The Investment Clock
The concept of using a Clock to illustrate the cyclical nature of the economy with various investments positioned where they are most attractive can be traced back many decades. In the 1990s, Trevor Greetham, Head of Multi Asset at RLAM, started the research that led to the comprehensive Investment Clock model we use today.
The premise of the Clock is that the economy follows periods of expansion and contraction, overheating then cooling off, with inflation picking up and then falling away after growth slows. Each of the four phases of the cycle favours a particular asset class. Its current readings are based on past trends and the momentum of lead indicators.
The Clock’s horizontal axis measures inflation, while its vertical axis indicates economic growth. In simple terms, the economic cycle moves through waves, from prosperity to decline, with central banks inflating or deflating monetary policy as a means of stabilising activity within the economy.
Source: RLAM. For illustrative purposes only.
Tracking the movement through each of the Clock’s quadrants: Reflation, Recovery, Overheat, and Stagflation, can guide rotation across assets and sectors.
Using the clock
In order to use the Investment Clock, you need a way to tell the time. This can be easier said than done, and is dependent on an accurate reading and interpretation of the indicator data.
At RLAM, our asset allocation team are responsible for ‘telling the time’ on the Investment Clock. Head of Multi Asset, Trevor Greetham, and Senior Economist, Melanie Baker, work closely together to undertake a rigorous analysis of the data used to ‘set’ the Clock.
The Investment Clock diagram sums up which asset classes and sectors tend to do best at each stage of the global economic cycle. The positioning of each type of investment is based on more than four decades of historical data.
As well as asset performance, global economic growth trends, and inflation figures, their research encompasses many different indicators including earnings, housing, money supply, survey, employment and wage data among others.
In addition to this fundamental analysis, the team regularly engages with RLAM’s asset class specialists, as well as policymakers and external strategists, to formulate their views. From these multiple sources, the team has a high degree of conviction around their reading of the Clock.
The Investment Clock is an important part of RLAM thinking but it is only one of a number of intuitive factors included in the Multi Asset team's models. Quantitative analysis provides a firm foundation for making an investment decision but our pragmatic investment process leaves room for experience and good judgement to play their part as well. History often repeats itself in broad terms but there are unique aspects to every economic cycle.