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Michael Blayney: How to manage portfolios as regulators play whack-a-mole

Managing through the current volatility takes perspective and patience. Pendal’s MICHAEL BLAYNEY has a few tips

THE past few weeks have demonstrated the need for perspective as investors manage portfolios through increased volatility, says Pendal’s head of multi-asset Michael Blayney.

As the graph below shows, the CBOE Volatility Index spiked to its highest levels for the year after crises involving Credit Suisse and Silicon Valley Bank.

CBOE Volatility Index so far this year

The CBOE Volatility Index has spiked higher in recent weeks, indicating the market expects volatility over the next 30 days. Source: Google

“We are not at extreme panic right now,” says Blayney. “But we are starting to see problems emerging.

“Central banks have raised interest rates at a rapid pace over the last year. By doing so it was always a possibility, or even a probability, that they’d break something.

“That’s what we are now seeing, and regulators are coming out and playing a game of whack-a-mole.”

Investors shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which policymakers will act faced with a crisis, he says.

“Regulators aren’t sitting on their hands for long periods of time – they’re dealing with each problem as it arises.”

Is it a buying opportunity?

Investors need to decide if the recent sell-off in equities is a buying opportunity, or whether markets are mid-crisis, and there’s further to fall.

A big positive this time around, compared to 2007, is that the financial system has been de-risked,” Blayney says.

“The fact that banks are generally better capitalised should give investors a little bit more confidence.

“There’s less downside risk than there was in 2008.

“Last year was poor in markets and that’s made valuations cheaper. Right now you are starting at fair value, so your downside risk is less than if you start at expensive valuations, like markets did in 2007.”

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However higher interest rates are affecting corporates and consumers — and tighter lending standards are having an effect, Blayney says.

“This adds weight to the argument that the US is heading for a recession, which would trigger a fall in corporate earnings, and in share prices.

Outlook for equities

“In equities, while we are cautious, we are not massively underweight,” says Blayney.

“Valuations are relatively OK and trend-oriented components of our investment process are not bearish.

“But there are economic downside risks.

“If we do see economic weakness but inflation remains entrenched – the stagflation scenario – that’s going to be very difficult for equities.”

“In that sort of environment you want to make sure you have some assets with decent inflation hedging cash flows in your portfolio to give you that defensiveness,” he says.

Time for bonds?

Bonds have been volatile not only in recent weeks, but for much of this year.

“In the US you are starting to see the market price in cuts later this year,” Blayney says.

“The market has shifted its concern to the economy and financial stability, rather than simply higher inflation and rates

“It’s a conundrum for central banks because inflation is still running too high. The consumer price index is certainly not within the US Federal Reserve’s target range yet.

“But central banks also need to maintain financial stability.

“It puts central banks in a very difficult position and creates a very uncertain backdrop for investors.

“From a portfolio perspective, if we see a more significant economic downturn and a tightening in the availability of credit, then bonds should be a pretty good place to be.

“But there is a caveat — because bond yields are below the cash rate, markets are already pricing some economic weakness ahead.

Currency exposure

Another thing that can help a portfolio, particularly for Aussie dollar investors, is currency exposure, says Blayney.

“In times of crisis, particularly if you see falling prices for key commodities, then the Australian dollar can sell off too. Foreign currency exposure can act as a bit of a stabiliser.

“From a portfolio perspective, take a slightly cautious approach. Don’t panic. Hold a little bit more cash. And be ready for a buying opportunity.”

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About Michael Blayney and Pendal’s Multi-Asset capabilities

Michael Blayney leads Pendal’s multi-asset team. Michael has more than 20 years of investment management and consulting experience. He was previously Head of Investment Strategy at First State Super and head of Diversified Strategies at Perpetual.

Pendal’s diversified funds provide investors with a variety of traditional and alternative asset classes and strategies.

The team — which also includes Allan Polley — manages our multi-asset portfolios with a focus on strategic asset allocation, active management and tactical asset allocation.

Find out more about Pendal’s multi asset funds:

Contact a Pendal account manager here

This information has been prepared by Pendal Fund Services Limited (PFSL) ABN 13 161 249 332, AFSL No 431426 and is current at March 22, 2023. PFSL is the responsible entity and issuer of units in the Pendal Multi-Asset Target Return Fund (Fund) ARSN: 623 987 968. A product disclosure statement (PDS) is available for the Fund and can be obtained by calling 1300 346 821 or visiting www.pendalgroup.com. The Target Market Determination (TMD) for the Fund is available at www.pendalgroup.com/ddo. You should obtain and consider the PDS and the TMD before deciding whether to acquire, continue to hold or dispose of units in the Fund. An investment in the Fund or any of the funds referred to in this web page is subject to investment risk, including possible delays in repayment of withdrawal proceeds and loss of income and principal invested. This information is for general purposes only, should not be considered as a comprehensive statement on any matter and should not be relied upon as such. It has been prepared without taking into account any recipient’s personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, recipients should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness having regard to their individual objectives, financial situation and needs. This information is not to be regarded as a securities recommendation. The information may contain material provided by third parties, is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate as at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, and while all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is complete and correct, to the maximum extent permitted by law neither PFSL nor any company in the Pendal group accepts any responsibility or liability for the accuracy or completeness of this information. Performance figures are calculated in accordance with the Financial Services Council (FSC) standards. Performance data (post-fee) assumes reinvestment of distributions and is calculated using exit prices, net of management costs. Performance data (pre-fee) is calculated by adding back management costs to the post-fee performance. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Any projections are predictive only and should not be relied upon when making an investment decision or recommendation. Whilst we have used every effort to ensure that the assumptions on which the projections are based are reasonable, the projections may be based on incorrect assumptions or may not take into account known or unknown risks and uncertainties. The actual results may differ materially from these projections. For more information, please call Customer Relations on 1300 346 821 8am to 6pm (Sydney time) or visit our website www.pendalgroup.com

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