Long Run Views

Viewpoint 2024

Over the past year, the economy and financial markets have surpassed most forecasters’ expectations. The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 5% in the third quarter of 2023, with falling inflation, stable employment, and a rise in the S&P 500 stock index.

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Although the economy is faring better than expected this year, we see a mixed bag of signals. Forexample, while popular market-capitalization weighted stock indices are up for the year, the average stock is essentially flat. Moreover, the outlook for corporate profits and capital spending are flattening out, suggesting muted growth in the private sector ahead. Similarly, monetary and fiscal policies have diverged. Monetary policy is restrictive (higher interest rates), while fiscal policy is expansive (rising deficits). Cross currents such as these lead to a neutral read of incoming data, suggesting we keep portfolio risk exposure very close to benchmarks.

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As we pointed out in our Viewpoint 2023, the air of gloom that hung over markets at the start of the year was extreme. Instead, we saw improving fundamentals and opportunity for the situation to play out better than expected. So far, the economy and markets have proven resilient in 2023 with equity markets and the economy turning in better-than-expected performance. While the economy rolls along, however, there are some crosscurrents in the data leading us to avoid large tactical bets at the moment. Conquest Portfolios

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Surging inflation and interest rate expectations undermined stock and bond markets last year. There are nascent signs these trends may be reversing. Accordingly, stocks and bonds have rallied so far in 2023, despite the emergence of concerns in the banking sector. After a period of being slightly underweight equities, we have aligned tactical portfolio risk exposure close to benchmarks to reflect improvement in our WCA Barometer, coupled with a wide band of uncertainty around the forecast. Conquest portfolios

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Viewpoint 2023

We start 2023 coming off a tough 2022 for both stock and bond investors, where both assets suffered significant declines. However, inflation issues and higher interest rates, which dominated market focus last year, will likely fade in intensity in 2023.

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Central Bank all in to fight inflation Markets signal inflation to fade Rates to push higher still Policymaker credibility key to fight Valuations more attractive. We remain cautious based on incoming data and enter the final quarter underweight risk assets.However, policy priorities seem to be having some positive effect on expected inflation, despiteupsetting financial markets. This is a difficult and complex environment, and we continue to followour tactical discipline in navigating a very unusual year. While we are not out of the woods yet,valuations are becoming better as are longer-run expectations for returns.

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Set against a backdrop of rising inflation and interest rates, calls for a “technical recession” are growing. Our check of the data leads us to maintain our near-term, tactical “underweight” to stocks. However, the correction in stock prices contains a silver lining as valuations have become better, boosting long-run return expectations.

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The first quarter brought a surge in inflation and war in Eastern Europe. This environment imposes a new reality on investors and policymakers. In this report, we discuss what is happening and how our top-down portfolios are positioned now.

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Viewpoint 2022

We publish this year’s Viewpoint 2022 amid ongoing recovery from an unprecedented pandemic. Signs of continued growth are apparent despite new COVID-19 variants and anticipated policy shifts. Long-run return expectations fall this year in as valuations and profit margins are elevated for stocks. For fixed income investors, surging inflation and expectations for rising rates are of primary focus.

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What Matters Most

In the very long run, it is growth that dominates other drivers of return. In this commentary, we look at why valuations and profit margins matter less than growth over time. With profit margins and valuations at or near highs, we conclude that we should not depend on further increases in margins or multiples for return. Instead, growth and dividends will become more important for us as long-term investors.

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Amid an otherwise positive backdrop, supply shortages, uncertainty over economic policy, and high valuations for financial assets are apparent. We remain tactically overweight stocks, but reduce exposure, shifting somewhat toward bonds. This report addresses how WCA tactical portfolios are positioned now to address short and longer-term factors.

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As the economy reopens, we believe growth is set to surge. The United States is well along the path on vaccination, which is unleashing months of pent-up demand. Meanwhile, other parts of the world are lagging in vaccinations and confronted with potential challenges, including a stronger dollar. Given continued signs of progress and growth in the United States, we refocus tactically around domestic and high-quality assets. We also maintain a tactical overweight to equity over bonds, given incoming data as we enter the third quarter.

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