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What can we expect from markets in 2024?

Dec 20, 2023

Redacción Mapfre

Redacción Mapfre

Following a particularly complicated 2022 for all asset classes, marked by inflation, monetary tightening and economic weakening, this year will end very strongly on the markets, and everything suggests that this optimism will carry over into 2024.

“After a horrible 2022 for returns on mutual funds and pension plans for all portfolios, if everything remains the same over the coming days, 2023 will end with very impressive returns,” explains Javier Lendines, general manager of MAPFRE AM, who rules out a recession in 2024.

The growth forecast for the world economy next year is 2.2%, according to the “Economic and Industry Outlook for 2023: fourth-quarter perspectives”, prepared by MAPFRE Economics, the Group's Research Service, which does not anticipate such a recession even in its stressed scenario. Although we will see a weakening compared to this year, it will remain in positive territory at all times.

“Although we might see an economic slowdown, we continue to believe that the economy is healthy, the unemployment rate in Europe and the United States is low and, therefore, consumers keep consuming. We have a post-Covid pool of savings that has not yet dropped and, possibly, monetary policy will be somewhat more relaxed next year,” emphasizes Lendines.

This scenario is favorable for equities, which could continue the bullish streak seen in recent weeks. We expect business results to continue to be positive in 2024, with improvements that could even be in the double digits for the year as a whole. “Investors are therefore ruling out a scenario that we would describe as ‘idyllic’, which means widespread and excessive optimism for the time being, as some risks prevail,” explained MAPFRE Gestión Patrimonial in its monthly report for December.

These risks are mainly related to geopolitics: analysts will continue to monitor how the conflicts in Palestine and Ukraine progress, combined with more than half the world going to the polls in 2024, as José Luis Jiménez, MAPFRE Group Chief Investment Officer indicates. The US elections are worth particular note, where there is a possibility that former President Donald Trump will be elected again.

Lendines adds that financial markets are “increasingly more complex,” which makes the work of analysts more difficult and decision-making more complicated. “For example, if you had asked any of us what would happen after a Hamas attack on Israel, we would have thought that the stock market would contract and oil prices would rise. Has that been the case? Not at all,” he indicates. “When it comes to forecasts, we have to keep this complexity in mind.”

In turn, monetary policy is expected to be more relaxed in 2024, compared to the tightening we have seen over the past year and a half. The market seems to have forgotten the “higher for longer” message that central bankers have sent in recent months, and we are already looking at up to five rate cuts next year.

At its last meeting of the year, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) decided to maintain interest rates within the target range between 5.25% and 5.5%, as did the European Central Bank (ECB), where they are between 4.5% and 4.75%.

 

Monetary policy

MAPFRE Economics believes that the scope for cuts in the United States is “clearer now than in September.” “Activity and employment have remained in remarkable shape, at the same time as inflation has continued to drop,” he explains. However, the reality remains complex and the Research Service considers that it could be “too optimistic” to culminate between now and 2024 with the more than 150 basis points of cuts currently in the offing.

In the case of the ECB, the message is “more reflective”, with expectations of cuts cooling as we head into 2024 The central bank has maintained its data-reliant stance, which for MAPFRE Economics leaves “some wiggle room.”

Despite this positive sentiment in the market, Alberto Matellán, chief economist at MAPFRE Inversión, recalls that there is still a part of the monetary tightening that has not yet impacted the economy and that will do so in the coming months. “The road ahead is not going to be easy. Part of that impact is still pending,” he says, emphasizing that increases usually take between nine months and a year to impact the economy as a whole, although in this case they seem be taking longer.

The rate hikes that both central banks have been implementing have increased fixed income returns, which had taken a back seat for years as they were not sufficiently attractive against a backdrop of low rates. According to the latest report from MAPFRE Gestión Patrimonial for the month of December, November was the best month for this asset class since 2008, and if there are no changes, it could be the star asset next year as well.

Regarding alternative assets, in which the Group has been increasing investments for some years now, the general manager of MAPFRE AM maintains that “they can help diversify portfolios, add profitability and offer good diversification in all senses,” warning of the danger to overreacting to movements in the market.

Alternative assets: portfolio diversification with these funds

Alternative assets: portfolio diversification with these funds

Alternative assets are a good way to diversify the portfolio, and MAPFRE knows it. Since 2018, the Group has worked to have greater exposure to this area and explore new investment opportunities: as of last year, €1.35 billion had been committed to this type of asset.

How do interest rates affect bonds?

How do interest rates affect bonds?

Fixed income is shaping up to be "the star asset" this year, although uncertainty regarding interest rate movements could put some investors off. Juan Nozal, fund manager of MAPFRE AM, explains how these movements impact bond prices and yields.

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