Midyear Outlook: Guarding for Inflation and Searching for Quality

In this global investment outlook, our investment professionals across asset classes focus on the second half of the year and examine the uneven global recovery from COVID-19.

    INTRODUCTION

    In this issue, we focus on our market and investment views for the second half of the year and examine the uneven global recovery from COVID-19. Emerging COVID-19 variants are adding new economic headwinds in parts of the world, while other countries are sharply rebounding amid vaccination rollouts and heavy fiscal and monetary support. Combining this backdrop with supply chain frictions leads to an intriguing second half of 2021.

    Our latest outlook highlights some of our specialist investment managers across the globe and across asset classes. Key views across the asset categories include:

    • The remainder of 2021 will likely prove challenging with potential key themes of guarding for inflation, searching for income, seeking quality companies as well as looking beyond stocks and bonds.
    • Fixed income activity cannot avoid looking out for inflation and income. The opportunities across corporate credit markets will be selective and uneven, and we believe active management will be important. Investors should consider sector, duration and quality rotation.
    • Equity discussions converge on “quality” with investors across styles and market capitalization ranges believing the “junk trade” is over and quality is the priority beyond structured definitions of growth and value. Different managers offer different definitions of quality companies, helping investors navigate the market while analyzing supply chain disruptions, economic cycles and growth.
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    • Real estate takes us directly to the impacts of inflation. The straightforward mechanism of raising rents under improving economic conditions allows properties to adapt to economic supply and demand. This mechanism makes commercial real estate particularly interesting in the second half of this year.
    • Infrastructure has regional catalysts and a big nod to sustainable investing and environmental, social and governance (ESG). Significant initiatives around the world are driven from social and government motivations that will allow infrastructure to have diversification benefits beyond the value of the investment. These benefits will be longer term than the second half of 2021.

    These observations should resonate with the conversations you are having about the markets. Each manager featured provides their perspective in more depth. I think you’ll find their views beneficial as they come from their work in positioning their portfolios.


    Stephen Dover, CFA
    Chief Market Strategist,
    Franklin Templeton Investment Institute

    INFLATION DRIVES NEED FOR ACTIVE FIXED INCOME

    Brian Kloss, JD, CPA, Brandywine Global

    We expect the remainder of 2021 will be challenging. Returns will be harder to come by, but should still be positive, in our view. Overall, we are constructive on corporate credit, especially the shorter end of the curve. Pro-cyclical sectors, such as commodities, basic materials and health care technology, provide interesting opportunities. We believe active management will be key, as the opportunities across corporate credit markets will be selective and uneven. Investors will need to use all the tools in their toolkits, including sector, duration and quality rotation.

    Nicholas Hardingham, CFA, Franklin Templeton Fixed Income

    We maintain our bullish view on emerging market debt as an asset class and favor hard-currency emerging markets over local-currency emerging markets, with most of the local rates still trading at historic lows and real rates either negative or extremely low. With interest rates expected to rise in 2022, we do not see the value in adding longer-duration holdings without attractive levels of spread to compensate, and therefore retain our bias for high-yield versus investment-grade issuers.

    QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY REMAINS CENTRAL TO EQUITIES

    Jonathan Curtis, Franklin Equity Group

    Recent volatility aside, we believe technology enjoys powerful secular and cyclical tailwinds which are positive for the long term and near term. We believe the sector is likely to grow much faster than inflation, has pricing power (owing to its leverage to productivity), is asset light and will enjoy deflationary tailwinds as knowledge workers take advantage of more flexible work arrangements to relocate to lower-cost regions.

    Alan Bartlett, Templeton Global Equity Group

    Our idea of “compound value” is rooted in the belief that value arises from the union of multiple elements, which can include price, quality, growth and changes/ events through time. Looking across the globe, we currently like European equities, as the eurozone is one of cheapest global regions and home to leading industrials and consumer companies with upside to reopening and post-pandemic recovery. We also find Japan attractive, as companies are restructuring and improving balance sheets, and driving a focus to improve return on equity.

    Zehrid Osmani, Martin Currie

    We focus on specific stock characteristics rather than regional assessments, but at the geographic level, we happen to find more upside potential in equities in Europe and emerging markets rather than in the US equity market. In terms of sectors, US President Joe Biden’s infrastructure spending program has the potential to significantly boost the economic momentum in the United States, thus potentially shaping a long positive industrial cycle with positive implications both for the US and global economic outlook.

    Manraj Sekhon, CFA, Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity

    Emerging market (EM) equities have continued their ascent so far this year, though the pace has moderated from the momentum of 2020. EMs in general have shown sustained resilience in managing and adapting to COVID-19. It’s worth noting the growing divergence between the perceived challenges surrounding these markets and their demonstrated structural strengths. We highlight three key areas that warrant attention— demand, sentiment and inflation.

    ESG AND INFLATION MAY BENEFIT ALTERNATIVES

    Tim Wang, Ph.D., Clarion Partners

    We believe 2021 marks the beginning of a new real estate market cycle. As demand continues to recover across most markets and property sectors, rising occupancy and higher effective rents should drive higher net operating income, supporting higher dividend and property appreciation. In our view, we believe that real estate—income with growth—ought to be an important part of portfolio allocation strategy given accelerating economic growth and the reflationary environment.

    Nick Langley, ClearBridge Investments

    Investors should benefit from global stimulus plans as policymakers agree on aggressive multi-decade carbon reduction targets. This investment will allow infrastructure and utility assets to earn stable and often regulated returns, off capital deployed into such areas as lower-carbon generation, strengthening of electricity grids and lower-carbon fuels such as hydrogen. While there are nuances to how environmental, social and governance efforts will influence different areas of infrastructure, we believe it will pay to have some tactical ability.



    Global Investment Outlook allows the Franklin Templeton Investment Institute strategists to highlight manager’s views on markets across the firm. The mission of the Investment Institute is to deliver research-driven insights, expert views and industry-leading events for clients and investors globally through the diverse expertise of our autonomous investment groups, select academic partners and our unique global footprint.

    Two related Franklin Templeton Thinks publications of note are Allocation Views, produced by Franklin Templeton Investment Solutions, which offers you our best thinking on multi-asset portfolio construction; and, Macro Perspectives, produced by the Investment Institute, featuring economists from across the firm dissecting key macroeconomic themes driving markets.

    WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

    All investments involve risks, including possible loss of principal. The value of investments can go down as well as up, and investors may not get back the full amount invested. Bond prices generally move in the opposite direction of interest rates. Thus, as the prices of bonds adjust to a rise in interest rates, the share price may decline. Investments in foreign securities involve special risks including currency fluctuations, economic instability and political developments. China may be subject to considerable degrees of economic, political and social instability. Investments in securities of Chinese issuers involve risks that are specific to China, including certain legal, regulatory, political and economic risks. High yields reflect the higher credit risk associated with these lower-rated securities and, in some cases, the lower market prices for these instruments. Interest rate movements may affect the share price and yield. Treasuries, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value; their interest payments and principal are guaranteed. Stock prices fluctuate, sometimes rapidly and dramatically, due to factors affecting individual companies, particular industries or sectors, or general market conditions. Investments in emerging market countries involve heightened risks related to the same factors, in addition to those associated with these markets’ smaller size, lesser liquidity and lack of established legal, political, business and social frameworks to support securities markets. Such investments could experience significant price volatility in any given year. Investments in fast-growing industries like the technology sector (which historically has been volatile) could result in increased price fluctuation, especially over the short term, due to the rapid pace of product change and development and changes in government regulation of companies emphasizing scientific or technological advancement or regulatory approval for new drugs and medical instruments. Biotechnology companies often are small and/or relatively new. Smaller companies can be particularly sensitive to changes in economic conditions and have less certain growth prospects than larger, more established companies and can be volatile, especially over the short term. Impact investing and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) managers may take into consideration factors beyond traditional financial information to select securities, which could result in relative investment performance deviating from other strategies or broad market benchmarks, depending on whether such sectors or investments are in or out of favor in the market. Further, ESG strategies may rely on certain values-based criteria to eliminate exposures found in similar strategies or broad market benchmarks, which could also result in relative investment performance deviating. Investment in the commercial real estate sector, including in multifamily, involves special risks, such as declines in the value of real estate and increased susceptibility to adverse economic or regulatory developments affecting the sector. Investments in infrastructure-related securities involve special risks, such as high interest costs, high leverage and increased susceptibility to adverse economic or regulatory developments affecting the sector. Actively managed strategies could experience losses if the investment manager’s judgement about markets, interest rates or the attractiveness, relative values, liquidity or potential appreciation of particular investments made for a portfolio, proves to be incorrect. There can be no guarantee that an investment manager’s investment techniques or decisions will produce the desired results. Investments in alternative investment strategies and hedge funds (collectively, “alternative investments”) are complex and speculative investments, entail significant risk and should not be considered a complete investment program. Financial derivative instruments are often used in alternative investment strategies and involve costs and can create economic leverage in the fund’s portfolio which may result in significant volatility and cause the fund to participate in losses (as well as gains) in an amount that significantly exceeds the fund’s initial investment. Depending on the product invested in, an investment in alternative Investments may provide for only limited liquidity and is suitable only for persons who can afford to lose the entire amount of their investment. The identification of attractive investment opportunities is difficult and involves a significant degree of uncertainty. Returns generated from alternative investments may not adequately compensate investors for the business and financial risks assumed. An investment in alternative investments is subject to those market risks common to entities investing in all types of securities, including market volatility. Also, certain trading techniques employed by alternative investments, such as leverage and hedging, may increase the adverse impact to which an investment portfolio may be subject. Depending on the structure of the product invested, alternative investments may not be required to provide investors with periodic pricing or valuation and there may be a lack of transparency as to the underlying assets. Investing in alternative investments may also involve tax consequences and a prospective investor should consult with a tax advisor before investing. In addition to direct asset-based fees and expenses, certain Alternative Investments such as funds of hedge funds incur additional indirect fees, expenses and asset-based compensation of investment funds in which these alternative investments invest. Diversification does not guarantee profits or protect against risk of loss. Companies and/or case studies shown herein are used solely for illustrative purposes; any investment may or may not be currently held by any portfolio advised by Franklin Templeton.