Market Risk Trends ‘Ease for the Fifth Consecutive Quarter’

Risk declined in the first quarter of 2013, the fifth consecutive quarter in which overall risk levels trended downward, according to
‘Axioma Insight: Quarterly Risk Review’
, a report on the state of risk in publicly traded equity markets around the globe issued by the US risk analysis group.

“US sequestration, panic in Cyprus, weak job growth in Europe and the US – none of it had much impact on risk in the first quarter,” said Melissa Brown, senior director, applied research and co-author of the publication. “Once again, we detected no definitive undercurrents pointing to an imminent reversal of the current risk regime.”

Asset-asset correlations fell to five-plus year lows in most markets during Q113, driving a continued decrease in top-line risk, according to the Axioma report.

“Not only were the assets within markets much more differentiated, but the markets themselves appeared to be slightly less correlated,” said Brown. “From a risk perspective, the current investment landscape is substantially different from the crisis-driven markets that resulted from the global and European financial crises. With markets no longer in lockstep, equity investment managers and asset owners should see increased investment opportunities for active returns.

“We continue to believe that current risk levels, which are near historically low levels, remain sustainable for at least a while. Low volatility, coupled with a lack of good alternatives, can drive more investors into the equity markets, as we have already observed this year.”

However, the report does note that change could lie ahead. “Risk forecasts for China, Japan and Australia rose in the quarter, bucking the overall trend,” said Brown. “China’s forecast risk now exceeds that of the euro-crisis countries, and FTSE Japan is now one of the riskiest benchmarks we cover.”

The report also noted that changes in the risk exposures of benchmark stocks, or in the composition of the benchmark itself – not changing factor volatility – drove risk changes in some markets; a distinct departure from recent quarters. In addition, lower correlations were a bigger driver of declining risk than lower stock volatility, another shift in direction.

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