Maneuvering through the Fed’s hiking cycle

RATE HIKES

Global investors are facing a challenging market environment, with expectations of higher inflation, tighter monetary policy and now, the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war. As widely anticipated, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds rate by 0.25% to 0.25%-0.50% during the March Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, its first interest rate hike since December 2018. We think interest rates — especially for long-term yields — are likely to rise further this year, driven by expectations of above potential GDP growth1, tighter monetary policy, and inflation that is much above the Fed’s target of 2%.

We prefer a multi-asset framework as investors navigate the upcoming hiking cycle. In equities, selectivity within sectors plays an even more important role, and we prefer picking pockets of the market with strong pricing power and resilient margins in a rising rate environment. On this front, sectors and subsectors in tech, healthcare, and communication are worth noting.

Changes in rate hike expectations

Source: BlackRock, Bloomberg, chart by iShares Investment Strategy. As of March 14, 2022. The World Interest Rate Probability data represents the estimated number of moves priced into the current forward-curve structure for the United States using the Bloomberg futures model (US0ANM DEC2022 Index).


STOCKS

Historical analysis shows that value exposures have tended to outperform in a rising yield environment as it coincides with rising inflation2. Despite the value sectors’ recent outperformance3 versus the growth sectors of the market4, value still appears attractive, as its 12 month forward looking Price to Earnings ratio (PE) remains low5. We prefer seeking ‘value’ within the value basket, particularly in the financials and energy sectors, which typically exhibit greater sensitivity to higher interest rates.

Average sector performance before and after the beginning of new rate hike cycles

Source: BlackRock, Bloomberg, chart by iShares Investment Strategy. As of March 14, 2022. Sectors represented by the S&P 500 GICS Level 1 Indexes. Average performance after first rate hike dates. First rate hikes dates in each cycle are 3/25/1997, 6/30/1999, 1/31/2006, 12/17/2015. Real Estate only references rate hike on 12/17/2015. Index performance is for illustrative purposes only. Index performance does not reflect any management fees, transaction costs or expenses. Indexes are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.


The rise in interest rates since the start of the year has weighed on risk sentiment and triggered selloffs in growth sectors of the market. However, we believe that technology exposures could potentially outperform the broader market after initial rate moves. Despite higher interest rates, we think real rates are likely to remain in negative territory, supporting global equities. With higher rates and a higher inflation backdrop, we prefer industries that can take advantage of the rising costs and pass prices to consumers, such as quality companies — companies with stable cashflows and higher profit margins — and industries such as semiconductors.

BONDS

In a rising rate environment, traditional bonds can lose value, but investors should not write off fixed income exposure altogether. We believe allocations to inflation-linked bonds can potentially outperform fixed-rate bonds as inflation remains elevated, while allocations to floating rate bonds could also outperform in rising rate environments6. Of course, bonds can provide diversification in times of geopolitical turmoil. Finally, for those looking for income, exposure to shorter duration credit bonds can also be an alternative as shorter duration bonds are less sensitive to interest rate changes.

COMMODITIES

Exposure to broad commodities can provide diversification in a multi-asset portfolio and can potentially hedge against interest rate risk. Now, given the war in Ukraine, we have seen commodities rally as Russian isolation chokes supplies of energy, agriculture, and metals. This could add to higher inflation, which we think could persist at above-trend levels into late 2022, providing a strong backdrop for commodities.

Gargi Pal Chaudhuri

Gargi Pal Chaudhuri

Head of iShares Investment Strategy Americas at BlackRock

Jasmine Fan, CFA

Investment Strategist

Contributor

Jon Angel

Investment Strategist

Contributor

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