26th October 2020

Interview with Xavier Hannaerts

It is in a particular environment that Xavier Hannaerts, Head of Investments at BCEE Asset Management, speaks about developments in the context in which asset managers carry out their roles.

In the environment in which we are living, it is particularly complicated to be able to make the right investment choices. What, in your view, are the crucial factors?

There are a number of unprecedented factors: the Coronavirus health crisis, the lockdown measures that governments around the world were forced to take, the reactivity, speed and coordination of actions by central banks and governments to support their economies, the astronomical sums injected monthly through the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank asset purchase programmes, the European Union's pandemic emergency plan, not forgetting the ambitious and historical agreement reached by Member States,

which establishes the milestones for the pooling of debt. In short, making the right choices in such an environment requires an in-depth analysis of all the economic factors without neglecting any of the components. Times change, our businesses evolve: it is no longer a question of only focusing our attention on the economic fundamentals as monetary policies and market trends are essential pillars in our investment choices.

How do these three pillars influence economic developments in practice?

An analysis of the financial markets shows that they are driven by an underlying trend where these three pillars predominate. When we turn to the central banks, we can see that economic easing policies are expanding as time passes and the pandemic continues to evolve. These institutions are injecting astronomical amounts into the economy, and the inflation expectations constantly revised downwards mean that investors expect these policies to continue.

 

Secondly, with regard to governments, fiscal policies are excessively expansionist and have served to offset plummeting consumption and investment.

For example, it is worth mentioning the United States whose various stimulus plans amount to several billions of dollars, and up to 20% of its GDP, a means of boosting the indicators which are running out of steam and which is likely to stimulate the appetite for risk in the equity markets. And, last but not least, the markets remain on a rising trend, with technical indicators remaining green.

How do you apply these factors in your investment choices?

We remain vigilant and particularly careful, given that nothing is set in stone, and we remain on the lookout for opportunities offered by the markets. For example, we were particularly observant when there was a correction in the equity markets in September, bringing valuations back to slightly more balanced levels.

This life-saving movement provided a breath of fresh air, and was an excellent opportunity to increase our equity weighting, in view of the favourable trends and possible stimulus policies that would fuel the economy and the appetite for risk on the financial markets.

Ultimately, the slight underweight stance in equities which we currently retain could, if necessary, be gradually eliminated in favour of a more positive equity positioning if the trends we described above were to be confirmed.