What is 'Top-Down Investing'

Top-down investing is an investment analysis approach that involves looking first at the macro picture of the economy, and then looking at the smaller factors in finer detail. After looking at the big-picture conditions around the world, analysts next examine the general market conditions followed by particular industrial sectors to select those that are forecast to outperform the market. From this point, they further analyze the stocks of specific companies to choose potentially successful ones as investments by looking last at a particular company's fundamentals. Top-down approaches prioritize macroeconomic or market-level factors most.

Top-down investing can be contrasted with the bottom-up approach, which starts first with a company's fundamentals, where most of the emphasis is put, and then works its way up through the structural hierarchy, looking at macro-global economic factors last.

BREAKING DOWN 'Top-Down Investing'

When looking at the bigger picture, investors use macroeconomic variables, such as GDP, trade balances, currency movements, inflation, interest rates and other aspects of the economy. Then it works down a level to identify high-performing sectors, industries, or regions within the macroeconomy. Based on these factors, top-down investors allocate investments from efficient diversified asset allocations, rather than by analyzing and betting on specific companies. For example, if economic growth in Asia is better than the domestic growth in the United States, an investor might shift his assets internationally by purchasing exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track specific Asian countries.

Bottom-up investing is an opposite strategy to top-down. Practitioners of the bottom-up approach ignore macroeconomic factors and instead look at individual microeconomic factors that affect specific companies they're watching. For example, a bottom-up investor chooses a company and then looks at its financial health, supply, demand and other factors over a specified time period. Although there is some debate as to whether the top-down approach is better than the bottom-up strategy, many investors have found top-down useful in determining the most promising sectors in a given market.

Top-down investing may produce a more long-term or strategic portfolio, including more passive indexed strategies, while a bottom-up approach may lead to more tactical, actively managed strategies.

An Example of Top-Down Investing

For example, UBS hosted the 2016 UBS CIO Global Forum in Beverly Hills, Calif., to help investors navigate the current economic environment. The forum addressed macroeconomic factors that affect markets, including international government policy, central bank policy, international market performance and the effects of the Brexit vote on the global economy. The way in which UBS addressed these economic factors supports a top-down investment strategy.

Jeremy Zirin, a wealth manager who is part of UBS Wealth Management Americas, reflected on the benefits of top-down investing on June 28, 2016. Consumer discretionary stocks looked attractive to Zirin and his team, who implemented a top-down approach to identify strong consumer discretionary investments. His team took into account the above macroeconomic factors and saw that consumer discretionary was insulated from international risks and was bolstered by American consumers' spending power. Identifying this sector allowed him and his team ultimately to identify Home Depot as a good investment.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Investment Analysis

    Investment analysis involves researching and evaluating securities ...
  2. Sector Analysis

    Sector analysis is an assessment of the economic and financial ...
  3. Stock Pick

    A stock pick is the decision that a particular stock will make ...
  4. Macroeconomic Factor

    A macroeconomic factor is one that is related to the broad economy ...
  5. Factor Investing

    Factor investing is strategy in which securities are chosen by ...
  6. UBS

    UBS (derived from the Union Bank of Switzerland) is a multinational ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    A Top-Down Approach to Investing

    Use a global view to determine which stocks belong in your portfolio with the top-down approach.
  2. Investing

    Where Top Down Meets Bottoms Up

    Find the investing "sweet spot" by combining these two styles.
  3. Trading

    Technical Analysis Strategies for Beginners

    Technical analysis helps traders and investors navigate the gap between intrinsic value and market price by leveraging certain techniques.
  4. Financial Advisor

    Finding the right stocks and sectors

    The top-down investment strategy depends on economy and market strength. Find out what you should know before jumping in.
  5. Insights

    Macroeconomics

    Find out everything you need to know about macroeconomics.
  6. Small Business

    5 Ways to Keep Your Business Going in Hard Times

    Find out how to help your small business survive through difficult economic times. Learn some tips that owners can follow to help turn things around.
  7. Insights

    How Economic Reality Influences The Market

    The market is confusing enough. But when you consider how economic reality can influence market prices, it's downright baffling.
  8. Investing

    Finding Fortune In Foreign-Stock ETFs

    Think beyond your borders to reduce the impact of local market downturns.
  9. Investing

    ETFs For Sector Rotation Strategies

    Find out how exchange-traded funds can take the bumps out of your investing style.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is the difference between macroeconomics and finance?

    Dive into the world of economics by learning the key differences between macroeconomics and finance. These ideas help investors ... Read Answer >>
  2. How do you calculate GDP with the expenditures approach?

    Learn how to calculate gross domestic product, or GDP, using the expenditures approach, also known as the measurement of ... Read Answer >>
  3. Passive vs Active Portfolio Management

    Understand the difference between active portfolio management and passive portfolio management, and how each strategy benefits ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center