They offer their views on the potential course of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases in coming months, explore opportunities in equities and fixed income, and unpack the impact of U.S. dollar volatility on international equities. Finally, Emily and Matt discuss the market impact of the U.S. midterm election.
“This has been the toughest year for a 60/40 portfolio, probably dating back to the 1930s. And really, it just goes to show that inflation is not the friend of a balanced portfolio. But if inflation does decelerate here, which is our call, we think a 60/40 portfolio for long-term investors is going to actually come back pretty strong.” —Matthew D. Miskin, CFA, Co-Chief Investment Strategist, John Hancock Investment Management
About the Portfolio Intelligence podcast
The Portfolio Intelligence podcast features interviews with asset allocation experts, portfolio construction specialists, and investment veterans from across John Hancock’s multimanager network. Hosted by John P. Bryson, head of investment consulting at John Hancock Investment Management, the dynamic discussion explores ideas advisors can use today to build their business while helping their clients pursue better investment outcomes.
Read the transcript
Hello, and welcome to the Portfolio Intelligence podcast. I'm your host, John Bryson, head of investment consulting and education savings at John Hancock Investment Management. Today is November 11, 2022, and a heartfelt thank you to all of our veterans on this Veterans Day. It has been an exciting and surprising week on many fronts, so I invited back two of my most popular guests, Emily Roland and Matt Miskin, our co-chief investment strategists here at John Hancock Investment Management.
As you all know, Matt and Emily are the architects behind our quarterly capital markets outlook piece titled Market Intelligence. Matt, I want to jump right in with you. The markets just posted their strongest day since early 2020. Tell us what's happening in the marketplace.
We got a , or inflation report, that came in below expectations, and boy, did the markets love to hear that. Inflation has been the number one public enemy of the markets throughout the course of the year. And although it wasn't a huge miss, if you will, or below estimate reading on inflation, it was enough. So we came in at 6.3% on core CPI on a year-over-year basis. The prior level was 6.6. The month-over-month reading was about 0.2 to 0.3.
We were doing about 0.6 before that, but what also hasn't even really manifested itself into that inflation number is the housing market. Half of the inflation gain on a month-over-month basis was actually shelter or housing, and we see that as actually something that's going to filter into that inflation number in the next several months in a negative way, meaning it's going to help bring it down.
But we go back to a 60/40 portfolio in general, and this has been the toughest year for a 60/40 portfolio, probably dating back to the 1930s. And really, it just goes to show that inflation is not the friend of a balanced portfolio. But if inflation does decelerate here, which is our call, we think a 60/40 portfolio for long-term investors is going to actually come back pretty strong.
So there's some volatility in the near term. We do see, cycle-wise, some more downside in terms of the economy in the next 6 to 12 months, and potentially earnings, but for longer term investors, if inflation does come down, what yesterday told you was that a 60/40 portfolio long term can have a nice comeback.
Okay. So I think a lot of people are looking at this and saying, "Hey, inflation is no longer a problem," or certainly that's how the market reacted. Emily, should we read into that, and to Matt's comments around housing that the Fed is done, or they're going to make a pivot? Or is this just a small bump in the , and we shouldn't expect much change from the Fed?
Yeah, I mean, I think that markets were probably a little bit overly exuberant on the report. It doesn't change a ton for the Fed. The Fed is really focused on lagging economic data. One is the jobs market, and we have no problem at all with the unemployment rate sitting near a 50-year low.
Inflation is also lagging, and to Matt's point around housing or shelter, that does tend to be a stickier element of inflation. It takes time to come down. So, for now, the Fed needs to keep tightening. The bond market's now pricing in another 50 basis point or half a percentage point, here in December, more hikes in February and March, and then actually some cuts later into 2023. So we think the more that the Fed needs to tighten now, the more that they'll likely need to cut later as they start to deal with the unemployment side of their mandate.
So we're seeing this show up in the yield curve inversion. We're seeing really, really extreme readings, which is basically a sign of the bond market telling the Fed that they're moving too far, too fast. Again, labor market continuing to hold up here, but we're starting to see some cracks there. Companies are talking about hiring freezes, job cuts. So we do think that the Fed is going to be in a much different situation a year from now, which is really a key input into our cross-asset view, that leaning into or emphasizing the income on high-quality bonds right now makes a ton of sense.
So you mentioned a couple things there that I want to dig into. One of them revolves around the volatility. I mean, we're recording this podcast on Friday, and by Monday, things can be very different. That's the challenge we have in this volatile, fast moving market. Stretch it out for me a little bit. Let's talk about what people should be doing. Let's start with the fixed-income sleeve.
Matt, I'm going to go to you. With that long-term view, what are you advising clients to think about with their fixed-income sleeve?
What you're locking in is, again, these yields are about 5% to 7% on high-quality bonds; the tax equivalent yield on municipal bonds is more like 7% to 8%.
By the end of the year, we think the Fed is mostly done with rate hikes, as Emily had outlined. And we think that's the time when you want to gravitate more to fixed income, increase duration a bit to more the intermediate part of the curve, and move up in quality. And usually, we don't get this kind of yield. It's been over 10 years since we've had this high a yield in high-quality bonds.
The income that can be produced is income that can provide distributions at a pretty attractive distribution rate. In a tough year in volatile market environments, investors like to see cash flow hit their accounts and that's what the bond market can do with these higher interest rates.
Emily, let's pivot to equities. Earning season's wrapping up. How has the earning season gone? Let's talk about the conversations you're having with folks on their equity sleeve.
Yeah. So we're most of the way through Q3 earnings season, about 90% of companies having now reported. We're looking at blended growth of about 2%, so not as bad as feared. But important to note, though, that the expectations coming into the quarter or right before were for about 9.5% earnings growth. So the bar was certainly lower, and I think that the fear was that earnings were going to be worse than they were.
Looking under the hood, we're seeing an interesting development here as the baton is being passed from a cross-sector perspective. So while we've seen some challenges to the technology space, which I think is something to be expected, considering the fact that so much demand and growth was pulled forward for the tech space during the height of the pandemic, whether it was computers for the kids or video conferencing software or digital ads aimed at online shoppers, tech did a ton of the heavy lifting during the pandemic, and now we're seeing the old economy take over as the earnings engine this quarter.
We look at railroad earnings growth as a great example of something that's outpacing technology. So some interesting dynamics playing out there, but broadly speaking, we are seeing a moderation in earnings estimates. We've seen, for the year, expectations per FactSet for about 5% earnings growth, that's come down. 2023 is also expected to see about nearly 6% earnings growth, but earnings estimates are softening. And that makes sense to us.
Margins are coming under pressure, and we're seeing a dynamic in which companies have too much inventory in a lot of cases. We're seeing supply chains cleared, and at the same time, we're seeing demand starting to slow. So we're seeing increased evidence that there are cracks in the consumer story. They're not as willing to absorb higher costs anymore. Given the fact that the cost of capital is elevated, inflationary pressures are still there. So, we do see that.
We do expect that earnings are going to become challenged into next year. That's not to say that there aren't opportunities. We're finding them in higher-quality areas, ones with great balance sheets, good return on equity, lots of cash, a limited need to tap the capital markets in order to be profitable. Interestingly enough, those are the types of companies that have actually underperformed the broad markets so far in 2022.
So that's what we would be thinking about amidst an earnings deceleration or potentially earnings recession into next year, really getting active in finding those companies that can do okay in this challenging macroenvironment.
Wow. So, Emily, I want to pivot here a little bit. What I'm hearing from you and Matt are some of the back to the basics: high-quality bonds, invest in equities that are high quality, high cash flow, a strong balance sheet. Can you expand on maybe the crypto and the back to basics, if you will?
Yeah, I mean, what a week in terms of the cryptocurrency market. Significant turmoil amongst this major exchange, and probably more to come here. Matt and I talked a lot about this, and we really highlighted the idea that this idea around liquidity and the speed at which these exchanges can process trading as being rethought, and we're looking at these crypto exchanges not allowing distributions.
How is that going to impact investor trust over time? It's going to make a pretty significant dent. The money may not even be there based on the misuse of client funds. There's no backing for these crypto exchanges, and it made us think about the value of due diligence, especially in bull markets when it can get forgotten. And I think this was a prime example, given the amount of liquidity and given the amount of speculation that went on during this cycle. Due diligence can help minimize mistakes, it can help prevent significant losses of capital. We think that we're going to be looking back on this as a potentially big misallocation of capital given the lack of due diligence.
Wow. I mean, what a week, right? There's so many things that as I was, coming into this podcast, I thought we'd be talking about, and now I find we're just going off in different directions. I do want to hit a couple more rapid-fire items because I think our audience will appreciate it. Matt, U.S. dollar: We saw that fall yesterday, strong, big move. What do we read into that? What impact is that having on your thoughts for international equities?
Yeah, so we've seen the dollar really tumble here. It started actually amidst last week when there was a rumor that China was going to reduce zero-COVID policies, and that actually spurred more risk on commodity markets. It decreased the dollar, so on and so forth. And then the weaker-than-expected CPI report really continued that trend.
International equities are now basically tied for U.S. equities on a year-to-date basis, both down about 20% in dollar terms. So as a U.S. investor, if you're going abroad, you're picking up that currency exposure, but when it goes down, you reprice that lower. But now, actually, the currencies abroad are coming back, so that's actually helping you get some returns back that had been lost. But when we look at the dollar and its direction from here, we still see if our macro work is right—that the leading economic indicators are negative, the yield curve is inverted, earnings likely have downside—the dollar is going to be still more of a risk-off currency.
We , globally, there'll be a demand for dollars in economic contraction. And right now, it's risk-on. I mean, there's very little pricing in a recession right now. High yield spreads are tight, oil's up, commodities are up, copper's up, and we're just reluctant to in and say that that was the death of the dollar there, because we think that in what we're looking forward, we want to be in currencies that are less cyclical and more risk-off in nature. So the dollar, we think, actually could recover some ground here as we go into the end of the year.
All right. Makes a lot of sense. I think what I'm hearing from a lot of the conversation is don't get too excited with the move yesterday. We've got some long-term challenges, but a high-quality, balanced portfolio is probably the best way forward, which is what you two advise me all the time and advise our clients all the time.
Last question. Emily, I'm going to go to you on this one. I literally thought all week that we'd be spending most of our time talking about this, and it's the midterm elections and the surprising non-red wave that we saw, if you will, maybe we saw a red ripple. Talk to us about that and talk to us about the market impact and how we should think about it going forward.
Yeah, sure. I think it probably makes sense for it to be towards the end of our agenda, given the other dynamics that are playing out that are probably more important around the Fed and around inflation. But what we're looking at right now is still an uncertain outcome. It looks like the Republicans have the edge in the House. The Democrats may have the edge here in the Senate, so most likely outcome here will be a divided government, which is a modest market positive.
I think markets rallied to some extent into that outcome. It probably means less fiscal spending, which may make the Fed's job a little bit easier to bring down inflation here. But broadly speaking, we continue to feel that politics and portfolios really shouldn't go together. I know that's a tough one, because it's a very personal thing and people are passionate about it, but we've learned a lot about trying to use politics as an input to making our asset class decisions or asset allocation decisions.
2018 was the last midterm election year that we experienced, and there was a lot of optimism that once the outcome was decided, that markets would take off, and the data suggested historically that maybe that would be the case. But then if everybody remembers the close of 2018, the last couple of months we saw big bear market that was not a happy holidays-type situation as the Fed said that they weren't even close to neutral, meaning the Fed was going to continue to raise rates. Markets did not like that.
Ultimately, we saw a rally play out the following year as the Fed paused, but it was a lesson to us that the macro backdrop in Fed policy is a far more important input to making those decisions. So that's what we'll be watching closely here amidst this uncertain political backdrop.
Got it. Well, folks, it is a volatile market out there. There is always something to talk about. What I recommend you do is you follow Matt and Emily on LinkedIn. You can follow Emily at @emilyrroland, and then you can follow Matt at @Matthew_Miskin. They're always keeping us up to date in what's going on in the markets and helping people design their portfolios for the best possible outcome.
Folks, if you like the podcast, please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to your most popular podcasts. And also visit our website, jhinvestments.com, to catch up on any of the new developments that we're sharing with folks. As always, Matt and Emily, thanks for joining us. I'm looking forward to my Christmas gift. I got to get shopping for the two of you. And to our audience, thanks so much for listening to the show.
This podcast is being brought to you by John Hancock Investment Management Distributors LLC, member FINRA, SIPC. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speaker(s), are subject to change as market and other conditions warrant, and do not constitute investment advice or a recommendation regarding any specific product or security. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy discussed will be successful or achieve any particular level of results. Any economic or market performance information is historical and is not indicative of future results, and no forecasts are guaranteed. Investing involves risks, including the potential loss of principal.