Skip to Content

BlackRock: 3 equity investing ideas amid higher rates and inflation

In a new environment characterized by rising inflation and interest rates, acute geopolitical uncertainty, supply chain stresses and heightened volatility, investors may well need to rethink their strategy.

This article was originally published on by BlackRock Fundamental Equities.

After steep year-to-date declines across the major U.S. stock averages, investors from BlackRock Fundamental Equities believe individual company fundamentals will once again emerge as the key differentiator and driver of outcomes. The upshot: an opportunity for stock pickers to apply their company-level research and analysis to separate potential winners and losers.

One caveat is that this is likely to occur within a new regime. As we discuss in our latest market outlook, the Fed is intent on raising interest rates to fight inflation and must balance the risk that creates for economic growth. In the end, we expect the world to look different from the low-rate, tame-inflation environment that had prevailed since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008.

Against this backdrop, investors may want to consider revisiting their portfolios with a focus on three key elements that we believe are well-suited to the new order taking shape.

1) Value investing

Value stocks have a history of outperforming their growth counterparts in times of rising rates and inflation. This is because the cash flows of value companies are front-end loaded. Growth stocks, in contrast, are considered longer-duration assets with expectations of greater cash flows further into the future. These farther-off cash flows get discounted by higher rates, giving value stocks an upper hand in an inflating environment.

In a BlackRock Fundamental Equities analysis of growth versus value stocks using data since 1927, we found value had achieved greatest outperformance in periods of moderate to high inflation. It was only when inflation was very low that value performance paled. Value stocks have also tended to perform well amid rising interest rates. Over the past 40 years, a sizable portion of value returns has come during periods of rising rates, as shown below.

A strong showing as rates rise

Value returns amid rising vs. falling rates, 1978-2020

enter image description here Source: BlackRock, with data from Compustat/IBES, Dec. 31, 1978-Dec. 31, 2020. Chart shows the annualized return of the cheapest stocks (Quintile 1) minus the most expensive (Quintile 5) as ranked by our proprietary value factor. Returns are aggregated for rising and falling interest rate periods. Monthly changes in the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield are used to define rising and falling interest rate periods.

2) Quality investing

Stocks have historically performed well versus bonds during Fed rate-hiking episodes. In the case of bonds, the inverse relationship between price and yield means their prices fall as rates rise. For stocks, the positive impact of earnings has historically outweighed the drag that higher rates apply to valuations, as shown in the chart below.

Earnings make a difference

Breakdown of stock performance in prior rate-hiking cycles, 1994-2018 enter image description here Sources: Datastream Worldscope, Haver Analytics and Goldman Sachs Investment Research, February 2022. Chart shows the performance of the MSCI AC World Index between the first Fed rate hike and the next time the Fed cut rates in any given period. Performance is divided into the contribution from valuations and company earnings. The technology, media and telecom (TMT) sector is excluded from the 1999-2000 period because of the distorting impact of the crash. The figures shown relate to past performance. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. For illustrative purposes only.

That said, we do expect further equity market volatility as investors adjust to the new regime, and companies will weather the storm with varying degrees of agility and success. We believe the key to navigating this environment is to focus on companies with quality characteristics ― particularly strong balance sheets and healthy free cash flow.

We see present-day cash flows and earnings growth as critical performance drivers in this new environment ― and believe well-managed, quality companies can provide greater stability, growth and income potential to withstand inflation and market volatility.

3) Natural resources and commodities exposure

When inflation is high, the best-performing assets are often those tied to basic needs. Food, transportation, electricity and shelter are the foundation of modern civilization, and commodities and natural resources equities can offer investors exposure to these building blocks.

Commodity prices show a higher correlation to inflation than other asset classes in a relationship that is self-reinforcing: Rising commodity prices tend to drive higher inflation which, in turn, propels higher commodity prices. Applying an equity lens, we find that the performance of natural resources equities is driven largely by commodity prices. It follows then that in periods of rising inflation, natural resources equities have delivered strong relative returns.

Investors are focused on inflation

Inflation surfaced as the perceived greatest risk to equity markets over the next six months in a BlackRock Fundamental Equities survey of more than 1,000 U.S. investors ― ahead of geopolitics, Fed policy and COVID-19 resurgence.*

We do not see inflation sustaining at the current decades-high level over the long term, but we do expect it will settle into a range above the sub-2% seen in the aftermath of the GFC.

Taking constructive steps to position for the new investing regime can help prepare portfolios for the moment when deep uncertainty begins to give way to greater clarity.

© 2022 BlackRock, Inc. All rights reserved. *BlackRock Fundamental Equities survey conducted in May 2022 of 1,091 Americans aged 25+ with a minimum of $250,000 in investible assets.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Investments in natural resources industries can be affected by variations in commodities markets, weather, disease, embargoes, political and economic developments, taxes and other government regulations.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of July 2022 and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Prepared by BlackRock Investments, LLC, member FINRA.

©2022 BlackRock, Inc. All rights reserved. BLACKROCK is a trademark of BlackRock, Inc. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.