Goldman sees 'low returns' from pretty much everything except cash next year

  • Next year could bring lower paybacks across major investment classes — except for the U.S. dollar, according to analysis by Goldman Sachs.
  • “U.S. cash was the asset class with the highest return and a tough benchmark on a risk-adjusted basis as volatility has started to pick up,” says London-based Goldman Sachs strategist Christian Mueller-Glissmann.
  • Goldman remains "modestly pro-risk" and is overweight on cash, equities and commodities, while underweight bonds.
An employee of a bank counts US dollar notes.
Kham | Reuters
An employee of a bank counts US dollar notes.

This year has proven to be an average one for major asset classes — in multi-asset portfolios, neither equities or bonds performed particularly well. Next year could be more of the same for mostly everything but U.S. dollars and short-term money markets, according to analysis from Goldman Sachs.

"We generally expect another year of low risk-adjusted returns across assets in 2019," Goldman Sachs global equity strategist Christian Mueller-Glissmann said in a note to clients Tuesday. "We prefer cash and remain [overweight]."

Goldman said it is "modestly pro-risk" in its asset allocation: The firm is overweight equities and commodities and underweight bonds. Mueller-Glissmann said he still expects low returns for bonds and predicted their value as a hedge in a "risk off" trade is "likely to remain poor."

This year though, cash was its best bet.

"U.S. cash was the asset class with the highest return and a tough benchmark on a risk-adjusted basis as volatility has started to pick up," Mueller-Glissmann said. "Based on our forecasts, the reward for taking risk should improve in 2019 with a steeper efficient frontier, in particular due to higher returns for equities."

This week, equities rallied after the announcement of a three-month pause on the U.S.-China tariff escalation and higher oil prices after Canadian supply cuts and expectations for an OPEC cut. But the exuberance likely won't last into next year, Goldman said.

On a positive note, the London-based analyst said that at the beginning of this year, most assets were expensive. Those sky-high valuations have mostly declined year to date.

"This improves the outlook for medium-term returns, but we see a weaker expected macro backdrop in 2019 as likely to limit return potential," he said.