You may have heard that now is the time to buy risk. In fact, BlackRock chief investment officer Bob Doll told CNBC viewers recently 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.
While those are undoubtedly good companies, 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 Canadian National Railway (NYSE: CNI ) , SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM ) , Chunghwa Telecom (NYSE: CHT ) , Enbridge (NYSE: ENB ) , and PotashCorp (NYSE: POT ) . These are all conservatively run companies with modest valuations in defensive industries.
A word of warning
Remember, however, that these "risk" trades are crowded trades today. In fact, emerging-market stocks have been among the most popular asset classes with investors this year (for more on that, see here). But that's why you need careful research and stock selection.
This article was first published on Nov. 20, 2009. It has been updated.
Tim Hanson is co-advisor of Motley Fool Global Gains. He does not own shares of any company mentioned. SK Telecom is a Motley Fool Global Gains picks. Canadian National is a Stock Advisor pick. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a "buy calls" position on Johnson & Johnson. Now is the time to read the Fool's disclosure policy.