We believe 2022 will be a rather different year for financial markets than 2020 and 2021. We do not expect a recession nor another 30% return for global equities as we experienced over the last 12 months – figure 1 in the download below. What worked well in portfolios during the last two years, therefore, is unlikely to work in the period ahead.
Looking back to help us look forward
In 2020, during the initial rebound from the pandemic collapse, we advised exposure to
COVID cyclicals.9 Investors who did not follow our recommendations such as buying airline equities – or entire country markets such as Brazil – should not now expect the same sort of performance they missed out on in the past year – figure 2 in the download below.
Many of the assets that have posted the strong rises – such as the 120% annualized gain since April 2020 in hotels, resorts and cruise line operators – were only able to do so because of their previous plunge into the COVID recession.
While plunges and rebounds captivate investors’ attention, historically their effects average out over time. Given this, the wisest approach is to stay invested across market cycles, thereby remaining exposed to economic progress. Figure 3 in the download below shows how average returns from being constantly invested throughout cycles have been above those if the one year before and after recessions are excluded.
Spotlight: Growing companies in growing sectors
Rather than trying to avoid downturns, seeking to beat long-term average returns in equity markets involves two approaches. The first is by investing in firms that consistently lead their industry and within industries whose share of total economic output is growing.
Many of these relate to
unstoppable trends such as the secular rise in healthcare demand or the digitization of the economy as macro-level examples of
secular growth industries. The opposite of this phenomenon also exists in sectors like traditional autos or oil drilling. They face gradually diminishing growth but are still exposed to cyclical booms and busts – figures 4 and 5 in the download below.
Spotlight: The discipline of dividend growth
The other approach for seeking to outperform long-term average equity returns is to invest in firms that sustainably grow income distributions to shareholders. US firms with the most consistent dividend growth have outperformed the S&P 500 – itself one of the world’s strongest performing markets – by about 60% in the last 30 years – figure 6.