Global economic expansion should continue at a slow, steady pace over the next five years, with interest rates rising only gradually and stocks returning 7 to 9 percent per year over the period, according to Northern Trust's annual long-term forecast for the economy and capital markets.
Along with "Enduring and Maturing Global Growth," key themes of the five-year outlook include a continuing search for yield and a new era of heightened geopolitical risk counterbalanced by the increased globalization of financial markets.
"The sub-par growth trajectory since the 2008 global financial crisis has prevented excesses in developed market real economies and required central banks to continue monetary policies that have supported equity market valuations," Northern Trust Chief Investment Strategist Jim McDonald said. "Meanwhile, emerging markets continue to adjust to a maturing growth profile, which weighs on global growth but also reduces inflationary pressures. Effectively, the mediocrity of the current expansion increases its expected longevity."
Each year, Northern Trust's Capital Market Assumptions Working Group, composed of senior investment professionals from across the global organization, develops a long-term forecast for economic activity and financial market returns that is designed to be "forward looking and historically aware." The group also identifies specific risks that are combined with other portfolio construction tools to annually review and update the firm's recommended strategic asset allocations.
For investors, the macro environment will produce slightly lower equity returns and slightly higher fixed income returns over the next five years, according to the report:
"The robust returns of recent years have reduced the valuation cushion in asset markets, but while nominal returns will likely lag historic averages, we see real returns of 4 to 5 percent for global stocks and 1 to 2 percent for global fixed income over the period," McDonald said. "This means that bonds can continue to serve as an important diversifier and source of liquidity while equities and alternative investments provide capital appreciation potential."
In addition to asset class forecasts, the five-year outlook considers key risks and themes to guide investors. For example, the theme "Geopolitical Risk: A Balanced Assessment" notes that recent conflicts have the potential to reintroduce a Cold War-style geopolitical variable and turn back globalization initiatives. However, as conflicts are increasingly handled through the financial system - cutting off credit or taking other measure as opposed to military intervention - the risk of geopolitical escalation is reduced. It could also serve as an economic catalyst, such as potential demand from increased military spending and new energy infrastructure build out.
Other themes in the report include "Emerging Markets: Becoming More Value than Growth," which finds these markets transitioning from a homogeneous high-growth cohort; "The Search for Yield," which predict the low-rate environment will maintain demand for yield-producing investments, including fixed income and alternative strategies; and "Asset Classes Without Borders," in which asset allocation will focus less on where companies are domiciled and more on where they generates revenues.
For more on the five-year outlook, watch our latest MarketScape video with Jim McDonald.
Asset Management at Northern Trust comprises Northern Trust Investments, Inc., Northern Trust Global Investments Limited, Northern Trust Global Investments Japan, K.K., NT Global Advisors, Inc. and investment personnel of The Northern Trust Company of Hong Kong Limited and The Northern Trust Company.
About Northern Trust
Northern Trust Corporation (Nasdaq: NTRS) is a leading provider of investment management, asset and fund administration, banking solutions and fiduciary services for corporations, institutions and affluent individuals worldwide. Northern Trust, a financial holding company based in Chicago, has offices in 19 states, Washington, D.C., and 18 international locations in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. As of June 30, 2014, Northern Trust had assets under custody of US$6 trillion, and assets under investment management of US$924.4 billion. For more than 120 years, Northern Trust has earned distinction as an industry leader in combining exceptional service and expertise with innovative products and technology. For more information, visit www.northerntrust.com or follow us on Twitter @NorthernTrust.