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as of 12/31/23
Early in the fourth quarter, an increasingly restrictive rise in real yields and slowing employment and inflation momentum triggered a re-evaluation of U.S. Federal Reserve policy, which was confirmed by Fed comments suggesting its hiking cycle was complete. The Fed then surprised markets by communicating that rate cuts would likely occur sooner and in larger magnitude than expected. Bond yields and financial conditions reacted swiftly, pricing in rate cuts and easing liquidity conditions. The Fed’s pivot meaningfully increased the likelihood of a soft landing, in effect declaring it was shifting its attention from pure inflation fighting to a dual-mandate and a desire to balance growth and inflation. While global markets cheered the news, we believe this event also foreshadows the end of the 14-year U.S. dollar bull market and will usher in a cycle of relative outperformance by non-U.S. equities. Although we suspect financial markets may have moved a bit too far, too fast and expect some consolidation of gains and market volatility, we believe the time has come for investors to rebalance portfolios in favor of international equities.
Developed international markets historically perform favorably in an environment of declining rates and appreciating non-U.S. dollar currencies, as peaking real interest rates presage a transition from a slowing global economy towards re-acceleration and such markets tend to be more economically and interest-rate sensitive, while U.S. equities often lag on a relative basis as they traditionally outperform during the slowdown. We anticipate a sustainable period of enhanced relative earnings growth potential in most international jurisdictions – essentially a mean reversion or mirror image of the past several years.
We also expect the emerging markets in general, and particularly those economies and companies most geared to the improvement in domestic growth, consumption, and investment, to benefit most from this inflection point in financial conditions and capital flows. In anticipation of such an environment, we increased the portfolio's exposure during the year, and we entered 2024 with roughly 31% of assets in developing world investments, one of the higher weights in the strategy's history and well above the peer average.
Historically, the interest-rate and bond-yield sensitive markets and regions such as Europe, Latin America (particularly Brazil), India and Southeast Asia are disproportionate beneficiaries, and we believe our portfolios are well-positioned to benefit, given our overweight positions in Europe, India and LatAm/Brazil, and our structural and thematic bias towards domestic consumer, financial, and industrial leaders. In addition, our healthy exposure to mid and small-cap investments should also shift from a performance headwind to a tailwind in an environment of declining real rates.
as of 12/31/23
Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the investment carefully before investing. The prospectus and summary prospectuses contain this and other information about the Funds. You may obtain them from the Funds’ distributor, Baron Capital, Inc., by calling 1-800-99BARON or visiting www.BaronFunds.com. Please read them carefully before investing.
The performance data quoted represents past performance. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate; an investor's shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. The Fund’s transfer agency expenses may be reduced by expense offsets from an unaffiliated transfer agent, without which performance would have been lower. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data quoted.
Risks:All investments are subject to risk and may lose value.
The discussion of market trends is not intended as advice to any person regarding the advisability of investing in any particular security. The views expressed on this page reflect those of the respective writer. Some of our comments are based on management expectations and are considered “forward-looking statements.” Actual future results, however, may prove to be different from our expectations. Our views are a reflection of our best judgment at the time and are subject to change at any time based on market and other conditions and Baron has no obligation to update them
Portfolio holdings are subject to change. Current and future portfolio holdings are subject to risk.
The index performance is not fund performance; one cannot invest directly into an index.