You may have heard that now is the time to buy risk. In fact, BlackRock chief investment officer Bob Doll told CNBC viewers in October that "risk assets will continue to outperform safe assets."
Burt White, chief investment officer at LPL Financial, took that message one step further. He told CNN that it's time to "Sell the dollar and buy risk. It's a crowded trade, but a good one."
So what exactly is a "risk asset," and is it really a good trade if it's so crowded? I'm glad you asked.
Profile of a risk asset
As it turns out, a "risk asset" isn't nearly as risky as it sounds. It's a general term that refers to stocks and bonds generally, whereas a "safe asset" is Treasuries or cash. Further, when Doll was talking about "risk assets," he was actually referring to blue-chip stocks such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , and CSX (NYSE: CSX ) .
While those are good companies no doubt, I actually believe there's room in your portfolio today for slightly more "risk" ... and I'd like to help you put it there. But before we can do that, we need to be sure we're working from the same assumptions.
Make yours like mine
A recent article in The New York Times revealed a startling new reality. Namely, Mexicans who came to the United States to work are no longer sending money home to support their families. Instead, their families are now sending money north to support them!
Leaving aside the politics of labor migration, this is an incredible development. It means that our country, one that has attracted immigrants in search of opportunity for hundreds of years, is now struggling to create those opportunities. That, however, is what's bound to happen as an economy matures.
Combine that with the reality of massive and growing U.S. debts and you get a rather grim outlook for the U.S. economy.
Here's what we can do
To solve for this, I agree with experts I cited above who advise us to favor stocks and eschew cash and Treasuries. But I'll do them one better and advise that we should tilt our stock exposure away from the United States.
This does slightly raise your risk of near-term volatility given currency issues in places like Mexico, corruption issues in places like Brazil, and governance issues in places like China, but it doesn't mean you can't buy blue-chip-type companies. These would be names such as America Movil (NYSE: AMX ) , Canadian National Railway (NYSE: CNI ) , Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) , and even something like Dr. Reddy's Laboratories (NYSE: RDY ) . These are all conservatively run companies with modest valuations in defensive industries.
In fact, Dr. Reddy's is one of the companies we're slated to meet with during our upcoming Motley Fool Global Gains research trip to India. And while it's quite a bit smaller and pricier than the classic blue chip, we like its opportunity to bring needed generic and other pharmaceuticals to the world's emerging markets.
A word of warning
Remember, however, that these "risk" trades are crowded trades today. In fact, emerging-markets stocks have been among the most popular asset classes with investors this year (for more on that, see here).
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Tim Hanson is co-advisor of Motley Fool Global Gains. He owns shares of America Movil and Novartis. Both are Global Gains recommendations. Canadian National is a Stock Advisor selection. Intel is an Inside Value pick. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy wishes it could go to India, too.