances are in much better shape than the pre-GFC period. This is leading to strong demand for pools of assets that are exposed to both student loans and car loans.

Examples of Asset-Backed Securities where the outlook is mixed

Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS) are at the longer end of the ABS duration timeline. Investing in these specific asset-backed securities requires expertise and selectivity. The circle of covid, working and shopping from home has 'irreversibly' impacted the demand for office and retail real estate. This makes the risks and returns on these pools of long duration assets less predictable. There are exceptions which can accessed via Single-Asset Single-Borrower deals (SASB), which is why highly active managers are getting all the calls from investors today.

What is clear is that investors will continue to be interested in asset-backed Securities in 2023. But not just for yield and the strong covenants that bind deal originators. The outlook is also being driven by many other factors that solve issues within Fixed Income portfolios that bonds are unable to solve.

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Alternative Fixed Income
Capital Group
KEY TAKEAWAYS • The excess yields available from investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds are beginning to attract “crossover” investors • Asset-backed securities look attractive in the current rising interest rate environment given their shorter duration • Including securitised credit in a fixed-income portfolio could provide diversification benefits due to its lower correlation with corporate credit • Security selection will likely be the key to alpha generation for securitised credit in the coming years.

Will Stocks Bounce Back in 2023

Asset Allocation
RFPnetworks researching Will Stock Bounce Back in 2023 depicted by cuddly toy bear having a rest on a park bench.

Whether the 2022 bear market is ending may seem a fruitless question. Most market forecasters got 2022 wrong. Even today, 2023 consensus earnings estimates vary widely from high single digits to negative 15%. Added to that are the market historians who point to various pervious market downturns over the last century to support their views. Which collectively suggest that the likelihood of 2023 being a down year is low. But what is the reality. Will stocks bounce back in 2023?

The answer is not so simple. It hangs on a multitude of conditional expectations which make prediction difficult and path depemdent. In particular, the path for inflation and rates. Both of which will impact growth and realisable corporate profitability.

Adding to the complexity are the causes and solutions to the current inflation mix, with both commodity inflation and wage inflation being the most tenacious to tame. If monetary policy fails to bring inflation down without a disproportionate decrease in growth, even the current depressed multiples may prevent a stock bounce back in 2023.

In the meantime, the smart money seems to have a preference to ride out 1Q23 with a portfolio tilted towards the quality, dividends and credit.

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Asset Allocation
Ruffer LLP
Benjamin Graham, if he were alive today, or even an investor from 2019, might struggle to comprehend the bull market we witnessed in SPACs, crypto, stonks and NFTs. A year ago, investors were buying monkey jpegs for millions of dollars or profitless tech companies promising jam tomorrow. This extraordinary period was a bull market in the willingness to believe. But exposing the truth has drawn a tear.

Hedging Portfolio Risk: Are Investors Too Late?

Asset Allocation
Hedging Portfolio Risk research on RFPnetworks depicted by man in black t-shirt doing yoga.

One big question today is whether it is too late to hedge portfolio risk. Investors painfully acknowledge that multi-asset portfolios were challenged in 2022 from three sides:

1. Extreme equity volatility.
2. The popular 60/40 portfolio did not diversify risk as expected.
3. Steeply rising rates and an inverted yield curve.

Perhaps the damage is done and the best strategy now is to simply stay invested. Or should investors consider alternatives? Reading around the investment research inside RFPnetworks there is an emerging consensus that the recession will be shallow but protracted. With a potential turning point centred around mid 2023. But what if this is not true. What if the terminal rate required to bring inflation back under control is higher than what the FED now expects. The FED has already revised this upwards since September 2022. Even more concerning for investors is the risk that rate cuts don't come in 2023 at all!

The efficacy of unconstrained, benchmark agnostic or at the extreme, an anti-beta hiding strategy may be needed now. At least, this topic seems to be getting a lot of traction in our research feeds.

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Asset Allocation
Not surprisingly, anti-beta equity strategies did very well for investors who followed them in 2022 – after all, performing well when the stock market as a whole is doing poorly is exactly what such strategies are supposed to do, and 2022 was a very bad year for equities. Now, investors are hoping 2023 will bring respite from central banks’ punishing interest rate hikes and a resurgent stock market, and many might be thinking equity hedging will no longer be a winning strategy. They might be wrong.

Effects of Deglobalisation on Stock Valuations

U.S. Equity
Deglobalisation effect on stock valuations research on RFPnetworks depicted by Change text in neon lights

Deglobalisation is here and is not going away soon. It represents a powerful reaction on geo-political realities, climate-related imperatives, and global macroeconomic regime change. But it is not just shaking up corporate broad rooms and forcing the C-suite to rethink strategy. It is also forcing investors to adjust their models for lower stock value expectations.

Investors' focus today is finding investment managers that are able to identify the corporate winners and losers from deglobalisation. But that requires managers with a deep understanding of how the corporate world will look in 2030 and beyond.

Deglobalisation has many interrelated dynamics that will affect stock valuations:

- Western governments are introducing incentives, regulation and new demand that encourages firms to embrace domestic production (e.g. The Inflation Reduction act, the Chips Act, and increased defence spending in the US).
- With the end of the four decade trend towards free money, CFO's are now faced with a higher and rising cost of capital. This will heighten capital allocation decision vigilance and ROI hurdles.
- As reshoring takes hold, margins may come under pressure, driven by higher domestic wage and input costs.
- At one extreme, domestic manufacturing may see a renaissance. And at the other extreme, new tech start-ups may need to deliver profitability before securing funding.
- East-West trade agreements may come under pressure as governments compensate for a deglobalised demand curve for their products, which in turn could alter both import tariffs and domestic subsidies.

It will take time before the new deglobalised equilibrium has been found. For now, investors are mapping out the possibilities, how to manage the risks, and how to maximise returns under a deglobalised configuration.

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U.S. Equity
Epoch Investment Partners
Part II of the series shows that deglobalization implies a regime change, with trend increases in capex and the labor share, as well as a higher cost of capital, lower potential growth and greater government involvement in the economy. This constitutes a secular headwind for margins and free cash flow (FCF), especially for tech and manufacturing • We are not returning to the low inflation, zero real interest rate 2010s. Further, with the end of the “Great Moderation,” we expect higher macro volatility (of GDP, inflation, interest rates and FX). • With companies facing a higher weighted average cost of capital (WACC), we expect lower average multiples. This will prove especially challenging for longer duration assets, such as venture capital and speculative tech companies that are years away from generating FCF on a sustainable basis.

High Yield Bonds Outlook: Playing The Rating Game

High Yield Bonds
High Yield Bonds Outlook 2023 on RFPnetworks depicted by steel buckets containing groups of similar stationary

High Yield Bonds were a relative winner in 2022 in a year that saw every fixed income segment except cash deliver negative total returns. The question investors are asking now is whether spreads will widen further in 2023.

Current yields in both the U.S. and Europe are touching high single digits. Well above 10 year averages. High yield is delivering high yield. Which also means that being a corporate treasurer of a high yield rated corporate in 2023 will not be easy.

Refinancing the short duration liabilities characteristic of the high yield market will be very sensitive to the outlook for growth and inflation. Whilst margin preservation and expansion was possible during the covid period, in a recessionary environment, passing through higher input and labour costs to consumers will be tougher.

But these smart high yield corporate treasurers know this. Many have taken pre-emptive action by reducing balance sheet leverage and increased interest coverage to levels not seen since the early 2010's.

But whilst the fundamentals on average across high yield may look decent, investment managers and rating agencies are expecting default rates to rise, albeit from a low levels historically. Despite the current discounted bond prices.

So whilst there is a likelihood of spread widening, the magnitude will be sensitive to the depth and length of the recession, and the monetary policy response. Which in turn raises an even more important question for investors: Where in the rating tables - from CCC to BB - should there high yield investment manager be focused in 2023.

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High Yield Bonds
Aegon Asset Management
Key Takeaways: Caution is warranted entering 2023, however volatility could present intriguing buying opportunities • Although headwinds persist, the solid fundamental starting point should help most companies weather a slowdown and result in a persistently low default rate • Spreads could widen if a recession becomes more imminent. However, elevated yields and discounted bond prices look attractive and we believe high yield could surprise to the upside and generate coupon-plus returns.

Will India Continue to Outperform Most of the World?

Emerging Market Equity
RFPnetworks India Stock Market Research depicted by cultural event with People Standing in Front of Ganesha Statue

Many Investment Managers today forecast that India will have the largest Real GDP growth globally in both 2022 and 2023 (~7% and ~6% seems to be the consensus, respectively). However, there are concerns that despite strong company fundamentals, valuations are high and it may be time to go neutral or underweight the Indian stock market.

Such a tactical decision does not diminish the long term structural attractiveness of Indian Equities. The economy remains one fifth the size of China and is starting to be recognised as the China + 1 play. The demographics are a story in themselves with so much potential, given the economy's stage of development.

India represents a market with enormous opportunities. And the global institutional world is starting to wake up to these possibilities. We think this may explain why professional investor traffic flowing inside RFPnetworks to India Equity research is spiking.

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Emerging Market Equity
In what is turning out to be a challenging year for global stock market returns, the performance of India stands out within the emerging market asset class and global stock markets. In the nine months through the end of September, MSCI India has fallen by 9.7%, compared to the Emerging Markets index that is down 27.2%. Within Asia, only Indonesia and Thailand have performed better than India this year. This builds on a base of very strong long term returns, with India having outpaced the EM index over most time frames. The result has been that the weighting of India within the MSCI Emerging Markets index has increased further, reaching an all-time high of 15.3% by the end of the third quarter. As a result, India’s weighting has eclipsed both Taiwan and Korea, becoming second only in size now to China.

Why Japan's Wider Yield Curve Control (YCC) Is Important

Japan Equity
Japan Yield Curve Control explanation on RFPnetworks depicted by ornate ceiling in Tokyo.

Whilst necessarily surprising, the Bank of Japan's unexpected decision to raise it's Yield Curve Control (YCC) ceiling is also sufficiently important. In fact, so important that investment managers globally are getting excited about the prospect of a new dawn for Japanese equities and bonds.

Logistics Real Estate Trends

Logistics Real Estate
Logistics real estate research on RFPnetworks depicted by warehouse

Logistics real estate across both the US and Europe had a record breaking year in 2021. Followed by a strong 2022. Are the long term trends that drove these record years in tact and sustainable in 2023 and beyond?

The two core demand driven long term structural drivers of these record breaking years - e-commerce growth and supply chain reconfiguration - may continue to sustain low vacancy rates and drive rental growth in 2023. But as demand has increased, occupier ESG preferences have evolved. Investment managers are starting to reflect this in the assets they seek for their portfolios.