As we are beginning to reach for the party hat and the unmistakable bottle of champagne to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, we should pose for a moment and reflect if our strategic positioning is still aligned with the most likely scenario for the next twelve months. 2012 produced positive returns in many asset classes but there is a distinct possibility that 2013 may bring higher volatility overall and more muted performances.
This is a clear possibility as economies around the world are showing marked slowdowns. However, the coming year is also ripe with political shifts and many policies are at important junctures in a number of relevant economies. This political climax has the power to fuel a significant rise in global volatility.
The valuation starting point for domestic equities is somewhat agnostic. The US equity market is still favorably priced in absolute terms and relatively to the bonds. Morningstar’s Fair Market Value indicates an equity discount of about 3%. However, this percentage is not too significant as the market has arbitraged most of the 20% discount to fair value reached at the October 2011 bottom. Relative to bonds, equities are still attractive but in this case also not as attractive as not only the 2011 bottom but the June 2012 through as well.
Commodities, with the exception of gold, were mostly subdued in 2012 as the global economy started sending signals of fatigue. For 2013, the commodities outlook remains tied to global activity and specifically China.