Sector Positioning Based On Economic Regimes

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Global X ETFs
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Summary

  • The prospect of slower interest rate rises has significant implications for market positioning.
  • Economic growth sensitivity is likely to become increasingly important as recession risks rise.
  • Regime shifts from expansion to contraction can be volatile, which means deviating away from economically sensitive factors could help mitigate downside risk in equity portfolios.

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The Federal Reserve’s July FOMC meeting potentially tilted the market’s focus from interest rate sensitivity to economic growth sensitivity. Therefore, the prospect of slower interest rate rises has significant implications for market positioning. We maintain our view that inflation protection should be balanced with quality and defensive equity positioning, although the balance between cyclical value exposures and growth areas is starting to shift. Defensive growth focused areas could hold up better as the market looks for companies and segments that can grow despite economic weakness.

Positioning Overview

While navigating these transitions, we believe it is helpful to understand the historic relationship between sectors and economic factors including yields, the dollar, and crude oil prices. The tables below provide a broad template of portfolio positioning for an environment with rising economic risks and falling interest rate risks.

The analysis we conducted can be separated into two key areas: growth sensitivity and defensive positioning. The next two sections will provide more detail into these key areas followed by a section that combines these two ideas.

global X portfolio positioning analysis

Sector Economic Growth Sensitivity

Economic growth sensitivity is likely to become increasingly important as recession risks rise. For instance, U.S. GDP contracted for a second-straight quarter this year, which meets the unofficial definition of a recession.

In our analysis, we examined the correlation between excess returns across sectors relative to changes in the WTI crude oil price to determine how sectors respond to shifting economic growth expectations. Crude and other growth sensitive commodities are typically highly sensitive to economic growth expectations. Additionally, the shape of the yield curve also reflects economic growth expectations. The yield curve is currently inverted, with the 2-year Treasury yield more than 20 basis points (bps) above the 10-year Treasury yield.1

Financials, Materials, Industrials and Energy are the key cyclical value sectors that are positively correlated with crude prices and the 10-year Treasury yield. Here are some additional relationships to consider.

  • The shape of the yield curve has a direct impact on bank net interest margins. A weaker economy could weigh on loan growth and credit quality, which are headwinds for Financials.
  • The Energy sector is highly sensitive to both crude prices and the 10-year Treasury yield.
  • Slowing economic growth expectations weigh on Materials and Industrials. For example, over the past month, several regional manufacturing indices have plummeted, which points to a contraction in overall business activity.
  • Real Estate has a negative correlation with Treasury yields, although, like Financials, economic growth is an important driver of the sector’s excess return. Periods of sustained growth are typically conducive to higher property values and rental income if interest rates remain low. When yields rise, Real Estate companies are at risk of declining property values and higher borrowing costs.2 That could make the relatively higher dividend yields generated by real estate investment trusts (REITs) less attractive compared with Treasury bonds.

Global X S&P 500 sectors excess return correlations

Defensive Positioning

Monetary policy divergence combined with economic growth concerns have strengthened the U.S. dollar relative to a basket of currencies. A flight to safety over the past few months favored defensive positioning.

  • Consumer Staples, Utilities and Health Care have the highest correlation with the dollar. These defensive sectors provide exposure to segments of the economy where consumers have less ability to scale back as real disposable income declines.
  • Consumer Discretionary and Materials have the lowest correlation with the dollar. These cyclical sectors benefit from greater spending among businesses and consumers, which occurs during the economic recovery and expansion phases.

Global X S&P 500 sectors excess return correlations

Combining Growth Sensitivity and Defensive Exposure

Removing the interest rate environment from consideration focuses attention on a single quadrant. While defensive sectors take the lead, growthier sections such as Communication Services and, to a lesser extent, Information Technology are just behind. Conversely, cyclical value sectors such as Financials and Materials stand out, challenged by a defensive environment with greater economic risks.

The Energy sector has been positively impacted by exogenous factors that remain in play. Typically, we would expect a negative relationship between Energy and the U.S. Dollar as a stronger dollar typically weighs on commodity pricing.

Global X S&P 500 sectors excess return correlations

However, regime shifts from expansion to contraction can be volatile, which means deviating away from economically sensitive factors could help mitigate downside risk in equity portfolios. On the other hand, when the rise in yields and inflation slows, growth sectors such as Technology could be more receptive to a market rebound.

Our sector views table provides more detail on sector positioning and the current tailwinds and headwinds for each sector.

Global X current views on sectors

FOOTNOTES

1. Bloomberg data as of 28 July 2022

2. S&P Global, The Impact of Rising Interest Rates on REITs, 1 April 20173. WSJ, Fed Worried About Inflation Risks As It Firmed Up Tapering Plan, 13 October 2021

4. FactSet, Earnings Insight, 22 October 2021

5. BofA, The RIC Report: Get Paid to Wait, 11 January 2022

6. Schwab, Sector Views: Financials, 25 January 2022

7. CDC, CDC Expands Covid-19 Booster Recommendations, 29 November 2021

8. CNBC, ‘Once-in-a-generation’ Prescription Drug Pricing Reform Could be Coming, 29 July 2022

9. BofA, The RIC Report: Get Paid to Wait, 11 January 2022

10. BofA, The RIC Report: America is Still Exceptional, 14 September 2021

GLOSSARY

Basis point (bps): A basis point is a hundredth of one percent. It is predominantly used to express differences in interest rates.

Capital Expenditures (Capex): Funds used by a company to acquire, update, and maintain physical assets such as buildings, technology, and equipment; often used to undertake new investments/projects.

FOMC: Federal Open Market Committee

This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. This information is not intended to be individual or personalized investment or tax advice and should not be used for trading purposes. Please consult a financial advisor or tax professional for more information regarding your investment and/or tax situation.

Global X Management Company LLC serves as an advisor to the Global X Funds.

Original Post

Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.

This article was written by

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Founded in 2008, Global X is a sponsor of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). We are distinguished by our Thematic Growth, Income, and International ETFs. Explore our insights on the trends and themes shaping global markets – from technology to commodities to emerging economies – at globalxfunds.com/research. Global X ETFs is a member of the Mirae Asset Global Investments Group. Important disclosures: globalxfunds.com/privacy
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