Looking Ahead to a ‘New Frontier’ for Investors


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June 5, 2020

 

 

IF HISTORY IS ANY INDICATION, the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a new era of technological progress and economic opportunity. “A look at the last 100 years shows that deep disruptions give way to innovation that benefits households, businesses and investors,” says Chris Hyzy, Chief Investment Officer for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank. Often, it’s the very disruptions—whether disease, war or depression—that pave the way for creativity and growth, he adds.

“As we look to the other side of the pandemic, we anticipate a period of renewal driven by digitization, automation, new investment in healthcare infrastructure and other forces,” says Ehiwario Efeyini, Director and Senior Market Strategy Analyst, Chief Investment Office, Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank. For investors, Efeyini adds, “one of the main lessons from history is the importance of recognizing new trends that may be obscured by more immediate challenges.”

“We anticipate a period of renewal driven by digitization, automation, new investment in healthcare infrastructure and other forces.” —Ehiwario Efeyini, Director and Senior Market Strategy Analyst, Chief Investment Office, Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank

 

Innovations of the past
In the latest CIO report, “The New Frontier: A History of Economic Crisis and Recovery from 1918 to COVID-19,” Efeyini writes that people living through the culmination of World War I and the start of the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 may have seen little cause for optimism. Yet out of those events came sweeping advances in telecommunications, manufacturing, media, arts and entertainment. From 1920-29, global GDP grew at 4%* per year and stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average produced annualized returns of 21.2%.1 Similar recoveries followed shocks such as the Great Depression and World War II, the attacks of 9/11 and the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

What’s likely ahead after coronavirus?
Similarly, the challenges of the current pandemic may lead to more automation and robotics in everything from manufacturing to retail, transportation, agriculture and food production, Efeyini says. “As one example, a renewed emphasis on hygiene will favor robots over humans in packaged food preparation.” We’re also likely to see greater use of medical technologies that support remote patient diagnosis and monitoring. And cloud computing adoption should grow due to increased reliance on telecommuting, distance learning and the need for ever greater data storage. Other areas of innovation include online retail and genomics, including advanced techniques for treating diseases.

Potential opportunities for investors
These developments may present long-term opportunities for investors in areas such as healthcare technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, information technology and systems software, Hyzy believes. Other promising areas include communications services, internet and direct retail marketing. The new era favors large U.S. companies, he says. And while a well-balanced portfolio includes a variety of stocks, bonds and other assets, “a higher than traditional exposure to stocks will, in our view, position investors to potentially benefit from this new frontier.”