Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 305

Recession and why timing markets doesn't pay

When do we know for certain that we are on a path toward recession and that what we are experiencing is not simply a reversion to trend? How can investors prepare? Those questions captured the minds and emotions of investors and pundits alike through the first quarter of 2019.

While some of the global economic data released in Q1 was disappointing, we are not put off. The theme of Vanguard’s 2019 outlook was ‘down, but not out’ as we anticipated some deterioration in economic growth indicators. Holding that view is easier said than done when consumption, income, housing, and manufacturing indicators in several nations signal weakness. Almost in spite of the uncertainty, however, share markets in Australia and overseas returned over 10% for the first quarter.

The yield curve and central banks

It was hard – even for the most steadfast of investors – to ignore the debate around the economic cycle once the US Treasury yield curve briefly inverted in the final weeks of March 2019. When short-term interest rates are higher than long term rates, investors become pessimistic about what could happen in the next year, yet optimistic when looking five to ten years into the future. Traditionally, this pattern has preceded every major US recession in recent memory, so quite understandably, investors are taking these warning signs seriously.

Central banks only added to the feeling that economic storm clouds are gathering. Ironically, their actions might have been intended to instill confidence in their respective economies, but markets, especially bond markets, had none of it. The US Federal Reserve revised its vaunted ‘dot plot’ to suggest that interest rates would be on hold for the rest of the year; they had previously signalled two more hikes. Locally, the Reserve Bank of Australia became more tentative in its official policy communications. Even the Reserve Bank of New Zealand changed its tune and openly discussed the possibility of a rate cut.

Investors are now asking; “What do the banks know that we don’t?”

Economic and market outlook

This questioning comes at a precarious time for the global economy, as we recently passed the 10-year mark from the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. Those who say the US economic expansion must end soon, simply because the expansion has been remarkably long, overlook Australia’s record-setting recession-free expansion in their review of the global economy. Investors feel that we are close to crossing a line, albeit a blurry one, between economic growth reverting to trend (2% in the US, 2–3% in Australia) and an outright global slowdown.

Part of this concern is driven from a tightening of financial conditions. According to our analysis, financial conditions and heightened anxiety over economic policy probably contributed to some of the decline in US GDP growth for the last quarter of 2018. In a recent research note, Known unknowns: Uncertainty, volatility, and the odds of recession, we estimated that these shocks could have subtracted as much as 0.4% from 2019 GDP growth.

Inevitably, with each new development in this cycle, we are asked by investors what they can do to prepare. Regular readers of Vanguard’s commentary will not be surprised by our answer: revisit asset allocation, diversify, and review active risks in your portfolio.

Market timing does not pay

Attempting to time markets can backfire and lead to long term underperformance, as our analysis shows in the figure and table below. The questions investors ought to be asking are: ‘If a recession occurs, how should I respond?’, ‘Am I adequately prepared?’ and, ‘Does my financial plan reflect my comfort with uncertainty?’ rather than ‘When will the next recession occur?’

Adequate preparation, whether increased savings, a new asset allocation, or even a conversation between an adviser and their client, is the best way to prepare. The market will take us for a ride as it tries to guess (with limited success) what will happen in 2019. If we stay calm and adhere to a long-term approach, we limit the effect of the market’s fits and tantrums on our journey toward investment success.

Matthew Tufano is an Economist at Vanguard Australia, a sponsor of Cuffelinks. This article is for general information purposes only and does not consider the circumstances of any individual.

For more articles and papers from Vanguard Investments Australia, please click here.

RELATED ARTICLES

From macro to micro: end-of-cycle investing

What does the shape of the yield curve tell us?

Investors need to allow for future cycles

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.

Too many retirees miss out on this valuable super fund benefit

With 700 Australians retiring every day, retirement income solutions are more important than ever. Why do millions of retirees eligible for a more tax-efficient pension account hold money in accumulation?

Reece Birtles on selecting stocks for income in retirement

Equity investing comes with volatility that makes many retirees uncomfortable. A focus on income which is less volatile than share prices, and quality companies delivering robust earnings, offers more reassurance.

Is the fossil fuel narrative simply too convenient?

A fund manager argues it is immoral to deny poor countries access to relatively cheap energy from fossil fuels. Wealthy countries must recognise the transition is a multi-decade challenge and continue to invest.

Superannuation: a 30+ year journey but now stop fiddling

Few people have been closer to superannuation policy over the years than Noel Whittaker, especially when he established his eponymous financial planning business. He takes us on a quick guided tour.

Comparing generations and the nine dimensions of our well-being

Using the nine dimensions of well-being used by the OECD, and dividing Australians into Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials, it is surprisingly easy to identify the winners and losers for most dimensions.

Latest Updates

Superannuation

Superannuation: a 30+ year journey but now stop fiddling

Few people have been closer to superannuation policy over the years than Noel Whittaker, especially when he established his eponymous financial planning business. He takes us on a quick guided tour.

Survey: share your retirement experiences

All Baby Boomers are now over 55 and many are either in retirement or thinking about a transition from work. But what is retirement like? Is it the golden years or a drag? Do you have tips for making the most of it?

Interviews

Time for value as ‘promise generators’ fail to deliver

A $28 billion global manager still sees far more potential in value than growth stocks, believes energy stocks are undervalued including an Australian company, and describes the need for resilience in investing.

Superannuation

Paul Keating's long-term plans for super and imputation

Paul Keating not only designed compulsory superannuation but in the 30 years since its introduction, he has maintained the rage. Here are highlights of three articles on SG's origins and two more recent interviews.

Fixed interest

On interest rates and credit, do you feel the need for speed?

Central bank support for credit and equity markets is reversing, which has led to wider spreads and higher rates. But what does that mean and is it time to jump at higher rates or do they have some way to go?

Investment strategies

Death notices for the 60/40 portfolio are premature

Pundits have once again declared the death of the 60% stock/40% bond portfolio amid sharp declines in both stock and bond prices. Based on history, balanced portfolios are apt to prove the naysayers wrong, again.

Exchange traded products

ETFs and the eight biggest worries in index investing

Both passive investing and ETFs have withstood criticism as their popularity has grown. They have been blamed for causing bubbles, distorting the market, and concentrating share ownership. Are any of these criticisms valid?

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.