Valuations in focus

Bonds remain in favor in time-varying model portfolio

June 25, 2024

Resilience in both the labor market and consumer demand has driven stronger-than-expected U.S. economic growth and generally rising equity prices this year. As a result, expected equity returns have declined, and our valuation-aware time-varying asset allocation (TVAA) model has become slightly more conservative in its total equity allocation.

Our TVAA is geared to investors who are comfortable with model forecast risk, a type of active risk in which investors embrace our disciplined model for navigating changing market and economic environments. We generally expect the model to deliver longer-term returns similar to those of its benchmark, a globally diversified, 60% equity/40% fixed income portfolio, but with lower volatility. Reduced expected volatility comes at the expense of active risk (tracking error relative to the benchmark).

The model has increased its fixed income allocation to 61% from 59% at year-end 2023, reflecting meaningful increases in our forecasts of 10-year annualized bond returns since the December 31, 2023, running of the Vanguard Capital Markets Model© (VCMM). Our return estimate for emerging markets debt is 0.2 percentage points higher, and our estimates for U.S. Treasuries and the broad investment-grade U.S. market are both 0.7 percentage points higher. The model’s increased bond exposure is in global ex-U.S. aggregate bonds (up to 30%, from 28%) due to the relative attractiveness of this asset class and its contribution to overall model portfolio risk. There have been no other changes in the model’s fixed income stakes. Most of the remainder is devoted to U.S. intermediate credit. 

Most of our forecasts of 10-year annualized equity returns have declined. They’re down 0.3 percentage points for U.S. equities and 0.1 percentage points for global equities excluding the United States, for example. The model suggests that equity prices have yet to adjust to higher interest rates. Consequently, our TVAA model remains conservatively positioned.

A bar chart showing allocations to equities and fixed income in a benchmark 60/40 portfolio and Vanguard’s time-varying asset allocation. In the 60/40 portfolio, our 60% equity weighting is broken down to 36% U.S. and 24% international, and our 40% fixed income weighting is broken down to 28% U.S. and 12% international. In our time-varying asset allocation, equities account for 39% of the portfolio and fixed income 61%. The equity breakdown is 13% U.S. value factor, 5% U.S. growth factor, 5% U.S. small factor, 8% emerging markets equity, and 8% developed markets ex-U.S. equity. The fixed income breakdown is 2% U.S. aggregate bonds, 2% U.S. short-term Treasury bonds, 4% U.S. long-term Treasury bonds, 23% U.S. intermediate credit bonds, and 30% international bonds.

Notes: Time-varying portfolio allocations were determined by the Vanguard Asset Allocation Model (VAAM). The assets under consideration were U.S. and non-U.S. equities and fixed income, as well as real estate investment trusts (REITs), U.S. high-yield corporate bonds, and emerging markets equities, which were used to illustrate time-varying allocation not only within equities versus fixed income but also within sub-asset classes. See the notes that accompany VCMM forecasts for additional details on asset class indexes. A minimum home-bias constraint of 60% was applied for U.S. equities, and 70% was applied for U.S. fixed income. The allocation to non-U.S. equities would have been higher had there been no home-bias constraint, given the asset class’s higher expected return. VCMM 10-year projections as of May 31, 2024, were used. The sum of individual sub-asset class allocations may not total 100% because of rounding. 

Source: Vanguard calculations, as of May 31, 2024.

Notes: Vanguard calculations are based on portfolios optimized by the VAAM, using return projections from the VCMM. Sharpe ratio is a measure of return above the risk-free rate that adjusts for volatility. A higher Sharpe ratio indicates a higher expected risk-adjusted return. Expected maximum drawdown is the median peak-to-trough drop in the portfolio’s value in 10,000 VCMM simulations. The probability of underperforming the benchmark is in any given year. 

Source: Vanguard calculations, as of May 31, 2024.

IMPORTANT: The projections and other information generated by the VCMM regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results. Distribution of return outcomes from the VCMM are derived from 10,000 simulations for each modeled asset class. Simulations as of May 31, 2024. Results from the model may vary with each use and over time.

Notes: All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. 

There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.

Investments in bonds are subject to interest rate, credit, and inflation risk.

IMPORTANT: The projections and other information generated by the Vanguard Capital Markets Model regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results. VCMM results will vary with each use and over time.

The VCMM projections are based on a statistical analysis of historical data. Future returns may behave differently from the historical patterns captured in the VCMM. More important, the VCMM may be underestimating extreme negative scenarios unobserved in the historical period on which the model estimation is based.

The Vanguard Capital Markets Model® is a proprietary financial simulation tool developed and maintained by Vanguard's primary investment research and advice teams. The model forecasts distributions of future returns for a wide array of broad asset classes. Those asset classes include U.S. and international equity markets, several maturities of the U.S. Treasury and corporate fixed income markets, international fixed income markets, U.S. money markets, commodities, and certain alternative investment strategies. The theoretical and empirical foundation for the Vanguard Capital Markets Model is that the returns of various asset classes reflect the compensation investors require for bearing different types of systematic risk (beta). At the core of the model are estimates of the dynamic statistical relationship between risk factors and asset returns, obtained from statistical analysis based on available monthly financial and economic data from as early as 1960. Using a system of estimated equations, the model then applies a Monte Carlo simulation method to project the estimated interrelationships among risk factors and asset classes as well as uncertainty and randomness over time. The model generates a large set of simulated outcomes for each asset class over several time horizons. Forecasts are obtained by computing measures of central tendency in these simulations. Results produced by the tool will vary with each use and over time.

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