StashAway’s Q1 2024 Returns: Riding the tailwind of global economic resilience

23 April 2024
Stephanie Leung
CIO Office

The first quarter of 2024 saw a divergence between global equity and bond markets, as resilient economic data supported the former and weighed on the latter. In this environment, our portfolios’ positioning under our Economic Regime Asset Allocation (ERAA®) framework continued to help them post solid returns and outperform their same-risk benchmarks on average.

What happened over the past three months? In spite of elevated interest rates and heightened geopolitical risks, the strength of the global economy – and the US economy in particular – helped to boost investor sentiment for equities and, in turn, share prices. And then there’s tech: strong earnings performance from most of the Magnificent Seven continued to buoy US stocks.

For fixed income, this economic resilience, paired with sticky inflation, had the opposite effect. Expectations for global central bank rate cuts have shifted over the past few months – with markets now pricing in a later start to US Federal Reserve rate cuts, as well as fewer reductions this year. That’s contributed to underperformance in bonds.

Put together, global equities were up a solid 8.3% for the year to end-March, while bonds were down 2.4%.

With that in mind, here’s how our portfolios performed in Q1 2024:

  • General Investing portfolios powered by StashAway
  • General Investing portfolios powered by BlackRock 
  • Responsible Investing portfolios
  • Thematic portfolios

General Investing portfolios powered by StashAway

StashAway’s General Investing (GI) portfolios posted positive absolute returns across StashAway Risk Indexes (SRIs) during Q1, and outperformed their same-risk benchmarks on average. 

Over the period, they were up +6.3% on average in MYR terms. That compares with an average +5.4% gain for their same-risk benchmarks.

Large-caps, tech and healthcare lifted equity performance in Q1

Global equities continued their rally into the start of 2024, off the back of resilient economic activity and strong performance from mega-cap US technology companies. These forces supported our portfolios – especially among our higher-risk SRIs, which have higher exposure to equities.

In addition, ERAA®'s allocations to US healthcare stocks also benefited our portfolios’ returns as the sector has seen solid performance since the start of the year – likely due to its attractive valuations and longer-term potential.

Looking beyond the US, robust returns from Japanese equities were also a source of support for our portfolios, as the country’s structural and corporate governance reforms have stoked  global investor interest in its markets.

Ultra-short bond returns offset the drag from longer duration 

Among our fixed income allocations, ERAA®'s overweight position on ultra-short US Treasury bonds in our lower and medium-risk portfolios was a key source of their outperformance versus their same-risk benchmarks. As US interest rates remain elevated, the asset class has remained attractive given its combination of high yield and low risk.

That helped to offset the drag from longer-duration US and other developed market (DM) bonds, which saw their prices decline over the quarter; strong economic data have tempered global central banks’ easing cycles – or, in the case of Japan, have allowed it to hike.

The rally in gold supported our portfolios in Q1

ERAA®'s overweight allocations to gold were a key driver in our portfolios’ performance in Q1. During the quarter, the asset class posted returns of 11% in MYR terms. Looking ahead, expectations of lower interest rates, elevated geopolitical risks, and global central bank purchases point to continued support for the precious metal.

The market has been volatile over the past few years, but our portfolios have continued to outperform

Our portfolios have also experienced lower volatility versus their same-risk benchmarks. On average, our GI portfolios faced annualised volatility of 4.7% in USD terms, versus 6.1% for their benchmarks during the quarter. 

Ultimately, this resulted in better volatility-adjusted returns versus our benchmarks, or a ratio of 1.8 in Q1, compared with 1.0 for their same-risk benchmarks. This ratio measures the return for each unit of risk taken.

That lower volatility in our portfolios has helped to protect against market drawdowns – which supports their performance over longer time periods.

In the chart below, you can see that this has indeed helped our portfolios outperform their benchmarks over the past two or so years of heightened market volatility – or by about 5.6 percentage points on average as of end-March.

General Investing portfolios powered by BlackRock

Our General Investing portfolios powered by BlackRock also posted positive returns in Q1 and were broadly in line with their same-risk benchmarks. They were up +8.4% on average in MYR terms, versus 8.3% for their benchmarks.

Here’s a detailed commentary on the latest reoptimisation by BlackRock.

Responsible Investing portfolios

Our Responsible Investing (RI) portfolios – which optimise for both long-term returns and ESG impact – also posted solid, positive returns and outperformed their same-risk benchmarks on average.

In Q1, they were up +7.2% on average in MYR terms. That’s better than a +6.7% gain on average for their same-risk benchmarks.

Similar to our GI portfolios, our RI portfolios benefitted from the rally in global large-cap equities, as well as US tech and healthcare. Gold was also a key source of support, as were ultra-short bonds – which offset the drag from longer-duration bonds.

Thematic portfolios

A sustained rally in risk assets – especially those tied to the tech sector – continued to buoy our Thematic portfolios into the start of 2024. Our Technology Enablers and Future of Consumer Tech portfolios posted solid, positive performance in Q1. Meanwhile, our Healthcare Innovation, and Environment and Cleantech portfolios saw more modest gains.

Technology Enablers

Our Technology Enablers portfolios achieved solid, positive returns of +8.9% on average in MYR terms in Q1. 

Broad investor enthusiasm for the technology sector continued to support these portfolios, with the semiconductor sub-sector driving the bulk of their gains during the quarter. Blockchain and cloud computing companies also posted positive performance. Those gains offset the drag from our allocation to the autonomous tech and robotics sub-sector, which was hit by large price declines for companies like Tesla. Among the portfolios’ balancing assets, ultra-short bonds and gold also contributed to returns, moderating the declines in longer-duration bonds.

Future of Consumer Tech

Our Future of Consumer Tech portfolios also saw solid returns of +5.7% on average in MYR terms in Q1. 

Similar to Technology Enablers, the continued rally in tech benefited our Future of Consumer Tech portfolios in Q1. The esports and gaming sub-sector was the largest contributor to these portfolios, supported by its exposure to chipmakers. The fintech sub-sector was also a key driver of performance, as increased interest in cryptocurrency buoyed companies like Coinbase. Also similar to our Technology Enablers portfolios, its allocations to ultra-short-duration bonds and gold also contributed to returns.

Healthcare Innovation

Our Healthcare Innovation portfolios posted more modest gains of +3.8% on average in MYR terms during Q1. 

The pharmaceuticals and global healthcare sub-sectors were the largest contributors to these portfolios during the quarter, as advancements in diabetes and obesity drugs lifted companies like Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk. Those exposures offset declines in some segments of the genomics sub-sector. As with our other Thematic portfolios, balancing assets like ultra-short bonds and gold were positive contributors to returns – especially among our lower-risk SRIs.

Environment and Cleantech

Our Environment and Cleantech portfolios saw gains of +3.3% on average in MYR terms during Q1. 

The environmental services, water and smart grid sub-sectors were the main contributors to these portfolios’ returns during the quarter. Those gains helped to moderate the declines faced by global wind and solar energy companies, as well as our allocations to global green bonds and inflation-protected bonds – which were also hit by the forces that buffeted the broader fixed income market.

Source: StashAway

Note: Returns in MYR terms for the relevant periods to end-March 2024. Due to the specialised nature of their underlying assets, our Thematic Portfolios do not have comparable same-risk benchmarks.


Our same-risk benchmarks are proxied by MSCI AC World Index (for equities) and FTSE World Government Bond Index (for bonds). The benchmarks we use have the same 10-years realised volatility as our portfolios.

Model portfolio returns are expressed in gross terms before fees, withholding taxes, and reclaims on dividends. They are provided only as a gauge of pure performance before other items.

Actual account returns may deviate from the model portfolios due to differences in the timing of trade execution (e.g. during the day vs close), timing differences and intraday volatility of reoptimisation and rebalancing, fees, dividend taxes and reclaims, etc. All returns are in SGD terms.

Past performance is not a guarantee for future returns. Before investing, investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses, and if need be, seek independent professional advice.

This communication is not and does not constitute or form part of any offer, recommendation, invitation or solicitation to purchase any financial product or subscribe or enter any transaction.

This communication does not take into account your personal circumstances, e.g. investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs, and shall not constitute financial advice. You should consult your own independent financial, accounting, tax, legal or other competent professional advisors.

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. Past Performance is not a reliable indicator of future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

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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