What can investors do to protect their portfolios from what feels like a rising tide of uncertainty? That was the big question which loomed over the House View segment of the abrdn gather APAC Investment Forum held last week in Singapore.

The opening sessions of the event – Investing in Change – Shaping Opportunities – brought together a roster of internal and external experts who contributed their latest thoughts on politics, economics and the ways different asset classes may behave.

Here are the edited highlights…

What’s the big picture?

  • Inflation is still above central bank target levels but should fall. Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea have led to a rise in maritime freight rates. If sustained, this could add some 0.7 percentage points to global headline inflation. However, we don’t think shipping disruptions will persist. The scale of global supply chain interference is much smaller than during the pandemic – good news for the inflation fight.
  • Central bank caution will delay the start of easing cycles. We expect either the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, or the Bank of England to start cutting interest rates by the end of Q2. Our more modest growth forecasts and view that equilibrium interest rates will settle at lower levels mean the eventual trough in developed market policy rates could be below where markets anticipate.
  • More unpredictable domestic and international politics will have implications for trade and commodities. In general, Asian countries should benefit from lower energy prices. But looking elsewhere in emerging markets – Latin America – the opposite is true. That said, Asia is more vulnerable to food security issues.
  • Emerging market central banks are well positioned to deliver rate cuts by mid-2024, amid high real rates, falling inflation and monetary policy easing in developed markets. Over the longer term, some economies are set to benefit from US-China rivalries, while the energy transition will create considerable sustainable infrastructure opportunities.
  • India’s economy will slow this year, but it will still outperform other major economies thanks to favourable structural headwinds. India is ‘the place to be’ right now as reforms bear fruit, domestic consumption is on the rise, and amid a shift to more productive economic activity. Other metrics of economic development, such as urbanisation rates and female participation in the workforce, offer further potential for growth.
  • Chinese economic growth will likely fall below 2024 consensus forecasts, as headwinds from the troubled property sector offset more accommodative government policy. The government has set a 5% growth target for 2024. While this may be achievable, it would probably require a lot more stimulus than we have already seen.

What’s the House View?

The House View – a synthesis of investment-team views built on our in-house economic research – offers our high-level views on  different asset classes (see Chart 1).

Chart 1: abrdn House View

Source: abrdn, Haver, February 2024.The views expressed should not be construed as advice or an investment recommendation on how to construct a portfolio or whether to buy, retain or sell a particular investment.

Where may there be pockets of opportunity?

Our investment teams on the ground dig even deeper to identify investment ideas at a more granular level within each asset class:

Fixed Income

  • Emerging market debt should do well in both a shallow recession and a slower-growth scenario. If, as expected,  central banks in developed markets cut rates later this year to support faltering economies, capital should start flowing back into emerging markets as global investors chase relatively higher yields.
  • Indian local currency bonds are due to be included in widely followed bond indices later this year. The economy is benefitting from a years-long programme of reforms. Meanwhile, bond yields of some 6.5% leave room for capital appreciation, especially if the central bank achieves its goal of structurally lower inflation.


  • Indonesia shares many of the same structural tailwinds as India – economic reforms, domestic consumption, a young population, low-cost labour and urbanisation – but the market is largely overlooked by investors. As such, Indonesian equities trade at much lower valuations than their Indian peers. This is a market in which  quality can be found at great prices.
  • Another market where we  still see value is China’s domestic A-share market. Despite all the noise, we think it’s impossible to ignore China. If you can be selective, there are great stocks that have performed well even over the past three years to be found. Despite US-China tensions, US presidential elections this year will provide some certainty; Chinese policy has become increasingly supportive over the past six months; meanwhile, a lot of the bad news is reflected in stock prices.
  • North Asian technology companies play vital roles at multiple points of the international supply chains that support the success of US technology firms (and firms benefitting from the investor interest in artificial intelligence). If you like the US tech story, you can gain exposure by looking at companies in Asia that can offer better valuations.


  • Global REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). While some areas of real estate are still struggling, listed REITs enjoy strong balance sheets and can acquire good assets at attractive prices. History shows that over the 12 months when a real estate cycle starts to recover, returns from traded REITs tend to outperform general equities and private real estate.
  • European real estate strategies  which invest in the ‘living’ theme cover specialist areas of real estate including purpose-built student accommodation and retirement homes. These sectors have suffered a big fall in market price since 2022, despite high user demand from long-term demographic trends and inflation-linked rental income.

Multi Asset

  • Renewable / social infrastructure – Asia accounts for some 50% of global carbon emissions1. There are plenty of opportunities for private capital to help finance the energy transition in the region. Investors can help bridge the funding gap in infrastructure development via both public and private markets.
  • Proceeds from royalties (such as music royalties) are another way to derive income from assets that have no correlation with public equities and fixed income markets.  This allows investors to achieve genuine portfolio diversification at times when mainstream assets are positively correlated. In the case of music royalties, whenever someone streams a song on Spotify, the owner of the rights receives a payment.

Final thoughts

It has been a rollercoaster ride in the financial markets over the past two years. Unexpected outcomes have left many investors questioning their own judgement.

As we look ahead to the rest of 2024, it’s too early to declare victory on inflation, we’re waiting for the US Federal Reserve to start cutting interest rates, and there are big concerns over US stock valuations. Meanwhile, political risk is growing in many places.

Despite the uncertainty, we think the prospect of lower US interest rates this year creates many attractive investment opportunities across a range of asset classes, and especially in fixed income and emerging markets.

We believe that a focus on quality, an allocation to income-generating assets and genuine diversification through alternative assets can create a sound foundation for future performance.

*The views expressed in this article should not be construed as advice or an investment recommendation on how to construct a portfolio or whether to buy, retain or sell a particular investment.
  1. Green Growth: Capturing Asia’s $5 trillion green business opportunity - Balasubramanian, A., Chua, J.H., Nauclé, T., Pacthod, D., McKinsey & Co., September 2022