Industries

Robeco – Perspectives Crédit : faire preuve d’humilité


La réouverture de l’économie va de pair avec de fortes distorsions qui font douter les banquiers centraux et certains économistes de renom. Pour Victor Verberk, co-responsable de l’équipe Crédit de Robeco, « dans une période comme celle que nous vivons, mieux vaut aborder les inconnues avec humilité et accepter que, parfois, il est difficile de prendre du recul ».

Quelques éléments sont toutefois déjà bien en place. Sauf accident, les États-Unis devraient enregistrer une croissance nominale de 10% cette année. La production industrielle semble en revanche avoir touché un point haut et la relance budgétaire devrait marquer le pas en Chine, puis aux États-Unis, ce qui signifie que les marchés sont parfaitement en phase avec la reprise idéale que nous connaissons actuellement, mais pas avec un avenir plus incertain.

Ces 16 derniers mois, les pouvoirs publics se sont arrogé des pouvoirs extraordinaires. Certains dirigeants pourraient-ils être tentés de faire durer cette situation après la fin de la pandémie ? « Après quatre décennies de néo-libéralisme et de laisser-faire, la fiscalité des entreprises, la planification centrale et l’ingérence sur le marché semblent désormais être des questions dont on peut débattre », ajoute Victor Verberk.

« Certaines très grandes entreprises pourraient se faire taper sur les doigts. Parallèlement, le travail pourrait représenter une part plus importante du PIB, au détriment des bénéfices et des marges. Notre analyse ne nous apportera pas de preuve de ces évolutions, mais il est possible qu’il s’agisse d’un mouvement qui s’étale sur plusieurs années. Les perspectives d’inflation à long terme sont incertaines, même si certains des arguments pro-envolée des prix semblent douteux. Si le vaccin est un succès, l’après-Covid pourrait fortement modifier un certain nombre de tendances sous-jacentes. »

Sander Bus, co-responsable de l’équipe Crédit de Robeco, ajoute que « dans un contexte de spreads historiquement faibles, il nous semble pertinent de faire preuve de prudence dans nos positionnements, même si l’année a de fortes chances d’être très calme (ou éventuellement baissière) pour le crédit. La dispersion entre les émetteurs n’a jamais été aussi faible, car le vent a soufflé dans le même sens pour tout le monde. Le risque représenté par les obligations moins bien notées n’est pas rémunéré, donc nous continuons de privilégier les émetteurs de qualité. »

Les fondamentaux sont solides, mais connus et reconnus

Les communications récentes de la Réserve fédérale américaine (Fed) montrent que les opinions divergent sur la date du débouclage, ainsi que sur le calendrier et l’ampleur des relèvements de taux. Jerome Powell, son président, affirme lui que, pour l’heure, il est urgent d’attendre. Le dernier communiqué de la Fed évoquait l’inflation et semblait légèrement favorable à un durcissement. Il ne portait que sur un seul comité de politique monétaire, mais les marchés seront extrêmement sensibles aux changements permanents de rhétorique. Les membres de la Fed estiment eux aussi qu’il faut faire preuve d’humilité car ils sont eux aussi confrontés à l’incertitude.

Et si l’inflation n’était pas temporaire ? De fait, certains moteurs (notamment du côté de la fiscalité et du travail) pourraient alimenter une hausse durable des prix.

Mais pas question de faire une crise d’angoisse, affirme Jamie Stuttard, stratège chez Robeco. « Nous n’anticipons pas d’inflation aussi forte que dans les années 1970. Le progrès technologique, les lois de l’avantage comparatif, le coût du travail et les arbitrages qu’il entraîne, la vocation lucrative du secteur privé, la démographie occidentale et l’amoindrissement du pouvoir de la main-d’œuvre par rapport aux années 1970 sont, selon nous, des facteurs trop importants. »

En termes de cycle, les fondamentaux montrent que la phase actuelle de la reprise économique pourrait difficilement être meilleure. Sur le fond, la récession ne s’est terminée qu’il y a quelques trimestres. Mais, pour nous, il faut se concentrer sur le fait que tout cela a été amplement signalé et intégré. Que se passera-t-il si des déceptions se produisaient ou qu’il était question de débouclage ?

Des valorisations synonymes de vulnérabilité

Sur le marché du crédit, les rendements excédentaires se sont révélés légèrement positifs ces derniers mois. « À cet égard, nous avons réduit notre bêta un peu trop tôt, reconnaît Sander Bus. Mais, en même temps, cela nous conforte dans l’idée que les rendements futurs pondérés des probabilités se sont encore dégradés. Nous avons dit que l’année serait baissière ou monotone pour le crédit, la monotonie étant l’option la plus probable (et la meilleure). Au niveau actuel des spreads, le coût d’une légère sous-pondération du bêta est très faible. Les points morts ont considérablement reculé. »

La sélection de titres a porté ses fruits, mais, en toute honnêteté, les exceptions sont plus rares qu’il y a quelques mois. Les paris sur la réouverture de l’économie ont été pris. Tous les secteurs, même les plus à risque (les compagnies aériennes, les croisiéristes et les loisirs par exemple), ont retrouvé leur niveau d’avant pandémie. La compression est générale.

Le crédit émergent a une longueur de retard. C’est là que nous constatons un potentiel de hausse plus franche. Il y a quelques pays plus difficiles, comme l’Argentine ou la Turquie, mais le secteur de l’énergie reste par exemple intéressant. De façon générale, nous continuons de trouver des cas particuliers au sein des titres privés et financiers exigeant davantage de recherche et de prendre des positions longues.

Sur la question des valorisations, nous estimons que la marge d’erreur s’est encore réduite. Le rapport de stabilité financière du mois de mai de la Fed soulignait que les valorisations de nombreux marchés étaient désormais à la merci d’une dégradation de l’appétit pour le risque. Une fois encore, cela prouve qu’il faut toujours se préparer à l’inattendu : c’est comme ça que fonctionne le marché.

Nous sous-pondérons légèrement le bêta et nous en sommes satisfaits, car cela nous permet d’engranger, grâce à la sélection de titres, un rendement correct et une certaine surperformance.

Attention aux biais de confirmation

Après des mois et mois de surperformance, il est tout à fait normal d’extrapoler et de penser que cela durera toujours. Les biais de confirmation jouent bel et bien un rôle : il est de plus en plus difficile de justifier et d’expliquer la fin d’une aussi longue période de rendements excédentaires positifs. En ce moment, dans l’équipe, les débats sont animés. Mais il faut aussi savoir faire preuve d’humilité et accepter les incertitudes à venir.

Une chose est sûre : les facteurs techniques sont toujours solides. « C’est le changement qui nous inquiète, souligne Victor Verberk. Les fondamentaux et le contexte technique étant si bien balisés, nous ne pensons que juin 2021 sera un moins porteur d’opportunités. À ce propos : les 13 dernières années nous ont fourni cinq grandes opportunités d’achat, soit en moyenne une tous les 2,6 ans. C’est plutôt drôle pour une équipe de crédit avec un style actif contrariant. »

Prudence obligatoire

Le marché du crédit devrait (dans le meilleur des cas) produire un rendement supérieur aux coupons. « L’année devrait être monotone, prévient Sander Bus. Pour nous, mieux vaut donc faire preuve de prudence. La majorité des gens pensent que tous les signaux sont au vert sur le marché du crédit. Le marché ne rémunère plus les risques extrêmes et il est à la merci des mauvaises surprises. Les biais de confirmation sont partout. »

Nous ne sous-pondérons pas fortement les bêtas pour autant, puisque nous sommes à peine en dessous de 1. Compte tenu de la très faible dispersion, il n’est plus rentable de miser sur des valeurs plus risquées. Nous estimons toutefois que les banques, les paris post-Covid et certains titres sont intéressants. Notre positionnement est le même dans toutes les catégories de crédit.

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You should consider carefully whether the investment is suitable for you. Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services license for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such license. Additional Information for investors with residence or seat in Spain Robeco Institutional Asset Management BV, Sucursal en España with identification number W0032687F and having its registered office in Madrid at Calle Serrano 47-14º, is registered with the Spanish Commercial Registry in Madrid, in volume 19.957, page 190, section 8, sheet M-351927 and with the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) in the Official Register of branches of European investment services companies, under number 24. 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