By the end of February many investors are eagerly waiting for the release of the Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook. The 2022 edition was announced last Thursday.
The latest Yearbook focuses on inflation, interest rate rises and diversification.
The Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook is the authoritative guide to historical long-run returns. Published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute in collaboration with London Business School, it now covers all the main asset categories in 35 countries (including 3 new markets this year). Most of these markets, as well as the 90-country world index, have 122 years of data since 1900.
The winds of change are blowing in financial markets, making the Yearbook’s historical perspective especially relevant. This year’s volume provides timely new evidence on asset returns during inflation and interest rate hiking cycles. Currently, it is vitally important to review portfolio diversification, which is the topic of the Yearbook’s special focus chapter.
- Equities have performed best over the long-run. Over the last 122 years, global equities have provided an annualized real USD return of 5.3% versus 2.0% for bonds and 0.7% for bills.
- Equities have outperformed bonds, bills and inflation in all 35 markets. Since 1900, world equities outperformed bills by 4.6% per year and bonds by 3.2% per year.
- Prospectively, the authors estimate that the equity risk premium will be around 3½%, a little below the historical figure of 4.6%.
- With a 3½% premium, equity investors would still expect to double their money relative to short-term government bills in 20 years.
- Since 1900, the USA has been the best performing stock market with an annualized real return of 6.7%. Its share of global equities has quadrupled to an astonishing 60%.
- Historically, diversification across stocks, countries and assets has greatly improved the return-risk trade-off. Prospectively, the benefits remain large.
Shorter-term concerns: Inflation and interest rate hiking cycles
- In 2020, the average inflation rate across the 21 Yearbook countries with financial histories since 1900 was just 0.4%, the lowest since 1934. In 2021, average inflation rose to 4.4%.
- Inflation is a major concern: US inflation exceeds 7%; UK and German inflation is 5%.
- The Yearbook confirms that bonds suffer during inflation, but high inflation also hurts equities.
- Equities do not hedge inflation: real equity returns are negatively correlated with inflation.
- Despite this, and reflecting the equity risk premium, stocks have been inflation beaters.
- The current worry is not just inflation; it is tightening monetary policy and interest rate hikes.
- Over the last century, US and UK asset returns have been depressed during rate-rise periods.
- US stocks had annualized real returns of 3% during rate-rise periods vs 9.7% during falls.
- US bonds had annualized real returns of 0.2% during rate-rise periods vs 3.7% during falls.
- The UK mimicked the US experience of interest rate hiking cycles.
- During hiking cycles, it has been hard to identify assets that have performed well.
- Industry returns, factor premiums and real-asset returns have been lower when rates rise.
- Diversification reduces risk so investors can earn the same return at lower risk, or a higher return for the same risk. The authors refute claims that 10–20 securities can ensure high diversification.
- The current environment of higher volatility and sector/factor rotation is potentially more promising for active investors. But to generate alpha requires genuine skill and higher risk exposure.
- Globalization has made it easier to invest internationally. Over the last 50 years, global investment generated higher reward-to-risk ratios than domestic investment in most countries.
- There were a few exceptions. In the USA, over the last 50 years investors would have been better off investing domestically. This reflected excellent returns and lower US stock market volatility.
- Prospectively, the authors advise all investors, including from the USA, to invest globally. This will reduce portfolio risk and raise Sharpe ratios. But the authors caution that there are no guarantees.
- Investors from smaller and emerging markets have more to gain from global diversification than those from developed markets. But developed market investors should still buy emerging markets.
- Diversification across asset classes can also reduce risk. The negative stock-bond correlation since the late 1990’s made stocks and bonds a natural hedge for each other. However, the authors do not recommend relying on a continuation of negative stock-bond correlations.
- The authors also show that correlations tend to increase in bear markets and times of crisis. But they conclude that, for long term investors, these short-term factors should not be a big concern.
Richard Kersley, Executive Director of EMEA Securitites Research and Head of Global Product Management at Credit Suisse said: “We’re incredibly grateful to partner again with the report authors who have curated this dataset and extended coverage to new markets this year. We believe the Yearbook provides a unique historical perspective to assist asset allocation decisions as we witness a shift from conditions that have proved so supportive for financial assets in the world since the Global Financial Crisis, namely an environment of low inflation and interest rates and abundant liquidity, to a potentially less benign backdrop. This year we take an in-depth look at diversification and the analysis confirms that the risk-reduction benefits from international and cross-asset diversification remain material over time, although we caution against undue complacency.”
Professor Paul Marsh of London Business School added: “Learning from financial history and using it to shed light on issues facing investors has never been more important. As we navigate through increasing inflation, and an impending reassesment of global monetary and fiscal policy, our research provides the evidence to underpin investment strategy for the future.”
About the Global Investment Returns Yearbook
The Global Investment Returns Yearbook consists of nine main sections, the first eight focusing on long-run asset returns, currencies, risk and risk premiums, projected returns, factor investing and diversification, while the ninth contains detailed statistics on the 35 individual markets and five composite indexes which remain core to the Yearbook.
The markets included in the Yearbook represented more than 95% of the global equity market in 1900. Including the 12 new markets introduced in the 2021 and 2022 editions, the 35 Yearbook countries now cover 98.7% of today’s investable universe. The new countries introduced in 2022 are Argentina, Chile and Greece. The Yearbook also includes composite indexes for each of the world, world ex-USA, Europe, developed markets, and emerging markets. These are in common currency, have a full 122-year history, and today provide virtually 100% coverage of global equities.
As of yesterday, the Media Conference is also available on YouTube: