A Global Perspective: The Possibilities in International Equity Investing
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A Global Perspective: The Possibilities in International Equity Investing

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International Equity Investing

The Possibilities in International Equity Investing

When we’re in our comfort zones, we’re more likely to feel safe and familiar—and this same psychological effect is at play when we’re choosing where to invest. In fact, it’s widely understood that investors tend to prefer investing in their home country instead of taking a more global perspective, a behavior known as home bias.

However, investors could consider expanding their geographic exposure. From Shanghai to London, 20 of the world’s stock exchanges have a market capitalization above $1 trillion.

This infographic from MSCI highlights the possibilities in international equity investing. Let’s dive into some of the key concepts covered in the visualization.

Consider Correlations

For starters, by looking abroad, investors may be able to include markets in their portfolio that have relatively low correlation with their home market. This means the market movements are not as closely aligned, and the markets may behave differently from one another.

For instance, the U.S. has varying degrees of correlation with international stock markets. A correlation of 0 indicates there is no relationship between the market movements, while a correlation of 1 indicates that they move the exact same percentage in the same direction.

CountryCorrelation With U.S. Market
Japan0.11
Taiwan0.21
Korea0.24
China0.43
UK0.58
France0.59

Daily correlations based on data from December 31 2015-December 31 2020.

In the past, adding less correlated markets to a portfolio has helped to reduce overall volatility.

Manage Potential Concentration Risk

Technology companies have become more dominant in major U.S. stock indexes due to their strong performance. In the MSCI USA Index, for example, the weighting of FAANG stocks has doubled from about 8% in 2019 to more than 16% in 2021.

This increased concentration means that more of the performance and risk of each index can be driven by this small number of stocks. Branching out geographically can help to reduce that concentration risk.

Access Alternative Revenue Sources

Investors that focus in the U.S. may find their exposure to revenues and potential growth from other regions is limited. For example, only 31% of the MSCI USA Index’s revenue exposure comes from areas outside North America.

On the other hand, the MSCI All Country World Index derives about 70% of its revenue exposure from regions outside North America. As investors move towards a more global portfolio, they increase their exposure to revenue and potential growth from other regions.

Gain Exposure to Economic Growth From Other Regions

While GDP growth in developed economies has been more consistent, growth in emerging markets has been higher. For example, emerging markets typically experience higher GDP growth as they transition to industrial economies with higher standards of living.

Here is historical and projected data for various regions, based on average annual GDP growth.

Historical and Projected GDP Growth by Region

 2001-20202021P-2025P
Europe1.45%2.82%
North America1.63%2.84%
Pacific2.52%2.80%
World3.33%4.12%
Emerging Markets5.12%5.10%

Note: Projections as of April 2021. The Pacific region represents Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.

Emerging markets had GDP growth that outpaced other regions in the past, and the International Monetary Fund projects that they will continue to experience above average growth.

Increase Exposure to Innovation

Thematic investing is one way to gain exposure to innovation, and international investing is another potential method.

Innovation goes far beyond Silicon Valley, and is heating up abroad. In fact, over 70% of total R&D spending in 2018 originated outside of North America. Israel, Korea, and Taiwan were the top spenders as a percentage of GDP. By taking part in international equity investing, investors can aim to capitalize on new developments.

Access Attractive Valuations

Emerging markets have an attractive price relative to their return on equity, a measure of a stock’s profitability.

 Price to Book ValueReturn on Equity
U.S.4.413.7
Emerging Markets2.09.2
Europe & Middle East1.98.5
Pacific1.66.4

Data as of December 2020.

Emerging markets offer the second highest return of equity of the group, at a much lower price to book value than U.S. stocks. In other words, emerging market stocks offer strong investor returns in comparison to the price paid to obtain them.

Broadening Horizons With International Equity Investing

While many investors succumb to home bias, they could consider a wider set of investment options around the world. By engaging in international equity investing, investors can:

  • Aim to increase diversification and manage risk
  • Take advantage of growth opportunities
  • Access emerging markets

Global markets are changing. As innovation and growth accelerate outside North America, investors may want to consider new possibilities.

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Interest Rate Hikes vs. Inflation Rate, by Country

Inflation rates are reaching multi-decade highs in some countries. How aggressive have central banks been with interest rate hikes?

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Interest Rate Hikes vs. Inflation Rate, by Country

Imagine today’s high inflation like a car speeding down a hill. In order to slow it down, you need to hit the brakes. In this case, the “brakes” are interest rate hikes intended to slow spending. However, some central banks are hitting the brakes faster than others.

This graphic uses data from central banks and government websites to show how policy interest rates and inflation rates have changed since the start of the year. It was inspired by a chart created by Macrobond.

How Do Interest Rate Hikes Combat Inflation?

To understand how interest rates influence inflation, we need to understand how inflation works. Inflation is the result of too much money chasing too few goods. Over the last several months, this has occurred amid a surge in demand and supply chain disruptions worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an effort to combat inflation, central banks will raise their policy rate. This is the rate they charge commercial banks for loans or pay commercial banks for deposits. Commercial banks pass on a portion of these higher rates to their customers, which reduces the purchasing power of businesses and consumers. For example, it becomes more expensive to borrow money for a house or car.

Ultimately, interest rate hikes act to slow spending and encourage saving. This motivates companies to increase prices at a slower rate, or lower prices, to stimulate demand.

Rising Interest Rates and Inflation

With inflation rates hitting multi-decade highs in some countries, many central banks have announced interest rate hikes. Below, we show how the inflation rate and policy interest rate have changed for select countries and regions since January 2022. The jurisdictions are ordered from highest to lowest current inflation rate.

JurisdictionJan 2022 InflationMay 2022 InflationJan 2022 Policy RateJun 2022 Policy Rate
UK5.50%9.10%0.25%1.25%
U.S.7.50%8.60%0.00%-0.25%1.50%-1.75%
Euro Area5.10%8.10%0.00%0.00%
Canada5.10%7.70%0.25%1.50%
Sweden3.90%7.20%0.00%0.25%
New Zealand5.90%6.90%0.75%2.00%
Norway3.20%5.70%0.50%1.25%
Australia3.50%5.10%0.10%0.85%
Switzerland1.60%2.90%-0.75%-0.25%
Japan0.50%2.50%-0.10%-0.10%

The Euro area has 3 policy rates; the data above represents the main refinancing operations rate. Inflation data is as of May 2022 except for New Zealand and Australia, where the latest quarterly data is as of March 2022.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has been the most aggressive with its interest rate hikes. It has raised its policy rate by 1.5% since January, with half of that increase occurring at the June 2022 meeting. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said the committee would like to “do a little more front-end loading” to bring policy rates to normal levels. The action comes as the U.S. faces its highest inflation rate in 40 years.

On the other hand, the European Union is experiencing inflation of 8.1% but has not yet raised its policy rate. The European Central Bank has, however, provided clear forward guidance. It intends to raise rates by 0.25% in July, by a possibly larger increment in September, and with gradual but sustained increases thereafter. Clear forward guidance is intended to help people make spending and investment decisions, and avoid surprises that could disrupt markets.

Pacing Interest Rate Hikes

Raising interest rates is a fine balancing act. If central banks raise rates too quickly, it’s like slamming the brakes on that car speeding downhill: the economy could come to a standstill. This occurred in the U.S. in the 1980’s when the Federal Reserve, led by Chair Paul Volcker, raised the policy rate to 20%. The economy went into a recession, though the aggressive monetary policy did eventually tame double digit inflation.

However, if rates are raised too slowly, inflation could gather enough momentum that it becomes difficult to stop. The longer high price increases linger, the more future inflation expectations build. This can result in people buying more in anticipation of prices rising further, perpetuating high demand.

“There’s always a risk of going too far or not going far enough, and it’s going to be a very difficult judgment to make.” — Jerome Powell, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair

It’s worth noting that while central banks can influence demand through policy rates, this is only one side of the equation. Inflation is also being caused by supply chain issues, a problem that is more or less outside of the control of central banks.

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3 Insights From the FED’s Latest Economic Snapshot

Stay up to date on the U.S. economy with this infographic summarizing the most recent Federal Reserve data released.

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us economic snapshot

3 Insights From the Latest U.S. Economic Data

Each month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York publishes monthly economic snapshots.

To make this report accessible to a wider audience, we’ve identified the three most important takeaways from the report and compiled them into one infographic.

1. Growth figures in Q2 will make or break a recession

Generally speaking, a recession begins when an economy exhibits two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Because U.S. GDP shrank by -1.5% in Q1 2022 (January to March), a lot rests on the Q2 figure (April to June) which should be released on July 28th.

Referencing strong business activity and continued growth in consumer spending, economists predict that U.S. GDP will grow by +2.1% in Q2. This would mark a decisive reversal from Q1, and put an end to recessionary fears for the time being.

Unfortunately, inflation is the top financial concern for Americans, and this is dampening consumer confidence. Shown below, the consumer confidence index reflects the public’s short-term outlook for income, business, and labor conditions.

consumer price index 2005 to 2022

Falling consumer confidence suggests that more people will delay big purchases such as cars, major appliances, and vacations.

2. The COVID-era housing boom could be over

Housing markets have been riding high since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this run is likely coming to an end. Here’s a summary of what’s happened since 2020:

  • Lockdowns in early 2020 created lots of pent-up demand for homes
  • Greater household savings and record-low mortgage rates pushed demand even further
  • Supply chain disruptions greatly increased the cost of materials like lumber
  • Construction of new homes couldn’t keep up, and housing supply fell to historic lows

Today, home prices are at record highs and the cost of borrowing is rapidly rising. For evidence, look no further than the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which has doubled to more than 6% since the beginning of 2022.

Given these developments, the drop in the number of home sales could be a sign that many Americans are being priced out of the market.

3. Don’t expect groceries to become any cheaper

Inflation has been a hot topic this year, especially with gas prices reaching $5 a gallon. But there’s one category of goods that’s perhaps even more alarming: food.

The following table includes food inflation over the past three years, as the percent change over the past 12 months.

DateCPI Food Component (%)
2018-02-011.4%
2019-05-012.0%
2019-06-011.9%
2019-07-011.8%
2019-08-011.7%
2019-09-011.8%
2019-10-012.1%
2019-11-012.0%
2019-12-011.8%
2020-01-011.8%
2020-02-011.8%
2020-03-011.9%
2020-04-013.5%
2020-05-014.0%
2020-06-014.5%
2020-07-014.1%
2020-08-014.1%
2020-09-014.0%
2020-10-013.9%
2020-11-013.7%
2020-12-013.9%
2021-01-013.8%
2021-02-013.6%
2021-03-013.5%
2021-04-012.4%
2021-05-012.1%
2021-06-012.4%
2021-07-013.4%
2021-08-013.7%
2021-09-014.6%
2021-10-015.3%
2021-11-016.1%
2021-12-016.3%
2022-01-017.0%
2022-02-017.9%
2022-03-018.8%
2022-04-019.4%
2022-05-0110.1%

From this data, we can see that food inflation really picked up speed in April 2020, jumping to +3.5% from +1.9% in the previous month. This was due to supply chain disruptions and a sudden rebound in global demand.

Fast forward to today, and food inflation is running rampant at 10.1%. A contributing factor is the impending fertilizer shortage, which stems from the Ukraine war. As it turns out, Russia is not only a massive exporter of oil, but wheat and fertilizer as well.

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