General Investing Powered by BlackRock® | Q1 Performance and May 2023 Reoptimisation

09 May 2023

Analysed and guided by BlackRock®

  • Market Overview and Impact
  • Conservative, Balanced, and Aggressive Model Portfolios
  • Very Aggressive Portfolio

BlackRock Market Overview and Impact 

March marked a month of significant turmoil within the financial sector, but major asset classes still performed strongly and ended the first quarter of 2023 on a positive note. The collapse of US regional banks and concerns about broader contagion dragged market sentiment down, but was short-lived before confidence was restored. Meanwhile, central banks remain focused on fighting inflation, as seen by the Federal Reserve (Fed) and European Central Bank (ECB) sticking to plans of hiking the rates.

Global equities ended the quarter up, with developed markets outperforming their emerging counterparts as fears of broader contagion across the banking system eased in mid-March. Such rebound was propelled by technology stocks, despite losses in the financial sector following  Silicon Valley Bank’s (SVB) collapse. The Eurozone's financial sector managed to post gains over the quarter as Credit Suisse's problems were largely viewed as contained. Continued optimism about China's economic re-opening contributed to Emerging markets' positive performance.

Broad fixed income markets also saw gains over the quarter despite heightened volatility. Bond markets sold-off in February following sticky inflation and hawkish Fed’s rhetoric, but the failure of multiple banks across the US and Europe triggered concerns over monetary over-tightening and therefore prompted a sharp rally in government bond markets. Riskier parts of the fixed income markets, such as emerging market debt and corporate credit indices, also realized gains.

Conservative, Balanced, and Aggressive Model Portfolios

Performance Commentary

Broad equity and bond markets ended the quarter on a positive note despite recent concerns around the banking sector. The USD Undertaking for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) core models aligned with broad markets and saw positive returns over the quarter, but underperformed their respective benchmarks on a relative basis.

Within equities, allocation across the board drove positive absolute returns. On a relative basis, however, BlackRock’s cautious stance, given uncertainty around the direction of inflation and rates, prompted them to limit active risk despite market rebounds over the quarter.

Within fixed income, overall exposures were additive as bond markets started pricing in rate cuts after Silicon Valley Bank’s (SVB) collapse. During March, the portfolios gained from exposure to long-term US Treasuries, which helped capture much of its gains. BlackRock’s Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) exposures also contributed to returns as inflation proved to be stickier than expected. 

Within alternatives, portfolio exposure to gold also supported performance alongside global recessionary fears.

Total Returns (%)3 MonthsYTD1 Year3 Years (ann.)5 Years (ann.)Since Inception (ann.)*
Conservative Portfolio3.323.32-5.432.452.683.03
80/20 US Universal/MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP H**3.763.76-4.911.462.592.69
Balanced Portfolio5.015.01-6.489.105.275.41
40/60 US Universal/MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP H**5.445.44-5.718.495.365.43
Aggressive Portfolio5.715.71-7.0612.176.466.76
20/80 US Universal/MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP H**6.276.27-6.2012.036.566.67

Source: BlackRock, Morningstar as of 31 Mar 2023; Performance is based on USD total returns with income reinvested and net of total expense ratios but gross of transactions costs. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

*  Inception date for Conservative, Balanced and Aggressive models is 31 Dec 2014; Very Aggressive at 31 Oct 2016

** Using Global AGG/MSCI ACWI until 31 Dec 2017, US Universal/MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP Hedged to USD after 31 Dec 2017

Reoptimisation Commentary

BlackRock sees 3 possible scenarios for the rest of the year. 

  1. Goldilocks scenario: moderate growth and declining inflation that support risky assets. 
  2. Higher-than-expected inflation scenario: despite moderating inflation, price stickiness of some inflation components, such as rent, could potentially bring inflation higher than the level currently implied by the market.
  3. Hard-landing scenario: liquidity concerns potentially lead to a recession. While the asset manager does not see such cracks at the moment, they are remaining cautious given deposit flights are at a fragile equilibrium which is dependent on public perception. Given that the Fed has been acting quickly and effectively so far, this is not BlackRock’s primary scenario.

While hard landing is not BlackRock’s primary scenario, they seek to protect the portfolios from dispersion of different return scenarios. Therefore, they are keeping a low active risk – allocating to minimum volatility as a shock absorber and gold as a portfolio diversifier. Over the next few months, BlackRock expects to remain in between the goldilocks and higher-than-expected inflation scenario with small possibility of a hard landing. Hence, they are trimming their overweight in equity and taking profit as global stocks have rallied more than 5% in the past few weeks. 

Within equities, BlackRock is staying neutral on US as their research shows deteriorating fundamentals yet relatively positive sentiments. BlackRock is keeping a small overweight in emerging markets in light of the upside surprise to the data from China as the country reopens after three years of Covid stringency measures. On the other hand, they are trimming Japan and UK exposures as valuation has become less attractive. 

Within fixed income, BlackRock is making some adjustments to keep the portfolio duration neutral compared to benchmarks. They are maintaining the underweight in high yield as they expect credit and financial conditions remain tight. 

Within the alternative sleeve, BlackRock is adding to TIPS given their inflation expectations as they believe the market may be underestimating the risk of persistently higher inflation. For diversification purposes, they are also keeping allocations in Gold and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS). 

Very Aggressive Portfolio

Performance Commentary

As the global banking crisis stabilized and equity markets corrected in March, the Very Aggressive portfolio ended the month and the first quarter of 2023 on a positive note, but underperformed its relative benchmark for both periods. 

Over the quarter, allocation in US equities was one of the top contributors to absolute returns but detracted on a relative basis. BlackRock’s addition to European exposures in March was additive to active returns, while their underweight to Japan detracted.

Total Returns (%)3 MonthsYTD1 Year3 Years (ann.)5 Years (ann.)Since Inception (ann.)
Very Aggressive Portfolio6.196.19-7.4714.367.069.35
100% MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP H**7.117.11-6.7615.597.629.55

Source: BlackRock, Morningstar as of 31 Mar 2023; Performance is based on USD total returns with income reinvested and net of total expense ratios but gross of transactions costs. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

*  Inception date for Conservative, Balanced and Aggressive models is 31 Dec 2014; Very Agressive at 31 Oct 2016

** Using Global AGG/MSCI ACWI until 31 Dec 2017, US Universal/MSCI ACWI EUR/GBP Hedged to USD after 31 Dec 2017

Reoptimisation Commentary

BlackRock is staying neutral on US as their research shows deteriorating fundamentals yet relatively positive sentiments. Within US equities, however, BlackRock is shifting some allocations from environmental, social, and governance (ESG) enhanced strategies to ESG screened strategies, as they have less conviction on ESG enhanced exposures to outperform. On the other hand, they are trimming their UK exposure as valuation has deteriorated. To manage active risk, BlackRock is adding slightly back to Japan while maintaining their underweight position as valuations remain unattractive.They are keeping their overweight in Europe due to strong fundamentals and also maintaining their overweight in Pacific ex Japan as valuation has improved, and Australian and Hong Kong equities could potentially benefit from China’s reopening and stimulus. 

Overall, BlackRock is keeping their overweight in emerging markets - slightly underweighting EM ex-China due to weak fundamentals, but maintaining an overweight to China given the upside surprise to data from the country after reopening.


Source:  BlackRock, Performance commentary as of 31 Mar 2023. Reoptimisation date is 9 May 2023. This information should not be relied upon as investment advice, research, or a recommendation by BlackRock regarding (i) the iShares Funds, (ii) the use or suitability of the model portfolios or (iii) any security in particular. Only an investor and their financial advisor know enough about their circumstances to make an investment decision.

For StashAway General Investing portfolios that are powered by BlackRock, BlackRock provides StashAway with non-binding asset allocation guidance. StashAway manages and provides these portfolios to you, meaning BlackRock does not provide any service or product to you, nor has BlackRock considered the suitability of its asset allocations against your individual needs, objectives, and risk tolerance. As such, the asset allocations that BlackRock provides do not constitute investment advice, or an offer to sell or buy any securities.

BlackRock® is a registered trademark of BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates (“BlackRock”) and is used under license. BlackRock is not affiliated with StashAway and therefore makes no representations or warranties regarding the advisability of investing in any product or service offered by StashAway. BlackRock has no obligation or liability in connection with the operation, marketing, trading or sale of such product or service nor does BlackRock have any obligation or liability to any client or customer of StashAway.


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