The conclusion from PIMCO’s latest Cyclical Forum is that 2017–2018 could well mark the peak for economic growth in this cycle and that investors should start preparing for several key risks that lie ahead in 2018 and beyond.
We expect the global expansion to continue in 2018. Yet investors should prepare for both the consequences of policy shifts and the opportunities presented in more difficult market conditions.
We see three risks to the outlook for steady economic growth. Yet we also see opportunities for investors to target above-benchmark returns while emphasizing defense at a time of low volatility and full valuations.
Following another underwhelming U.S. CPI report, it’s now entirely possible that core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation – the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure, currently at 1.5% – will end the year at 1.3%, a far cry from the central bank’s 2% target.
Over the past quarter century, large and ever-larger companies have significantly increased their share of total intra-industry sales across a majority of industries. These superstar firms – including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet’s Google (known collectively as FAANG) – increasingly dominate their respective industries in terms of revenues, profits and stock market capitalization. The winner these days may not take all, but most.
Much of the world has been waging a cold currency war since the autumn of 2016, and so far the winner is Donald Trump. The dollar rally that followed the U.S. election is over, and this past week the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY, which tracks the dollar’s value versus a weighted basket of major currencies) sank to its lowest level in more than a year.
The U.S. bond market’s post-election optimism has now evaporated: The 10-year nominal U.S. Treasury yield has dropped by almost half a percentage point from its mid-March 2.62% post-election high, with lower implied inflation rather than lower real yields accounting for most of the decline.
A bottom-up look at major industries around the world reveals significant potential for productivity growth.
Don’t get too excited about the recent rise of headline U.S. inflation above the Fed’s target.
We are now more confident in our baseline view that the global economic expansion will be strengthening and broadening over our cyclical horizon.