Despite investor concerns about a global economic recovery, BlackRock's Bob Doll remains optimistic.
The vice chairman at BlackRock [BLK] said that though the economic recovery hit a stumbling block in the first half this year, he is confident it can overcome that obstacle by sticking with risk assets, high-quality equity and higher-yielding assets like corporate bonds.
According to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Survey of Fund Managers for July, which was released Tuesday, 12% of respondents expected the global economy to deteriorate in the next year, compared with June’s results when 24% forecast the economy to strengthen. July’s results were the first negative forecast since February 2009.
In BlackRock's third-quarter investment outlook, which was released Wednesday, Doll said investors should invest in high-quality equities in the current environment. He said that he expects the markets to recover later this year.When that happens, cyclical stocks that have been hit hardest by the recent ups and downs will outperform.
In terms of specific sectors, BlackRock favors telecommunications services, and has upgraded its outlook on the consumer discretionary to slightly overweight, and the utilities sector to neutral. Broadly speaking, Doll recommends being underweight on financials, but he did note that the sector is making slow improvements. For the time being, energy stocks look less appealing.
Doll’s view is largely unchanged from his January prediction for 2010, when he said U.S. stocks would outperform cash. Known for a track record of successfully predicting market movements (11 of his 12 predictions for 2009 were correct, according to press reports) he oversees about $3.2 billion in assets at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.
He co-authored the report with Curtis Arledge, a managing director and chief investment officer of fixed income and fundamental portfolios. Arledge weighed in on the fixed-income assets, saying spread assets should perform well as investors look for higher-yielding investments.
Although some money has been moving out of mortgage-backed securities to other attractive spread asset sectors, BlackRock MBS from participants other than the so-called agency issuers Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. Spreads on some higher-quality corporate debt bonds had widened over the quarter, making them more compelling buys than Treasury sectors or agency MBS. BlackRock’s stance on that sector went to neutral from slightly underweight.
Among municipal bonds, Arledge says BlackRock has a neutral stance on the sector, because absolute yields are low and local governments have not been able to increase revenues.
Doll is not being flippant when he sums up the structural concerns in the U.S. economy and the potential contagion from the European sovereign debt crisis as a roadblock. He acknowledges the bearish market view that says renewed credit concerns will overwhelm a global financial system that is already fragile, and that long-term threats of high inflation, big deficits and rising tax levels will intensify as time passes. All of this is pointing toward a bear equity market.
He adds, though, that markets dislike uncertainty, which is exactly what is driving volatility in the equity markets. Once the economic recovery becomes firmly in place and the European debt situation becomes clearer, investors will focus on fundamentals again.