How are trade jitters, geopolitical risk affecting equities?

How are trade jitters, geopolitical risk affecting equities?

For nearly a decade, analysts have been considering where the next market downturn will come from and when it will strike. But with the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 800-point drop on Oct. 10, 2018, some asset managers are wondering whether it’s already begun.

Amid the uneasiness, Sun Life Global Investment Management is pointing to a number of clouds on the economic horizon as the causes for the index’s correction. “Certainly, there are a number of issues facing investors, including a hawkish U.S. Federal Reserve Board, which seems determined to raise interest rates at a steady (some say rapid) pace,” the note read. “And while significantly higher interest rates are a threat to equities, investors also appear concerned by the trade war between the U.S. and China.”

While Sun Life stressed it doesn’t see a recession on the horizon, it has changed its outlook on equities to neutral. BlackRock, however, is still maintaining its preference for equities over fixed income, in a recent commentary, though it also noted the need to focus on portfolio resilience in a more challenging market.

As third quarter earnings reports begin to come through, investors will have a better picture of how tariffs and trade jitters have actually affected corporate profits, said BlackRock. And, while its gauge of geopolitical risk has lowered, it said the potential for a ramp up on tensions between the U.S. and China is now taking centre stage.

Amid the shakeup, some equities could come out ahead in the long term, most notably financials, according to Olivia Engel, chief investment officer for active quantitative equities at State Street Global Advisors, in a recent blog post. “In the low interest rate environment that followed the global financial crisis, financial firms have experienced lacklustre earnings.

“With all the buzz around high-growth stocks in technology and health care, and the impact of trade tariffs on manufactured goods, it could be easy for investors to overlook financial stocks. But we believe that the financial sector offers attractive opportunities for equity investors.”

Indeed, in another recent blog post, Lori Heinel, State Street’s deputy global chief investment officer, said market jitters in the past few weeks aren’t a sign the bull market is winding down just yet, and that there are likely good tactical equity plays to be found among the noise.

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