AXA head of research Eric Chaney gives cross-asset impact assessment of QE

Eric Chaney, head of Research at AXA Investment Managers, has provided an assessment of how the ending of QE will impact different asset classes.

The first stage of monetary normalisation, QE tapering, should probably start in September, with QE expected to be over by mid-2014. This tapering is Act One of a three-act drama. Here, we focus solely on this Act and estimate how QE has impacted markets and how it will impact them in the near future.

In summary:

– Liquidity injections during the Fed’s QE programme have moved asset prices away from their fundamental dynamic equilibrium, to which they will most likely return. That the end of QE is contingent on a better state of the US economy sounds to us like a “Bernanke put”.

– QE3 largely explains the substantial re-rating of developed market equities since September 2012. US equities are now overvalued by roughly 7% compared to fundamentals, European equities by slightly less than 10% and Swiss equities by more than 15%.

– Similarly, US treasury yields are around 50 bps below our estimated fair value based on fundamentals.

– Looking forward, the end of QE should push US bond yields higher, albeit in all likelihood moderately in the first stage. We still expect 10Y US yields around 2.5% at the end of this year and reaching 3% or more by end 2014.

– The end of QE should prove positive for US equities, with an annualised return of around 10% by the end of 2014, thanks to the stronger economic fundamentals which are a condition to end QE (the “Bernanke put”).

– In Europe, bond yields should also rise but less so. Despite less favourable growth prospects, European equities should perform as well as in the US, thanks to a higher beta.

– We believe emerging market currencies and assets, which had been strongly supported by capital inflows from the US during QE, will be the main casualties of the end of QE. More currency depreciation relative to the USD is in the pipeline for several emerging market currencies, should investors continue to roll back their investment as liquidity from QE wanes.

– Emerging market equities will continue to suffer, but not all markets are equal. Emerging Asia valuations offer a welcome buffer, but a country like the Philippines remains vulnerable. Latin America is still overvalued by more than 15% compared to its fundamentals. Weaker fundamentals in Brazil make the market vulnerable to a further correction.

– Once QE is over, markets will focus on the future path of short-term rates during the second stage of monetary normalisation, as well as the inflation risks associated with the legacy of the crisis i.e. a monetary base four times as big as it was before the crisis (though this could come later). Shrinking the monetary base will be the Third Act of the drama.

End of QE: expected impact on asset prices by end-2014 under baseline and alternative growth scenario

US GDP 2014, Q4/Q4US inflation, end-of-year 10Y Treasury yield US IG credit spread EM IG hard currency spread US equities annualised return European equities annualised return EM equities annualised return
Baseline GDP: 2.5% Inflation : 1.8% 3.00% -20bps +50bps 10% 10% 5%
Alternative GDP: 3.0% Inflation : 1.8% 3.50% -30bps +30bps 15% 12% 15%


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