Why the time is right to allocate to Japanese smaller caps

Japanese equities have been on a tear of late. The Topix  rose 20.7% for the 12 months between 31 January 2017 and 31 January 2018. Should the market continue to rise, history does seem to suggest the small cap section is a good place to be. An analysis of comparative returns on the small cap versus large cap sections of the Russell/Nomura Index from 1984 to 2017 suggests small caps outperformed in the vast majority of periods where markets rose.

The benefit of investing in Japanese small caps is also apparent when you consider the question of correlation. Investors who do so have the advantage of lower average correlations versus European, Asian ex-Japan, emerging and US indices. These low correlations are even more evident in small cap indices.

People often talk about alternatives when the question of diversification comes up but this aspect of exposure to Japanese equities is regularly overlooked. We’d argue investors looking for ways to diversify their portfolio would benefit from allocation to small cap Japanese stocks given their tendency to perform with relatively limited reference to the movements of wider global equity indices – an important consideration given the current market turmoil.

Miyuki Kashima – head of Japanese equity investments, BNY Mellon Japan

Japanese equities have been on a tear of late. The Topix  rose 20.7% for the 12 months between 31 January 2017 and 31 January 2018. Should the market continue to rise, history does seem to suggest the small cap section is a good place to be. An analysis of comparative returns on the small cap versus large cap sections of … read more

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Chinese new year edition: China’s tourists flex their muscles

The Chinese consumer is starting to flex its muscles to spend more of its growing disposable income on travel. China is already the second-largest tourism market in the world, accounting for half of the growth in the global travel industry, but much of that tourism is domestic, and its citizens only make an average of 0.09 overseas trips per annum, compared to 0.3 and 1.2 in the US and UK respectively.

Given the relatively low overseas-trip frequency in China compared to many of its Western peers the rise of global Chinese tourism is a structural growth story with huge long-term potential. Moreover, in 2016, just 6.3% of China’s 1.3 bn population had passports, but that number is expected to double within five years, with growth expected to stay well over 10% on an annualised basis.

It has been estimated Chinese tourism will become a RMB 7.5 trillion (US$ 1.1 trillion) market by 2020,[1] with the sector expected to produce a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% over the next five years. Given the explosion in online travel booking in the country, Chinese online travel booking will grow could at an even faster rate – an estimated 30% CAGR[2] – over the same time frame.

Nick Moss – portfolio manager. Newton, a BNY Mellon company

[1]CLSA China online travel sector outlook, May 2016.

[2]Ibid.

The Chinese consumer is starting to flex its muscles to spend more of its growing disposable income on travel. China is already the second-largest tourism market in the world, accounting for half of the growth in the global travel industry, but much of that tourism is domestic, and its citizens only make an average of 0.09 overseas trips per annum, … read more

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Three labour trends keeping a constructive backdrop for markets

In the normal course of events, synchronised growth in activity at the rate we have been seeing across the globe would be accompanied by a clear increase in inflationary pressure that would, as a result, require an increase in interest rates significant enough to hold back risk-asset performance.

That clearly isn’t happening yet. Indeed, the latest inflation levels recorded in key developed economies and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are either not at central bank target rates/ranges, or are not a significant threat to them.

Trends in labour markets around the globe have led to more female, older, self-employed and part-time workers being drawn into labour markets, which in turn has resulted in wage growth that has been far more muted than expected.

At this point in time, we see no reason why more women, for example, cannot be drawn into, say, the US labour market. We can also see no reason why part-time self-employment shouldn’t continue to grow as a percent of total employment.

The big question then, is whether or not these constructive conditions of good growth with limited inflationary pressure can persist…

Steve Waddington – fund manager. Insight Investment, a BNY Mellon company

In the normal course of events, synchronised growth in activity at the rate we have been seeing across the globe would be accompanied by a clear increase in inflationary pressure that would, as a result, require an increase in interest rates significant enough to hold back risk-asset performance. That clearly isn’t happening yet. Indeed, the latest inflation levels recorded in … read more

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High yield in 2018: Will we see more rising stars than fallen angels?

When global growth strengthens credit dynamics generally improve, especially for those most sensitive to the economic cycle. For high yield investors this creates an important investment theme as established companies get upgraded, causing the spreads of their debt relative to government bonds to tighten, presenting new opportunities.

In 2015 and 2016, companies in the oil and gas, and mining, sectors were affected particularly badly, but this turned around as commodity prices stabilised and then started to rise. Companies that controlled costs and paid down debt have since benefited. If the momentum in the global economy continues into 2018, then this powerful technical dynamic within the high yield market should continue.

Uli Gerhard – portfolio manager. Insight Investment, a BNY Mellon company

When global growth strengthens credit dynamics generally improve, especially for those most sensitive to the economic cycle. For high yield investors this creates an important investment theme as established companies get upgraded, causing the spreads of their debt relative to government bonds to tighten, presenting new opportunities. In 2015 and 2016, companies in the oil and gas, and mining, sectors … read more

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Out with the old: shocking stats on the need for a US infrastructure boost

The devastating impact of the 2017 US hurricane season raised timely questions about US national infrastructure in the face of an increasingly uncertain climate. Hurricane damage in southern states, such as Florida and Texas, shone a spotlight on the resilience of key utilities, such as power grids, and highlighted the need to improve safety after decades of under investment in transportation, public buildings, water treatment systems and other forms of vital infrastructure.

Infrastructure renewal was a cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s election campaign but also has almost universal support politically, and we believe much can be achieved. We are particularly positive about the potential to develop new energy infrastructure thanks to the growth in shale energy extraction. The sector faced significant financial pressures from 2014 to 2015 but we think oil and gas pipeline companies can now regroup and drive ahead with major new projects.

Brock Campbell – portfolio manager. The Boston Company Asset Management, a BNY Mellon company

The devastating impact of the 2017 US hurricane season raised timely questions about US national infrastructure in the face of an increasingly uncertain climate. Hurricane damage in southern states, such as Florida and Texas, shone a spotlight on the resilience of key utilities, such as power grids, and highlighted the need to improve safety after decades of under investment in … read more

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Against the grain: Which emerging market’s fund industry grew 50% in a year?

Historically, some 30% of Indian GDP has been in savings – typically gold and property – but demonetisation in November 2016 and the Aadhaar scheme are, together, encouraging these savings into the financial system. Moreover, this environment of plentiful liquidity is driving down funding costs for lenders and spurring the fees of businesses related to asset management.

Around 60,000 mutual fund accounts are being opened every day in India, and Indian mutual funds have almost doubled their assets under management (AUM) in just over three years.

The Indian mutual funds market has gone through three distinct phases over the past 13 years, with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) improving markedly over the past three years, on the back of higher market returns and stronger flows following demonetisation last November.

Given that the penetration of mutual funds in India as a proportion of GDP is less than a quarter of the global average, and below that of many other emerging markets, we believe there is a long ‘runway’ for growth in this area.

Sophia Whitbread – portfolio manager on the Newton Emerging and Asian Equities team. Newton, a BNY Mellon company.

Historically, some 30% of Indian GDP has been in savings – typically gold and property – but demonetisation in November 2016 and the Aadhaar scheme are, together, encouraging these savings into the financial system. Moreover, this environment of plentiful liquidity is driving down funding costs for lenders and spurring the fees of businesses related to asset management. Around 60,000 mutual … read more

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In emerging markets, managing foreign exchange risk is critical

One major change in recent years is how policy makers in many emerging markets have become comfortable with using currency as a buffer to insulate their economies from negative shocks. Among the first lines of defence against any political, economic or external shock is to allow currency weakness, with authorities only stepping in to counter falls once they become significant enough for inflation pass-through to become a concern. As such, management of currency risk in order to control volatility and avoid potential losses has become even more important.

Colm McDonagh – head of EM fixed income. Insight investment, a BNY Mellon company

One major change in recent years is how policy makers in many emerging markets have become comfortable with using currency as a buffer to insulate their economies from negative shocks. Among the first lines of defence against any political, economic or external shock is to allow currency weakness, with authorities only stepping in to counter falls once they become significant … read more

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New Year, clean slate? Why 2018 will be the year of investing in renewables

The transition to green energy is accelerating, with 2018 expected to deliver new investment opportunities as technological innovation and falling costs drive further momentum for change.

What started as a government-subsidised process to decarbonise the power sector is now shifting to a process driven by expenditure and economics. Over the next 12 months, as the cost of clean technology continues to fall, we expect to see an acceleration in investment, in both developed economies and fast-growing industrialising nations.

Against this backdrop, the ability of renewables to deliver what we think are stable and sustainable income streams, means they are likely to remain an attractive source of dividends and total returns.

For a full article on the renewables revolution, visit our Markets 2018 website.

Paul Flood – fund manager and strategist. Newton, a BNY Mellon company

The transition to green energy is accelerating, with 2018 expected to deliver new investment opportunities as technological innovation and falling costs drive further momentum for change. What started as a government-subsidised process to decarbonise the power sector is now shifting to a process driven by expenditure and economics. Over the next 12 months, as the cost of clean technology continues … read more

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Top of the Pops: What will be the market’s Christmas No.1?

Just when you thought risky assets could not go any higher or quantitative easing any better, welcome to 2017: the year of the relief rally. The year when asset returns made the TMT bubble of 2000 lore palatable if not possible. Among the cornucopia of rising risk assets, which one will end the year on top?

We might have the tried and true US Equities. A bit like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, this one’s an easy crowd pleaser. While maintaining historically high margins of nearly 10%, US S&P 500 earnings have grown 10.4% through Q3 2017[1] and are expected to grow slightly higher in 2018 with the majority of earnings growth coming from the IT sector.

Or alternatively, the Christmas number one could go to an asset class coming in from the shadows, like EM equities: a bit like the comeback of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, one of this year’s favourites in homage to George Michael. The last calendar year MSCI EM equities topped the asset class charts was 2009.

Normally the winner of X Factor does well on the Christmas list. This year’s contender is Rak-Su and give it to me or “Demelo”. The market wanted inflation and a strong USD in 2017 but got neither of them in spades. Not surprisingly, with negative real rates, cash is a strong contender for worst asset class of 2017. Holding onto cash in most major currencies would have lost you money in real terms. The Zero Lower Bound (ZLB) turned out to not be a lower bound after all with negative short-term nominal rates in Japan, Europe, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark during 2017.

The odds on favourite for this year’s Christmas number one is Ed Sheeran’s remix with Beyoncé of “Perfect”. And our Christmas chart wouldn’t be complete without the perfect asset class stocking stuffer, the bitcoin. According to COINBT:SS the lead crypto currency is up 1,575% year-to-date.

Stormzy’s “Blinded by Your Grace” might apply to the impact of currency if you valued your assets in US dollar rather than sterling in 2017.  Based on the negative sentiment in the options market, the historic trade deficit and/or stubborn fiscal deficit the GBP lost nearly 10% against the USD. Despite a formal end to QE and the first serious Federal Reserve rate rises since 2006, the USD surprised the market and lost nearly 10% of its value over the year. [2] So to hedge or not currency hedge became a serious question again for investors.

Jason Lejonvarn – Investment strategist, Mellon Capital

[1] Bloomberg, as at 30 September 2017

[2] Bloomberg YTD as at 13 December

Just when you thought risky assets could not go any higher or quantitative easing any better, welcome to 2017: the year of the relief rally. The year when asset returns made the TMT bubble of 2000 lore palatable if not possible. Among the cornucopia of rising risk assets, which one will end the year on top? We might have the … read more

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The comeback king: Shinzo Abe and Japan’s reinvigorated economy

Between 2006 and 2012, Japan had no less than seven prime ministers; more than one a year. November’s landslide election of Shinzo Abe for a record-breaking third term signals a decisive end to an era of political instability and bodes well for a reinvigorated economy.

Immediately after Abe’s recent victory , the Nikkei 225 hit a 21-year high, building on a run that saw Japanese equities comfortably outperform European and US stock markets since the start of September.

On the macroeconomic front, too, the picture looks rosy. Corporate profits and business sentiment are up. GDP has risen for seven quarters in a row, its longest spell of interrupted growth for 16 years. Nominal GDP was almost 11% higher in the third quarter of 2017 than it was five years earlier.  We see this spurt of growth as a major milestone. For the first time since 1997, nominal GDP is now above ¥533 trillion, meaning the economy has finally recovered the ground lost over two long decades of stagnation.

If you step back and look at what the government promised on the economy and what it has actually achieved since it launched fiscal and monetary stimulus in 2013, it’s pretty impressive. We think it points the way to a positive outlook for investors.

Miyuki Kashima – head of Japanese equity investment, BNY Mellon Japan

Between 2006 and 2012, Japan had no less than seven prime ministers; more than one a year. November’s landslide election of Shinzo Abe for a record-breaking third term signals a decisive end to an era of political instability and bodes well for a reinvigorated economy. Immediately after Abe’s recent victory , the Nikkei 225 hit a 21-year high, building on … read more

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