What could go wrong in 2021? What could go right? HSBC’s economists and strategists have highlighted what they consider to be the most significant risks globally. These are possibilities, not forecasts. They vary in probability and possible impact, both globally and regionally. None may happen – but any could spring a surprise.
Economies quickly rebound as vaccines are rolled out. However, a virtuous US growth cycle could lead to the dollar strengthening, easing disinflationary pressures in the Eurozone, but with a varying impact on emerging economies’ currencies. Under this scenario, 10-year US Treasury yields would likely rise above 2 per cent.
Multilateralism is re-energised as, under Joe Biden, the US re-embraces the World Trade Organization and Paris Agreement - and even leads in helping low-income nations, possibly by boosting the IMF’s assistance capacity. A better global-trade climate would help export-oriented economies in Asia and commodity producers.
US-China trade relations may be less volatile but a positive surprise would be the new US administration completely removing tariffs on imports from mainland China and announcing no further restrictions on investment or trade flows.
Mainland China’s interest rates will not change this year under our base case, but stronger-than-expected demand or a property boom there could trigger earlier rate hikes that strengthen the renminbi.
Environmental, social and governance strategies are adopted at an accelerated pace in 2021 now that Joe Biden is US president. US investors would favour ESG-friendly companies over fossil-fuel heavy sectors and would favour green bonds that finance ESG projects.
Negative interest rates remain a live debate even if we expect no further rate cuts from G7 central banks in 2021. Although the probability is small, the impact would be big.
A new ‘taper tantrum’ may emanate from emerging countries rather than, as in May 2013 when the US Federal Reserve spooked markets by curbing its quantitative easing programme. Emergency policy moves in emerging economies took interest rates to record lows last year, encouraging unprecedented large-scale bond buying.
A commodity price shock in 2021 would likely mean that low inflation expectations in developed economies and significant labour-market slack would prevent a response from wages and thus would squeeze disposable incomes. But emerging markets could expect deteriorating inflation expectations, weaker currencies and higher inflation that, at the extreme, leads to increased interest rates. Major emerging-market commodity importers would suffer while commodity exporters benefit, but demand for their products would evolve over time.
Europe’s pandemic support weakens later this year as growth rebounds. Domestic political pressures in northern countries, particularly given German elections in September, could see political will for policy support fragment. Some European Central Bank policymakers might also argue for reducing monetary support, which could trigger volatility and create downside risks for the euro.
Disruption in financial markets – for example more frequent volatility spikes or funding difficulties – could unnerve investors. The US dollar and cash would be the main beneficiaries.
First published 11 January 2021.
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The following analyst(s), economist(s), or strategist(s) who is(are) primarily responsible for this report, including any analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) as author of an individual section or sections of the report and any analyst(s) named as the covering analyst(s) of a subsidiary company in a sum-of-the-parts valuation certifies(y) that the opinion(s) on the subject security(ies) or issuer(s), any views or forecasts expressed in the section(s) of which such individual(s) is(are) named as author(s), and any other views or forecasts expressed herein, including any views expressed on the back page of the research report, accurately reflect their personal view(s) and that no part of their compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation(s) or views contained in this research report: Max Kettner, CFA
Foreign exchange: Basis for financial analysis
This document has been prepared and is being distributed by the Research Department of HSBC and is intended solely for the clients of HSBC and is not for publication to other persons, whether through the press or by other means.
This document is for information purposes only and it should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities or other investment products mentioned in it and/or to participate in any trading strategy. Advice in this document is general and should not be construed as personal advice, given it has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. Accordingly, investors should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to their objectives, financial situation and needs. If necessary, seek professional investment and tax advice.
Certain investment products mentioned in this document may not be eligible for sale in some states or countries, and they may not be suitable for all types of investors. Investors should consult with their HSBC representative regarding the suitability of the investment products mentioned in this document and take into account their specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before making a commitment to purchase investment products.
The value of and the income produced by the investment products mentioned in this document may fluctuate, so that an investor may get back less than originally invested. Certain high-volatility investments can be subject to sudden and large falls in value that could equal or exceed the amount invested. Value and income from investment products may be adversely affected by exchange rates, interest rates, or other factors. Past performance of a particular investment product is not indicative of future results.
HSBC believes that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions, which depend largely on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations.
HSBC’s currency trade ideas on deliverable FX forwards (DF) or non-deliverable FX forwards (NDF) are usually identified on a time horizon of up to three months, although HSBC reserves the right to extend this time horizon on a discretionary, trade-bytrade basis.
HSBC believes an investor's decision to buy or sell an instrument should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations. Different securities firms use a variety of terms as well as different systems to describe their recommendations. Investors should carefully read the definitions of the recommendations used in each research report. In addition, because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views, investors should carefully read the entire research report and should not infer its contents from the recommendation. In any case, recommendations should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice.
Definitions for currency trades on DFs and NDFs
Buy: refers to buying the first currency in the named pair in exchange for the second currency in the named pair.
Sell: refers to selling the first currency in the named pair in exchange for the second currency in the named pair.
The tenor of the instrument will be denoted and will refer to a settlement date relative to the opening date of the trade idea e.g. 1m refers to a settlement date 1 month forward from the open date of the trade idea. NDF trades normally fix two working days prior to the settlement date.
Distribution of currency trades
The nature of foreign exchange forward trade ideas is such that there will always be an equal number of buy and sell trades (buying one currency in exchange for selling another), both outstanding and historically.
Equities: Stock ratings and basis for financial analysis
HSBC and its affiliates, including the issuer of this report (“HSBC”) believes an investor's decision to buy or sell a stock should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations and that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions. Ratings should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice. Different securities firms use a variety of ratings terms as well as different rating systems to describe their recommendations and therefore investors should carefully read the definitions of the ratings used in each research report. Further, investors should carefully read the entire research report and not infer its contents from the rating because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views and the basis for the rating.
From 23rd March 2015 HSBC has assigned ratings on the following basis:
The target price is based on the analyst’s assessment of the stock’s actual current value, although we expect it to take six to 12 months for the market price to reflect this. When the target price is more than 20 per cent above the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Buy; when it is between 5 per cent and 20 per cent above the current share price, the stock may be classified as a Buy or a Hold; when it is between 5 per cent below and 5 per cent above the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Hold; when it is between 5 per cent and 20 per cent below the current share price, the stock may be classified as a Hold or a Reduce; and when it is more than 20 per cent below the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Reduce.
Our ratings are re-calibrated against these bands at the time of any 'material change' (initiation or resumption of coverage, change in target price or estimates).
Upside/Downside is the percentage difference between the target price and the share price.
Prior to this date, HSBC’s rating structure was applied on the following basis:
For each stock we set a required rate of return calculated from the cost of equity for that stock’s domestic or, as appropriate, regional market established by our strategy team. The target price for a stock represented the value the analyst expected the stock to reach over our performance horizon. The performance horizon was 12 months. For a stock to be classified as Overweight, the potential return, which equals the percentage difference between the current share price and the target price, including the forecast dividend yield when indicated, had to exceed the required return by at least 5 percentage points over the succeeding 12 months (or 10 percentage points for a stock classified as Volatile*). For a stock to be classified as Underweight, the stock was expected to underperform its required return by at least 5 percentage points over the succeeding 12 months (or 10 percentage points for a stock classified as Volatile*). Stocks between these bands were classified as Neutral.
*A stock was classified as volatile if its historical volatility had exceeded 40 per cent, if the stock had been listed for less than 12 months (unless it was in an industry or sector where volatility is low) or if the analyst expected significant volatility. However, stocks which we did not consider volatile may in fact also have behaved in such a way. Historical volatility was defined as the past month's average of the daily 365-day moving average volatilities. In order to avoid misleadingly frequent changes in rating, however, volatility had to move 2.5 percentage points past the 40 per cent benchmark in either direction for a stock's status to change.
Rating distribution for long-term investment opportunities
As of 11 January 2021, the distribution of all independent ratings published by HSBC is as follows:
Buy 57 per cent ( 32 per cent of these provided with Investment Banking Services)
Hold 34 per cent ( 32 per cent of these provided with Investment Banking Services)
Sell 9 per cent ( 28 per cent of these provided with Investment Banking Services)
For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used during the transition from the previous to current rating models: under our previous model, Overweight = Buy, Neutral = Hold and Underweight = Sell; under our current model Buy = Buy, Hold = Hold and Reduce = Sell. For rating definitions under both models, please see “Stock ratings and basis for financial analysis” above.
Fixed income: Basis for financial analysis
This report is designed for, and should only be utilised by, institutional investors. Furthermore, HSBC believes an investor's decision to make an investment should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations.
HSBC believes that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions, which depend largely on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations. Given these differences, HSBC has two principal aims in its fixed income research: 1) to identify long-term investment opportunities based on particular themes or ideas that may affect the future earnings or cash flows of companies in corporate credit and based on country-specific ideas or themes that may affect the performance of these bonds in the case of covered bonds, in both cases on a six-month time horizon; 2) to identify trade ideas on a time horizon of up to four months, relating to specific instruments, which are predominantly derived from relative value considerations or driven by events and which, in the case of credit research, may differ from our long-term opinion on an issuer. Buy or Sell refer to a trade call to buy or sell that given instrument; HSBC has assigned a fundamental recommendation structure, as described below, only for its longer-term investment opportunities.
HSBC believes an investor's decision to buy or sell a bond should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations. Different securities firms use a variety of terms as well as different systems to describe their recommendations. Investors should carefully read the definitions of the recommendations used in each research report. In addition, because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views, investors should carefully read the entire research report and should not infer its contents from the recommendation. In any case, recommendations should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice.
HSBC Global Research is not and does not hold itself out to be a Credit Rating Agency as defined under the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Ordinance.
Definitions for fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations
Overweight: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to improve within the next six months. For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to outperform those of the other countries in our coverage over the next six months.
Neutral: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to remain stable for up to six months. For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to perform in line with those of the other countries in our coverage over the next six months.
Underweight: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to deteriorate within the next six months.
For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to underperform those of other countries in our coverage over the next six months.
Definitions for trades (Rates & Credit)
Buy and Sell refer to a trade call to buy or sell a bond, option on an interest rate swap ("swaption"), interest rate cap or floor, inflation cap or floor, or Total Return Swap ("TRS"). The buyer/seller of a TRS receives/pays the total return of the underlying instrument or index at the end of the period and pays/receives the funding leg.
Buy protection and Sell protection refer to a credit default swap (CDS): the protection buyer/seller is effectively selling/buying the reference entity's credit risk.
Pay and receive refer to a trade call to pay or receive the fixed leg of an interest rate swap (IRS), a non-deliverable IRS, the first named leg of a basis swap, the realised inflation leg of an inflation swap, or a forward rate agreement (FRA). An investor that executes a pay or receive trade is said to be "paid" or "received."
Payer and receiver refer to inflation caps or floors and to swaptions: a payer is an option giving the right but not the obligation to enter a paid position in an interest rate or inflation swap, and a receiver is an option giving the right but not the obligation to enter a received position in an interest rate or inflation swap.
ASW (also asset-swap, Buy on asset swap, Buy on an asset-swapped basis): Buy a bond packaged with a swap that is tailored to eliminate the bond’s interest rate risk, effectively transforming the bond to a floating rate instrument whilst preserving the credit exposure to the bond issuer.
RASW (also reverse asset-swap, Sell on asset swap, Sell on an asset swapped basis): Sell a bond packaged with a swap that is tailored to eliminate the bond’s interest rate risk, effectively transforming the bond to a floating rate instrument whilst preserving the credit exposure to the bond issuer.
Distribution of fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations
As of 10 January 2021, the distribution of all independent fundamental credit recommendations published by HSBC is as follows:
All Covered issuers Issuers to whom HSBC has provided Investment Banking in the past 12 months
Count Percentage Count Percentage
Overweight 125 27 79 63
Neutral 220 47 108 49
Underweight 126 26 51 40
For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used: Overweight = Buy, Neutral = Hold and Underweight = Sell. For rating definitions under both models, please see "Definitions for fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations" above.
Distribution of trades
As of 30 September 2020, the distribution of all trades published by HSBC is as follows:
All Covered instruments Issuers to whom HSBC has provided Investment Banking in the past 12 months
Recommendation Count Percentage Count Percentage
Buy 157 69 95 61
Sell 69 31 29 42
For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used: Buy/Sell protection/Receive/Buy Receiver/Sell Payer = Buy; and Sell/Buy protection/Pay/Buy Payer/Sell Receiver = Sell. ASW is counted as a buy of the bond and a paid swap, and RASW as a sell of the bond and a received swap. For rating definitions under both models, please see "Definitions for trades (Rates and Credit)" above.
For the distribution of non-independent ratings published by HSBC, please see the disclosure page available at http://www.hsbcnet.com/gbm/financial-regulation/investment-recommendations-disclosures.
Recommendation changes for long-term investment opportunities
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