Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Aug 17, 2022

Allocation, Pt. 2: The Value in Diversification

with Andrew Sheets and Lisa Shalett


Andrew Sheets Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research.

Lisa Shalett And I'm Lisa Shalett, Chief Investment Officer for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Andrew Sheets And on part two of this special episode, we'll be continuing our discussion of the foundational 60/40 portfolio.  It's Wednesday, August 17th at 4:00 PM in London.

Lisa Shalett And it's 11:00 AM here in New York.

Andrew Sheets So Lisa, I know the positive correlations won't lift the 60:40 portfolio’s volatility too much, but would you say that investors have been inclined to accept more equity risk in recent decades because the cushioning effect of fixed income and this idea that if anything goes wrong, the Fed will kind of ride to the rescue and support markets?

Lisa Shalett Yes I do. And I think, you know, part of the issue has been that we've been not only in a regime of falling interest rates, which has supported overall equity valuations, but we've lived in a period of suppressed volatility with regard to the direction of policy. We've been in this forward guidance regime, if you will, from the central bank where not only was the central bank holding down the cost of capital but they were telegraphing the speed and order of magnitude and pace of things which took a huge amount of volatility out of the market for both stocks and bonds and permitted risk taking. I mean, my goodness, you know, when was the last time in history that we had such negative “term premiums” in the pricing of bonds? That was a part of this function of this idea that the Fed's going to tell us exactly what they're going to do and there's this Fed put, and any time something unexpected happens, they will, you know, “come to save the day.”

And so I think we're at the beginning, we're literally in my humble opinion in the first or second innings of the market fundamentally wrapping their heads around what it means to no longer be in a forward guidance regime. Where the central bank, in their ambitions to normalize policy to crush inflation have to inherently be more data dependent and data dependency is inherently more volatile. And so I do think over time we are going to see these equity risk premiums, which, you know, as we've discussed earlier, had gotten quite compressed, widen back out to something that is more normal for the amount of risk that equities genuinely represent.

Andrew Sheets And Lisa, I think that's such a great point about the predictability of monetary policy cause you're right, you know, that's another interesting similarity with the period prior to 2000. That period was a period of a much more unpredictable Fed between, you know, 1920 and the year 2000 where in more recent years, the Fed has become very predictable. So, that's another good thing that we should, as investors, think about is does that shifting predictability of Fed action, does the rising uncertainty that the Fed is facing, you know, is that also an important driver of this stock bond correlation. So boiling it all down, how are you talking about all of this to clients to help them reposition portfolios to navigate risk and potential return?

Lisa Shalett I think at the end of the day you know, the most important thing that we're sitting with clients and talking about is that these fundamental building blocks of asset allocations, stocks and bonds, while they may correlate to one another differently, while they're each inherent volatilities may move up and therefore the volatility of that 60:40 portfolio may readjust some, the reality is, is that they’re still very important building blocks that play different roles in the portfolio that are both still required. So, you know, your stocks are still going to be that asset class that allows you to capture unexpected growth in the economy and in the overall profit stream, while fixed income and your rates market is still going to be that opportunity to cushion, if you will, disappointments in growth.

As we know that they, come over the course of a cycle. In that regard, as we look to this repricing of interest rates and what it may mean, we are encouraging our clients to look much more deliberately, actively, at being diversified across styles, across factors, across market capitalizations because these dynamics are changing. If we look back over the last 13 years, because the narrative around falling interest rates and Fed forward guidance and low volatility, and these correlations, these very stable correlations, and everything's going our way, you didn't need to look very far beyond just owning that passive S&P 500 index. Now, as things begin to normalize and get more inherently volatile and idiosyncratic, we look at where there may be, “value” in the traditional factor sense, to look down the market capitalization scheme to smaller and mid-cap stocks, to look at more cyclical oriented stocks that may be responding to this higher interest rate, higher inflation regimes. And so we're encouraging maximum levels of diversification within these building blocks and very active management of risk

Andrew Sheets Lisa as always, thanks for taking the time to talk.

Lisa Shalett It's my pleasure, Andrew.

Andrew Sheets And as a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.


While shifts in stock and bond correlation have increased the volatility of a 60:40 portfolio, investors may still find some balance in diversification. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Chief Investment Officer for Wealth Management Lisa Shalett discuss.