Market Commentary July 2014
Global equity markets were broadly positive over the month with emerging outperforming developed markets. Indian equities continued to experience buoyant returns from the recent election win.
In the UK, comments from the central bank governor escalated expectations of an interest rate rise, having an adverse effect on markets. The announcement of an interest rate cut in Europe had a positive impact on the market initially, although ended June in a loss. Fixed interest markets were mixed with corporate bonds generally outperforming government bonds due to their higher level of yield.
US equity markets surpassed all-time highs driven by returns from less economically sensitive companies. The final reading of US first quarter GDP was confirmed at -2.9%, with bad weather having a worse than expected impact. The Federal Reserve announced a further $10bn per month taper of asset purchases at the central bank’s monthly meeting. Interest rates were left unchanged at 0.25%. US unemployment remained unchanged at 6.3% in May, lower than expected. US inflation was confirmed at its highest rate in over 18 months in May, at 2.1%. Housing data revealed an increase in sales, but slowing price appreciation as well as a sharp reduction in mortgage applications.
European equity markets were marginally lower over the month, led by losses in the financials sector. The European Central Bank announced an interest rate cut from 0.25% to 0.15%, a new historic low. The deposit rate was cut from 0% to -0.1%, therefore costing banks to deposit money at the bank. Eurozone inflation fell to 0.5% in May, down from 0.7%. Manufacturing data remained positive, with most recent figures showing expansion. Economic confidence indicators revealed a drop, below consensus expectations. Unemployment fell to 11.7% in April but remained elevated relative to developed market peers.
UK equity markets failed to deliver positive returns, amid a period of low volatility. Markets were adversely affected by comments from Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who said an interest rate rise could happen sooner than markets currently expect. The bank later announced mortgage lending restrictions affecting those with lower income to mortgage values. First quarter GDP was confirmed at 0.8%, in line with previous estimates. UK CPI inflation was announced at 1.5% in May, lower than expected largely due to falling transport services costs. Unemployment fell to 6.6% in April, which was lower than expected and a five-year low. UK retail sales declined, although at a less than expected rate due to a boost from world cup kit sales.
Asian equity markets were buoyed by Indian election optimism, following the release of early policy decisions announced by the newly elected government. Indonesian markets ended lower with investors less confident on the results of the upcoming election. Chinese manufacturing data was announced higher than expected, showing expansion in the sector. Japanese equity market returns were strong over the month, with investors overlooking the consumption tax increase implemented in April. Japanese unemployment was announced at 3.5% in May, a sixteen-year low.
Emerging market equities ended the month higher, led by Latin America. The Brazilian government announced further stimulus measures to support the manufacturing sector. The Mexican central bank cut its interest rate to a record low of 3% and economic growth in Colombia was confirmed ahead of expectations. The Russian Federation Council revoked a resolution authorising military intervention in Ukraine at President Putin’s request. This led to a rally in equity and bond markets. Oil prices rose after forces in Iraq took control of a northern oil hub, restricting supply. Natural gas prices also escalated as Russia cut off supplies to Ukraine.
Fixed interest markets were mixed amid a period of varied central bank policy. German government bond yields ended lower largely due to a rate cut from the European Central Bank. US and UK government bond yields increased, in anticipation of interest rate rises sooner than expected.