How to position portfolios as an uncertain 2020 draws near

By James Langton | November 20, 2019 | Last updated on November 20, 2019
2 min read
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Between the looming U.S. election and ongoing geopolitical and trade uncertainty, the forecast for 2020 is cloudy. As a result, investors should consider looking to the next decade, says UBS Global Wealth Management in its outlook report for the year ahead.

Against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty, the firm’s base case for 2020 is that the global economy will grow by 3%, down slightly from 3.1% in 2019.

In the world’s developed markets, growth is expected to decelerate from 1.6% to 1.1%, while emerging market growth is expected to rise from 4.2% to 4.6%. Global inflation is expected to dip from 3% to 2.9%.

“However, two-way uncertainty is high, driven by choices in geopolitics and policymaking, as well as at the ballot box,” UBS cautioned.

With the prospects for the coming year particularly difficult to predict, UBS recommended that investors focus on assets that are somewhat sheltered from market turmoil.

Among equities, it recommended that investors favour quality dividend-paying stocks, and domestic and consumer-focused companies that are less exposed to trade and business spending trends.

For fixed income, it suggested taking a “middle-of-the-road approach to bonds, given very low yields on the safest debt and rising credit risks among high-yield issuers.”

In other asset classes, it had a preference for precious metals over cyclical commodities, alternative investments that have low sensitivity to markets, and a combination of safe and high-yielding currencies.

“Elections, trade tensions and a shifting monetary and fiscal policy mix are likely to define a ‘year of choices’ in 2020. However, investors should also look beyond the next 12 months to a ‘decade of transformation’ where new winners and losers could change how investors allocate capital,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

That transformation is expected to include a major migration to cities, involving 790 million people; a declining workforce in the developed world and huge growth in emerging market workforces; and an increase in internet usage, rising from 4.3 billion users today to 7.5 billion over the decade.

Additionally, UBS foresaw innovation driven by the rising demand for sustainability as a key trend in the next 10 years, positioning digital transformation, genetic therapy and water scarcity as the top longer-term investment themes.

“As 2020 approaches, investors are rallying around global standards that will make sustainable investments in particular more approachable for clients,” UBS said.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.