LONDON/HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (REUTERS) – The close and inconclusive US election has scuppered some short-term trades premised on a clear Joe Biden sweep, but money managers say they are sticking to bets on plentiful stimulus, a Chinese rebound and a green boom, regardless of who triumphs.
US President Donald Trump’s battle against Biden, the Democratic challenger, is going down to the wire, with millions of votes still to be counted as more states report results.
From trade to taxation to climate, the two men have vastly different policy platforms. Biden’s pledge to tie the US economic recovery to tackling climate change is set against Trump’s desire to remove regulatory hurdles to oil, gas and coal.
Lulled by Biden’s opinion poll lead, some investors had positioned for higher US bond yields and renewables shares. Some of those trades took a hit – shares in US solar firms and European wind farms fell, while US Treasuries gained and European shares initially underperformed.
Traders were also quick to dump automotive stocks as the spectre of more Trump protectionism resurfaced following years of a trade war with China.
“We expect quite a lot of market volatility. However, the core investment conditions that we see for the next 12 months won’t be reversed by this volatility,” said Rick Lacaille, global chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors.
Vast fiscal and monetary stimulus unleashed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is “yet to work its way fully through the system”, Lacaille said, predicting that would continue to determine investment conditions in the coming year.
Indeed, fund managers appear in no rush to shake up portfolios, especially as a clear outcome is still potentially days away or could end up in the courts.
There are several reasons. First, regardless of who is the next US president, the global health and economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 will dominate the investment landscape.
Second, Asian shares clung to gains, implying confidence that the region’s economic growth would not be derailed by a Trump win or policy gridlock in Washington.
And perhaps most importantly, money should remain cheap and plentiful in the United States and elsewhere, underpinning the longer-term outlook for equity markets.
A US stimulus package is considered inevitable as politicians of all stripes try to spur an economic recovery hit by a resurgence in COVID-19.
While a Biden win could bring more spending — along with higher yields on the government debt to pay for it — the prospect of a delayed outcome sparked little panic, though US Treasury bonds rallied.
“Where we do have an anchor is that we know monetary policy will remain very easy and may become even easier,” said Salman Ahmed, global head of macro and strategic asset allocation, at Fidelity international.
A shift to more environmentally-friendly investing is here to stay too, most reckon.
“The greening of the global economy is going to be something that will happen regardless of who’s in charge, green energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy,” said Rupert Watson, head of asset allocation at Mercer Investments.
“Politicians can give it a kick in the right direction but it will happen anyway.”
CHINESE STORY INTACT
In Asia, investors said they would continue to bet on China’s recovery.
While the yuan sold off sharply as Trump’s chances appeared to improve, most did not expect the turbulence to last.
“Overall, globally, the world is underinvested in Chinese assets. There is still a relatively nice interest rate on the renminbi and China is outperforming in terms of growth,” said Andreas Koenig, head of global FX at Amundi, Europe’s biggest fund manager.
Emerging market assets remained well bid in Wednesday’s trading session, and Koenig said he would be buying more yuan, Mexican pesos and Russian roubles once an election outcome was clear – whoever makes it to the White House.
China’s economic recovery has put a solid footing under company earnings and pushed its blue chip stock index up about 16% this year, compared to a 1.4% drop on broader global stocks – something investors think has further to run.
“Chinese equities and bonds will likely continue to attract interest from overseas investors … Chinese consumers and exports, the two pillars to China’s economic growth engine, are intact,” said Lei Wang, portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management in New Mexico.
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