Markets to enter new phase in 2014, says Pictet

Central bank liquidity will be less impactful on returns, according to Luca Paolini, Chief Strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

In our view, 2014 will see markets enter a distinct new phase, one in which central bank liquidity – for so long a hugely positive influence on investor sentiment – will have a weaker impact on asset class returns than economic growth. As this transition from a liquidity to growth-influenced market unfolds, world stocks are likely to deliver more muted returns in 2014 while bonds will in the main struggle to break into positive territory.

One certainty for 2014 is that the Fed will begin to wind down its monetary stimulus programme. We expect its bond purchases to be scaled back in monthly increments of USD10-15bn from the present USD85bn rate. This process will commence in one of the inter¬est rate-setting meetings scheduled to take place between December this year and March 2014.

Although the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will remain in monetary easing mode throughout the year, the US’s move is likely to have a negative effect on global liquidity, removing a key support for financial markets. There has been a strong positive correlation between Fed’s liquidity injections and global stocks’ price-earnings ratios over the past several months. So any reduction in US monetary stimulus could result in a mild narrowing of world stocks’ earnings multiples.

But that’s not to say the outlook for stocks is negative. There are a number of developments that will serve to counter the effects of a slowdown in the pace of US quantitative easing;

• US monetary policymakers are certain to maintain a dovish interest rate stance.

• US fiscal policy is set to become less restrictive. Public spending will continue to be cut to reduce government debt burdens but, critically, the pace of deleveraging will slow, both in the US and in Europe.

The key support for equity markets next year will come from accelerating global economic growth . For the first time in several years, 2014 will see an increase in economic growth across all of the world’s major regions. We expect global growth to rise by almost 1 percentage point to 3.3 per cent, US growth to pick up to 2.8 per cent and euro zone growth to rise to 1.2 per cent from -0.3 per cent in 2013. Emerging markets will see output in¬crease at a rate of 5.2 from 4.6 per cent.

This will translate into an increase in corporate profits worldwide. Global corporate profits tend to rise some six months after the emergence of a recovery in the US manufacturing sector (which we see as a good proxy for global growth).

When we take our economic projections into account, we think that for the first time in two years corporate earnings could rise at a faster rate than consensus forecasts, which currently sit at 10.5 per cent for the US firms and 10.9 per cent for global stocks.

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