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Investment Strategy

Testing the five big insights of our 2024 Outlook

In our 2024 Outlook published at the start of December, we urged investors to consider the wide-reaching implications of the global interest rate reset. The shift to higher rates reconfigured the investment landscape in a way that requires careful contemplation of a set of possibilities, trade-offs and risks that were largely dormant over the previous decade.

With the year well underway, we welcome the opportunity to check in on the five considerations we put forth for investors looking to optimize their strategies for reaching financial needs and goals.   

Inflation will likely settle. You should still hedge against it.

Although the Federal Reserve has made it clear that more data are needed to confirm that inflation has actually “settled,” the cooldown seen over the past year suggests progress is on track. Indeed, the Fed’s preferred price pressure gauge, core PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures Deflator) showed that prices rose at a six-month annualized pace of 2.49% as of the end of January. That’s closing in on the Fed’s stated target of 2%. However, investors were reminded that the path to victory over inflation may be bumpy, as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), another popular gauge of inflation, came in with hotter-than-expected inflation in January. In all, we think the key drivers of the trend, such as abating wage pressures and a stabilization of real-time housing rental prices, remain intact.

PCE is already below the Fed’s target

Core PCE, YoY & 6-month annualized %

This chart shows Core PCE, on a YoY and 6-month annualized basis, from 2013 to 2023. There is also a horizontal line at 2% depicting the Fed target, and a marker for JPMorgan’s 2025 Outlook at 2.1%.
Source: Haver Analytics. Data as of January 31, 2024

Beyond 2024, we continue to believe inflation could settle at higher levels than those experienced in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, on average. Breakeven rates and inflation swaps still imply this will be the case. We suggested that investors consider two asset classes as means of hedging against this dynamic: equities and real assets. The S&P 500 is set to mark its second consecutive quarter of earnings growth, and analyst earnings expectations show a steady ramp-up from here. Infrastructure, one of our preferred ways to implement real asset exposure, has maintained a consistent track record of generating total returns above annual rates of inflation throughout the post-global financial crisis era via a combination of income and capital appreciation.1

The cash conundrum: The benefits and risks of holding too much.

Global money market fund balances have continued to push higher year-to-date, having risen to over $6 trillion. It’s no wonder why: Cash yields are outpacing inflation and remain the highest they’ve been in over 20 years. But we’re keen to reiterate that current cash yields (proxied by 3-month Treasury bills) are likely as good as they are going to get for the foreseeable future. As inflation trends lower, we, and central banks, are growing more confident that rate cuts are likely to come in 2024.

Rates are set to fall from here

U.S. federal funds rate & expectations

This chart shows U.S. Federal Funds rates and expectations from 2013 to present.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P. Data as of February 29, 2024.

Our Outlook acknowledged that holding more cash in the present environment may not be a bad decision, but we maintain that it probably isn’t the most efficient means of making progress toward long-term financial goals. From the end of November (just before we published our Outlook) to now, a global benchmark 60/40 allocation has outperformed cash by more than 6%.2 Over a 10-to-15-year investment horizon, J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Long-Term Capital Market Assumptions projects global stock and bond annualized returns will outpace those of cash by 4.9 percentage points (ppts) and 2.2 ppts, respectively.

Bonds are more competitive with stocks—adjust the mix according to your ambitions.

The interest rate reset revived the appeal of bonds, making them more competitive in relative asset allocation decisions. Absolute levels of yields are trading around where they were when we first published our 2024 Outlook, and their elevated levels continue to offer attractive asymmetrical return potential (i.e., all else equal, the potential gains that would be generated from a -100 basis point decline in yields are larger than the potential losses that would be generated from a +100 basis point rise).

Yields on high-quality bonds remain close to their highs

U.S. bond yields, current vs. 2010-2023 range, %

This chart shows U.S. bond yields, from current versus the 2010-2023 range.
Source: Bloomberg Finance L.P. Data as of March 4, 2024

As the economic backdrop evolves and markets recalibrate expectations for the future path of central bank policy, our approach to the bond market has become modestly more nuanced. If you are focused on rightsizing your strategic portfolio allocations, we still believe now is the opportunity for considering locking in yields and capturing defensive characteristics by extending duration. That said, tight credit spreads and potential for more interest rate volatility could prompt more tactically focused investors to find better value on the shorter end of the duration spectrum (i.e., in the 2–3 year range).

With AI momentum, equities have been marching to new highs.

The new highs came fast, with the S&P 500 notching a slew of fresh records already this year. We think the momentum can continue. Historically, new highs tend to cluster together, and forward-looking returns when investing at an all-time highs are not meaningfully different from returns when investing at any time. Going back to 1970, if you invested in the S&P 500 at an all-time high, your investment would have been higher a year later 70% of the time, with an average return of 9.4% versus a 9.0% average when investing at any time (at both records and non-records).

Investing at highs has not notably impacted returns

Average S&P 500 forward price return across tie periods, 1970-present, %

This chart shows average S&P 500 forward price return across time periods, from 1970-present.
Sources: Bloomberg Finance L.P., J.P. Morgan. Data as of February 29, 2024. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

AI enthusiasm has played a big part, propelling the so-called Magnificent 7 higher and pushing market concentration to its most extreme since the early 1970s. But it’s not without good reason, and it’s not all hype: Stellar earnings have underpinned the enthusiasm, and valuations actually look reasonable when factoring in expectations for more strong growth ahead.

From here, we think the rally has more room to run. Big tech can continue to climb, and other sectors can join in. For instance, we see the potential for themes such as healthcare innovation and ongoing consumer resilience to support recoveries in some areas going forward.

Pockets of credit stress loom, but they will likely be limited.

At the end of January, investors got another stark reminder that the ripple effects of last year’s bout of bank stress aren’t fully past. In its Q4 earnings update, New York Community Bank Corp (NYCB)—a U.S. regional bank that had bought part of failed Signature Bank last year—flagged expectations of losses on commercial real estate (CRE) loans and cut its dividend. As we’ve learned, commercial real estate (especially the office sector) is more vulnerable to both the lagged impact of higher rates and pandemic-era shifts in the way that people live and work. Stress in this pocket of the economy is likely to continue.

This doesn’t change our Outlook, and we still expect the impact on the broader economy to be limited. Office makes up just 2.4% of all physical assets across the U.S. economy.3 Many of NYCB’s challenges, especially around additional reserve builds going into CRE, also look company-specific, rather than indicative of the broader sector. That’s been reflected in the stock performance: While shares of NYCB plummeted 55% in the two weeks after its earnings report, a measure of broader regional banks fell “just” 11%, and the S&P 500 rallied almost 1%.

Remote work has disrupted office occupancy

U.S. CRE vacancy rate, SA %

This left chart shows U.S. CRE vacancy rates, from 2006 to 2023 for apartment, office CBD, industrial, office suburban, and retail CRE.
Sources: (LHS) NCREIF, J.P. Morgan. Data as of December 31, 2023. (RHS) BAML Chartbook. Data as of December 31, 2023.

Moreover, as much as much as CRE is a risk, it can also provide opportunity for experienced active managers. The Fed’s pivot toward cutting won’t solve all problems: The rate hikes we’ve already seen will continue to have an effect, especially in overleveraged pockets of the market. Private lenders can collect a premium for providing capital, and stress-focused managers can take advantage of mispriced assets and loans.

We still see opportunity ahead.

We echo what we said back in December: There haven’t been this many attractive investment choices to consider in more than a decade.

Cash may still look alluring, but the allure is fading as central banks turn to rate cuts. Bond yields are high, presenting opportunities across the curve. Equity valuations seem fair, especially when considering accelerating earnings growth ahead. Private markets can continue to offer premiums over their public counterparts, while also becoming more accessible to investors.4

Your J.P. Morgan team is here to discuss your portfolio and help you realize your long-term financial goals.

1J.P. Morgan Asset Management Guide to Alternatives, J.P. Morgan Asset Management 2024 Long-Term Capital Market Assumptions, MSCI. As of December 31, 2023.

2Bloomberg Finance L.P. Benchmark 60/40 portfolio references the Bloomberg Global EQ:FI 60:40 Index, which rebalances monthly to 60% Bloomberg Developed Markets Large & Mid Cap Total Return Index and 40% Bloomberg Global Aggregate Index. Cash performance references the total return on the Bloomberg US Treasury Bill: 1-3 Months Index. As of February 29, 2024. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

3World Bank, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bloomberg Finance L.P., Haver Analytics. Data as of 2023.

4J.P. Morgan Asset Management Long-Term Capital Market Assumptions. As of December 31, 2023.

As we said in December: There haven’t been this many attractive investment choices to consider in more than a decade.

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Important Information

All companies referenced are shown for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended as a recommendation or endorsement by J.P. Morgan in this context.

Bonds are subject to interest rate risk, credit and default risk of the issuer. Bond prices generally fall when interest rates rise.​

Private investments are subject to special risks. Individuals must meet specific suitability standards before investing. This information does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy . As a reminder, hedge funds (or funds of hedge funds), private equity funds, real estate funds often engage in leveraging and other speculative investment practices that may increase the risk of investment loss. These investments can be highly illiquid, and are not required to provide periodic pricing or valuation information to investors, and may involve complex tax structures and delays in distributing important tax information. These investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds; and often charge high fees. Further, any number of conflicts of interest may exist in the context of the management and/or operation of any such fund. For complete information, please refer to the applicable offering memorandum. Securities are made available through J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Member FINRA, and SIPC, and its broker-dealer affiliates.​

Standard and Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks. The index is designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

The Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index or "the Agg" is a broad-based fixed-income index used by bond traders and the managers of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as a benchmark to measure their relative performance.

JPMAM Long-Term Capital Market Assumptions

Given the complex risk-reward trade-offs involved, we advise clients to rely on judgment as well as quantitative optimization approaches in setting strategic allocations. Please note that all information shown is based on qualitative analysis. Exclusive reliance on the above is not advised. This information is not intended as a recommendation to invest in any particular asset class or strategy or as a promise of future performance. Note that these asset class and strategy assumptions are passive only – they do not consider the impact of active management. References to future returns are not promises or even estimates of actual returns a client portfolio may achieve. Assumptions, opinions and estimates are provided for illustrative purposes only. They should not be relied upon as recommendations to buy or sell securities. Forecasts of financial market trends that are based on current market conditions constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice. We believe the information provided here is reliable, but do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. This material has been prepared for information purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, accounting, legal or tax advice. The outputs of the assumptions are provided for illustration/discussion purposes only and are subject to significant limitations.

“Expected” or “alpha” return estimates are subject to uncertainty and error. For example, changes in the historical data from which it is estimated will result in different implications for asset class returns. Expected returns for each asset class are conditional on an economic scenario; actual returns in the event the scenario comes to pass could be higher or lower, as they have been in the past, so an investor should not expect to achieve returns similar to the outputs shown herein. References to future returns for either asset allocation strategies or asset classes are not promises of actual returns a client portfolio may achieve. Because of the inherent limitations of all models, potential investors should not rely exclusively on the model when making a decision. The model cannot account for the impact that economic, market, and other factors may have on the implementation and ongoing management of an actual investment portfolio. Unlike actual portfolio outcomes, the model outcomes do not reflect actual trading, liquidity constraints, fees, expenses, taxes and other factors that could impact the future returns. The model assumptions are passive only – they do not consider the impact of active management. A manager’s ability to achieve similar outcomes is subject to risk factors over which the manager may have no or limited control.

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To learn more about J.P. Morgan’s investment business, including our accounts, products and services, as well as our relationship with you, please review our J.P. Morgan Securities LLC Form CRS and Guide to Investment Services and Brokerage Products

 

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and its affiliates (collectively "JPMCB") offer investment products, which may include bank-managed accounts and custody, as part of its trust and fiduciary services. Other investment products and services, such as brokerage and advisory accounts, are offered through J.P. Morgan Securities LLC ("JPMS"), a member of FINRA and SIPC. Insurance products are made available through Chase Insurance Agency, Inc. (CIA), a licensed insurance agency, doing business as Chase Insurance Agency Services, Inc. in Florida. JPMCB, JPMS and CIA are affiliated companies under the common control of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Products not available in all states. Please read the Legal Disclaimer in conjunction with these pages.

INVESTMENT AND INSURANCE PRODUCTS ARE: • NOT FDIC INSURED • NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY • NOT A DEPOSIT OR OTHER OBLIGATION OF, OR GUARANTEED BY, JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A. OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES • SUBJECT TO INVESTMENT RISKS, INCLUDING POSSIBLE LOSS OF THE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT INVESTED

Bank deposit products, such as checking, savings and bank lending and related services are offered by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Not a commitment to lend. All extensions of credit are subject to credit approval.