The financial landscape of yesteryears, marked by low inflation, negligible volatility, and consistent growth, has transformed, making room for a more dynamic and tumultuous terrain. A couple of years ago, a laissez-faire approach to stock investment was a sure shot route to sizeable returns. However, the halcyon days are now behind us, with an unpredictable macroeconomic climate dominating the investment horizon. The 2023 mid-year outlook from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, offers a fresh perspective. It proposes a more discerning investment strategy, focusing on five robust, global “mega-force” themes.
Unpacking the Mega-Force Phenomenon
As BlackRock observes, the linear trend of US stock prices has significantly diverged in recent years. This departure is evident in the Russell 1000 index, a benchmark of the US stock market performance. Between 2009 and 2019, the average stock price dispersion was a mere 25%, but it has since escalated to a substantial 35%.
So, how should investors navigate this territory where not all stocks are lucrative? BlackRock’s strategy: concentrate on the mega-forces. These are massive global themes that will unfold irrespective of the macroeconomic picture or market volatility.
Historically, investors have often underestimated the swift rise and dominance of these major themes. Yet, there is a caveat. The emergence of a new theme can spur an overexcited market, inflating the prices of related assets beyond reasonable levels. The rise and overvaluation of AI-linked assets is a prime example of such over-enthusiasm. Thus, it’s crucial for investors to monitor valuations and remember that even the most booming theme will have its dips.
Let’s delve deeper into the five mega-forces BlackRock deems worthy of investment focus.
1. Artificial Intelligence and the Digital Disruption
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution has astoundingly taken center stage in the investment world. From being almost unheard of six months ago, AI has become a ubiquitous part of corporate conversations. As AI continues to redefine our world, BlackRock recommends paying attention to three areas: semiconductors powering AI technology; companies with AI-replaceable workforces; and firms owning significant data assets. A relevant investment option is the iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Multisector ETF (IRBO).
2. The Fragmenting World
The pendulum of globalisation is swinging back after decades of growing interconnectedness. This regression has been amplified by geopolitical struggles, leading to the creation of economic alliances and protectionist policies. In this context, developed nations striving for self-sufficiency in sectors like technology and energy offer substantial investment prospects. For instance, semiconductor firms like Texas Instruments (TXN) and TSMC stand to benefit from the US government’s increased funding in semiconductor manufacturing.
3. The Low-Carbon Transition
The green energy shift is inevitable, and while few companies (Tesla being a notable exception) have significantly profited from it so far, BlackRock is confident about its future. As low-carbon energy becomes more affordable than traditional energy, BlackRock predicts a massive influx of investment into the sector.
4. The Aging Population Dilemma
Aging populations present challenges for governments as they grapple with shrinking workforces, diminishing tax revenues, and escalating healthcare costs. However, sectors like travel, leisure, and healthcare can capitalize on the consumption patterns of the aging demographic. For instance, companies like Royal Caribbean and Carnival, operating in the consolidated cruise vacation industry, could witness increased demand.
5. The Future of Finance
The recent financial turbulence and the advent of disruptive financial technology signal a major shift in the banking sector. With the exodus of $1 trillion from the US banking sector following the mini-banking crisis, BlackRock forecasts a boom in private lending. Meanwhile, traditional banks face an era of intensified regulatory scrutiny and soaring costs, creating an unfavourable environment for investment.
In conclusion, as the investment landscape transforms, BlackRock’s “mega-force” themes offer strategic insights for navigating these turbulent times. However, investors must remember that every investment comes with its risks and rewards, and thus, maintaining a close eye on valuations and market trends remains pivotal.