5 Ways To Help Navigate Choppy Markets

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Includes: ADRE, DBEM, EDBI, EDC, EDZ, EEM, EEME, EET, EEV, EMEM, EMF, EMLB, EMSA, ESGE, EUM, EWEM, FEM, FLAT, FLQE, HEEM, IEMG, INDA, IYF, IYW, KEMP, MBB, MCHI, MFEM, MORL, MORT, MSF, REM, RFEM, ROAM, SCHE, SIZE, SPEM, STPP, VLUE, VWO, XSOE
by: Christopher Dhanraj

Five themes to monitor as market volatility picks up.

The recent burst of volatility has been unnerving, and has left many investors wondering what to do now. While it may be tempting to head for the exits, BlackRock's Global Chief Investment Strategist, Richard Turnill, notes that investors should consider staying the course - and even look to take advantage of the sell-off to add to positions. It is important to remember that the macro environment remains solid, and the market volatility is so far largely contained to equities. Although some are concerned about potential inflation and higher interest rates, we still enjoy an environment of synchronized global economic growth and muted macro risks.

All of this has created some interesting nuances - and challenges - for investors. As the U.S. ETF Investment Strategy team discuss in the new Investment Directions, here are five ways to help navigate the current environment.

Watch the yield curve

The shape of the yield curve can be a barometer for future growth, but its shape depends on a number of factors. Last year, it was relatively flat - often a sign of impending recession - but in this instance, it's a result of higher short-term rates with expectations of Federal Reserve tightening. The curve began steepening late in the year with expectations of stronger growth. We do not believe that is likely to change soon, and the steeping yield curve indicates continued expansion. We maintain our preference for cyclicals, namely financials and technology, within the equity market.

Keep an eye out for the specter of trade wars

The greatest risk to the markets right now may actually be the potential for increased protectionism. Worries over trade frequently made headlines in 2017, but mostly was in the form of rhetoric. Investors may be discounting the risk that will change, and should evaluate whether their portfolios are actually exposed to risks from rising protectionism, particularly with respect to NAFTA and China.

Look overseas in emerging markets (EMs) for opportunities

During this recent market sell-off, it might come as a surprise that EM equities have held up relatively well, actually outperforming U.S. equities during this leg lower, based on the performance of the S&P 500 Index and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index from 26 January to February 8, 2018, according to Bloomberg. Within EMs, we are monitoring an interesting development: the rise in commodity prices in recent months that has historically resulted in a rally in EM commodity producers. Although EMs as a whole has performed well, it is the non-commodity producers that have outperformed their commodity-producing counterparts, as domestic growth and reform efforts are prevailing. We remain constructive on China, India, Indonesia and Brazil - only the latter is a commodity producer. (Based on the respective MSCI EM indexes, from January 1, 2017, to January 31, 2018, according to Bloomberg. Commodity countries include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia and South Africa. Non-commodity countries include China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines, Poland, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey. Source: BlackRock.)

Consider mortgages as a fixed-income diversifier

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has crested 2.80% as of February 12, 2018, according to Bloomberg, but we believe that rates will grind, not spike, higher. While higher rates may cause investors to reconsider their bond allocations, they may provide relatively stable income and act as a diversifier in times of market stress. One potential solution: consider agency mortgage-backed securities, which can offer value relative to other high grade securities.

Consider factor strategies

Finally, investors should consider diversifying using factor strategies, which historically have had relatively low correlations with each other, and lower than sectors and single stocks have with each other.

Funds to consider

  • iShares U.S. Financials ETF (NYSEARCA:IYF)
  • iShares U.S. Technology ETF (NYSEARCA:IYW)
  • iShares MSCI China ETF (NASDAQ:MCHI)
  • iShares MSCI India Index ETF (NYSE:INDA)
  • iShares MBS ETF (NASDAQ:MBB)
  • iShares Edge MSCI USA Size Factor ETF (NYSEARCA:SIZE)
  • iShares Edge MSCI USA Value Factor ETF (NYSE:VLUE)

This post originally appeared on the BlackRock Blog.