When observing macroeconomic trends, we separate our thinking between short-term credit cycles and the impulses impacting them versus slower-moving, long-term credit cycles and the prevailing policy drivers for their behavior. A tertiary layer that has been gaining steam for the better part of the past decade and is now firmly entrenched as a key driver of economic activity, market behavior, and our investment theses is sustainability. As we look ahead into 2021, we believe that we are at, or very near, a rare inflection point involving each of the three aforementioned factors that will reshape the landscape for investors globally. In the subsequent sections, we will discuss at length our views on each of these three pillars, but a summation of the key points can be found below:
- The coronavirus pandemic caused the sharpest contraction of United States GDP and rise in unemployment of any recession since the Second World War, which resulted in an unprecedented level of fiscal and monetary support in most developed markets.
- A combination of vaccination rates and the effects of the policy response has created an environment where cyclicals and services could benefit from the large increase in excess household savings and the most pent-up demand since the 1920s.
- Commodities will play an important role in all of our investment horizons. In the short-term, supply-demand mismatch and supply chain disruption could provide upward pressure on the asset class, while rising oil prices might stymie consumers ability to spend on goods and services. In the medium-term, large increases in money supply used to finance government deficit spending could cause inflationary pressure to further increase commodity prices and in the long-term, government net-zero policies might result in higher carbon costs, which could raise soft commodity prices, as well as greatly increase demand for a new set of commodities integral to developing a clean energy complex.
- Globalization has been driven by global demographic trends and trade policies since the 1980s that are slowly reversing due primarily to the working age population in China peaking last decade.
- Labor market integration caused lower wage inflation which led to lower inflation globally. Central banks responded by progressively lowering interest rates, driving asset prices higher and causing balance sheets to expand rapidly relative to income.
- Economic inequality across generations as voting demographics change in developed markets could lead to a redirection of capital and will influence the rate at which balance sheet issues are resolved.
- Recent growth in sustainable and responsible investing strategies has been parabolic but encompasses a wide range of implementations. Limiting one’s investable universe through exclusion or negative screening reduces potential Sharpe ratios, while integrating material sustainability information as part of a holistic analysis of individual companies, countries, and commodities boosts them.
- Given current government positioning, climate change mitigation and adaptation will likely be a key driver of secular trends for the coming decade. Large investments will be required to increase end-use efficiency and electrification of transportation and buildings, generate and transmit renewable energy, develop bioenergy and other carbon-free fuels, capture and store carbon dioxide, reduce emissions, and increase land sinks. Each of these verticals can shape the future path of equity, credit, and real asset prices if net-zero goals are to be met.
To arrive at these views, we have done extensive research that involves proprietary information and third-party data. If you are interested in a full copy of the report, please contact [email protected].