December 6, 2017

United States, New York

  • Launches 2018 Global Outlook, Global Themes & Opportunities papers

  • Insights assist institutional investors to keep pace with dynamic global developments

Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), today outlined key themes and trends expected to influence economic and market dynamics in two papers, Mercer’s 2018 Global Outlook and the 2018 Global Themes and Opportunities. The investment themes that institutional investors should be considering include: the impact of a move from quantitative easing (QE) to quantitative tightening (QT); preparing for late cycle dynamics; political fragmentation; and stewardship in the 21st century.

“The global economy is growing at the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008. We expect this to continue into 2018, though this is likely to be reined in by tighter monetary policy at some point in the next few years.” said Deb Clarke, Global Head of Research, Mercer. “Overall, we view the primary risk to economies and markets as the ability of central banks to unwind easy monetary policy at an appropriate pace; particularly the risk that the  Fed raises interest rates too aggressively. Institutional investors should also pay attention to political risks and recognise the importance of assessing environmental, social and governance factors in their role as stewards of capital.” 

QE to QT

In response to low levels of unemployment and robust growth, many of the world’s major banks are starting to pull back on expansionary monetary policies  The US Federal Reserve (“the Fed”) recently announced a plan to gradually normalize its balance sheet over the coming years (referred to as Quantitative Tightening or “QT”). The Bank of England implemented its first rate hike since 2007 in November 2017. The European Central Bank has announced a reduction in the rate of asset purchases from January 2018. The pace and scale of the shift from monetary easing to tightening will be a major influence over economies and markets through 2018 and beyond.   

Preparing for late credit cycle dynamics

The later stages of a credit cycle typically present a challenging environment for investors, offering lower returns and greater risks than the early or mid-cycle periods. While we anticipate the current economic strength will continue into 2018, investors should start considering the ways in which they might prepare portfolios for the risks and opportunities that the late stage of this credit cycle could present.

Political fragmentation

Since the financial crisis of 2008, politics have become increasingly polarised, manifesting in the Brexit vote, elections across Europe, the election of Donald Trump and more recently in the Catalan bid for independence. Investors are likely to face an environment of heightened political uncertainty for some time and should consider stress testing portfolios when reviewing their strategy in 2018.

Stewardship in the 21st century

The financial crisis of 2008 chipped away at trust levels and as such, institutional investors increasingly need to recognize the importance of their role in acting as good stewards of the capital entrusted to them. Investors need to have a transparent set of beliefs in relation to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues as well as recognizing and managing systemic risks such as climate change. It is anticipated that a growing percentage of investors will seek to reflect their values and to promote social good when investing their assets.

The 2018 Outlook white paper can be found here.

The 2018 Themes and Opportunities paper can be found here.

About Mercer

Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mercer’s more than 22,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), the leading global professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With more than 60,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $13 billion, through its market-leading companies including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.