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We believe 2024 will see the tide turn for the economic and monetary policy outlooks, while fiscal policy may experience constrained consolidation with the focus remaining on the energy transition.
Three key arguments support the Japanese market: (1) A recovery in profits (2) A strong incentive from the Tokyo Stock Exchange for companies to improve their capital efficiency and (3) The shift out of deflation is boosting a market rerating. The risks to these positive arguments are mostly linked to the yen. A strong comeback by the yen, should global equity volatility increase sufficiently in 2024 to encourage the unwinding of carry trades, would weigh on the performance of Japan's equities in local currency It would penalize profits and, everything else being equal, slow the process of increasing inflation, weighing on valuations at the same time.
Recent advances in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to potentially disruptive changes across a wide range of industries. Will AI significantly increase aggregate economic growth through its impact on labor markets and increases in productivity? And will it enhance the productivity of labor or displaced workers? We believe that it is inevitable that AI will be widely adopted in the long term, and that it will have a positive impact on productivity and economic growth. But while it could be a huge gain for countries where the labor force is projected to decline, investors should be mindful that AI will be disruptive in the short term and will likely adversely affect profitability and returns in a number of sectors.
The strength in the US economy keeps us confident that the Federal Reserve will not begin policy cuts before the end of May, and the European Central Bank will also remain vigilant on disinflation. Sluggish growth expectations going forward mean the emphasis on quality credit and valuations will likely increase. Equities markets are continuing to display acute anomalies relative to the historical norm, with high valuation dispersion between growth and value and an extraordinary concentration in the largest securities. We are prioritizing fundamentals, and exploring strong businesses in Japan and US value sectors.
We believe the effects of economic tightening may lead to a deceleration in growth. With an uncertain economic path ahead, investors can potentially strengthen their portfolios with a series of opportunities.
With bond yields back to historical levels, fixed income investments may return to their traditional role as sources of potential income and risk management.
In this environment of high levels of inflation and rising interest rates, we believe investors can seek to select equities that provide a combination of structural growth potential, quality, stability and valuation support.
To seek reduced portfolio risk and increased return potential, investors can extend the geography of their portfolios into both developed and emerging economies.
Investors seeking to strengthen alpha and potentially reduce risk may incorporate investments with low correlation to traditional investments, such as catastrophe bonds, which are dependent on extreme weather events.
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Underwriter of Pioneer mutual funds, Member SIPC.
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