If 2022 was the year of inflation – 2023 will focus on the transition to growth risks and recessionary fears. Looking back, a main feature in 2022 was the return of higher prices, a phenomenon not seen in decades. While, in theory, solving an inflation problem is painful but simple – like fixing a dislocated shoulder – the effects on the economy will be felt in 2023. As a former central banker said, inflation is like toothpaste – “once it’s out, you can hardly get it back in again”. The main question for this year will therefore focus on whether central banks will put the inflation genie back into the bottle – and how this affects economic growth, given that monetary policy acts with long and variable lags.
While the global economy is likely to continue to grow – though at a slower pace - we do not expect a recession to be happening on a global scale. We expect a significant slowdown in US economic growth in the second half of the year, while a recession – currently underway - in Europe is likely to be mild. Switzerland is likely to avoid a recession, while in the UK, economic cheer is thin on the ground. China’s economy is in grim state, but a reopening of the economy is likely to help activity later this year. In emerging markets, activity in India and Brazil suggest upside potential.
We expect a pause in central bank action to be happening at the end of the first quarter – with the possibility of a possible ‘pivot’ in central bank policy to be happening in the second semester. Even if there is a halting of rate hikes - we expect this to be happening after the next couple of FED meetings - rates will not go down aggressively anytime soon. Once less restrictive monetary policy is happening, we will add more risk to our equity portfolio – while, for the time being, we favor UK and Swiss stocks in a global equity basket.
Crucial for fixed income securities will be the evolution of prices in tandem to central bank policy. In the recent past, inflation levels rose as too much money was chasing too few goods. We keep a more constructive stance on US sovereign bonds, and like investment grade corporate bonds, which offer interesting yields.
While risks for 2023 are manifold – a key risk is that inflation remains very stubborn, and central banks follow a more restrictive monetary policy path. For us, this risk is particularly high in the US, where the Federal Reserve could tighten the screws more aggressively than anticipated by many. This is why we keep a slightly buoyant view on the US dollar, and believe that the Swiss franc will keep its current strength.
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