Asset Class Roundup | Real Assets

Investing in a Real World

December 5, 2023 | By: Stephen Bonnyman

Investing in a Real World

Real Assets may be well-positioned to play an important role in portfolios over the next cycle.


The inflation and interest rate moves over the past year have induced substantial volatility in global equity markets, forcing the reset of many valuation parameters and influencing market performance and breadth. While interest rates may contract from existing levels, we believe the very low rate environment of the past decade is unlikely to come back anytime soon. Inflation might well be harder to tame than implied by the broader market or by the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed)’s goals, and inflation protection may be a potential consideration in portfolio construction over the medium term.

This backdrop, coupled with the rising risk of an economic recession, could drive investors to seek opportunities with stable and growing yields, lower volatility earnings and lower correlation to the broader equity market. Real Assets (i.e. Commodities, Real Estate, Infrastructure, Utilities) have traditionally offered all those qualities, and, in many instances, these opportunities are currently available at undemanding valuations.

Globally, for example, the Utilities sector has suffered some of its worst years of underperformance as rising rates and narrow market breadth pushed investors into fewer sectors and stocks. The global Utilities sector now trades at some of its lowest observed multiples in many years (relative both to itself and to the broader market), even though margins and earnings for the group are improving. The largely capital-intensive Real Asset universe has broadly suffered from a lack of reinvestment funding over the past decade, which has allowed increasing pricing power to incumbent providers and created the potential of new opportunities for greenfield and brownfield investment.

Additionally, Utilities have traditionally outperformed in periods of falling inflation and falling rates (which would lead to the soft landing the market is looking for), and the opportunity for steady earnings, solid balance sheets and stable dividends may be the catalyst for investors to return to the group. In our opinion, a properly structured Real Asset portfolio can provide with the possibility of positive real returns, solid inflation protection, lower recession risk, lower volatility returns and meaningful diversification from the broader equity market.

While often forgotten, Real Assets also form the backbone for most of the thematic developments that dominate the existing news cycle. In the years to come, therefore, we believe they should play a key role in energy pricing and scarcity (Energy and Utilities); the dependence of electric vehicle production on lithium, nickel and other metals (Mining); renewable power and electrification’s need for generation and grid stability (Utilities, cables and towers); the unique power requirements and reliance on data centres of artificial intelligence (Real Estate); the expanding shortage of housing; and the ongoing challenge of food supply and food inflation (Fertilizers, farmland, logistics).

In short, an actively managed allocation to Real Assets may prove critical to investment performance over the next cycle, allowing investors to both participate in emerging trends and protect their portfolios from near-term economic risk.

Stephen Bonnyman
Stephen Bonnyman, MBA, CFA®
VP, Portfolio Manager and Head of Equity Research
AGF Investments America Inc.
VP, Portfolio Manager and Head of Equity Research

Stephen Bonnyman is Head of Equity Research and Portfolio Manager of AGF’s Global Real Asset portfolios. Working closely with the AGF research teams, Steve focuses on identifying companies with advantaged business models, solid balance sheets, favourable cost structures, attractive valuations or unrecognized growth. Steve is a member of the AGF Asset Allocation Committee (AAC), which is comprised of senior portfolio managers who are responsible for various regions and asset classes. The AAC meets regularly to discuss, analyze and assess the macro-economic environment and capital markets in order to determine optimal asset allocation recommendations.

He joined AGF in 2013 with more than 20 years of buy- and sell-side experience covering the global materials industry, including five years of institutional money management. Prior to joining AGF, Steve was Managing Director and Mining Analyst at a major financial institution, responsible for global company research coverage and equity market analysis. Prior to that, he was an analyst and portfolio manager at two leading asset management firms.

Steve has a B.Sc. in Geology from McMaster University and an MBA from Dalhousie University. He is a CFA® charterholder.

Portfolio Manager under AGF Investments Inc. and AGF Investment America Inc. CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by CFA Institute.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of AGF Investments.

Commentary and data sourced from Bloomberg, Reuters and other news sources unless otherwise noted. The commentaries contained herein are provided as a general source of information based on information available as of December 5, 2023 and are not intended to be comprehensive investment advice applicable to the circumstances of the individual. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in these commentaries at the time of publication, however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and AGF Investments accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use or reliance on the information contained here.

This document may contain forward-looking information that reflects our current expectations or forecasts of future events. Forward-looking information is inherently subject to, among other things, risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed herein. 

This material is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a recommendation of any specific investment product, strategy, or decision, and is not intended to suggest taking or refraining from any course of action. It is not intended to address the needs, circumstances, and objectives of any specific investor. This information is not meant as tax or legal advice. Investors should consult a financial advisor and/or tax professional before making investment, financial and/or tax-related decisions.

AGF Investments is a group of wholly owned subsidiaries of AGF Management Limited, a Canadian reporting issuer. The subsidiaries included in AGF Investments are AGF Investments Inc. (AGFI), AGF Investments America Inc. (AGFA), AGF Investments LLC (AGFUS) and AGF International Advisors Company Limited (AGFIA). AGFI is registered as a portfolio manager across Canadian securities commissions. AGFA and AGFUS are registered investment advisors with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. AGFIA is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and registered with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The term AGF Investments may refer to one or more of these subsidiaries or to all of them jointly. This term is used for convenience and does not precisely describe any of the separate companies, each of which manages its own affairs.

AGF Investments entities only provide investment advisory services or offers investment funds in the jurisdiction where such firm, individuals and/or product is registered or authorized to provide such services.

Investment advisory services for U.S. persons are provided by AGFA and AGFUS. In connection with providing services to certain U.S. clients, AGF Investments LLC uses the resources of AGF Investments Inc. acting in its capacity as AGF Investments LLC’s “participating affiliate”, in accordance with applicable guidance of the staff of the SEC. AGFA engages one or more affiliates and their personnel in the provision of services under written agreements (including dual employee) among AGFA and its affiliates and under which AGFA supervises the activities of affiliate personnel on behalf of its clients (“Affiliate Resource Arrangements”).

For Canadian investors: Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment fund investments. Please read the prospectus before investing. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated.

® The “AGF” logo is a registered trademark of AGF Management Limited and used under licence.

RO: 20231127-3251416