Cat: Market commentary
10 Jul

Market Commentary October 2014

Global equity markets suffered losses led by weakness in Asian and emerging markets. Poor data in China as well as protests in Hong Kong caused some disruption.

Broader emerging markets were impacted by falling commodity prices which have seen increased supply combined with weaker demand from China. The European Central Bank surprised markets with a further cut in interest rates, while the US Federal Reserve continued to tighten monetary stimulus. In the UK, markets failed to gain traction by month end following nervousness around the referendum vote. Fixed income markets suffered but later offset some losses as investors sought after safety from global events.

US equity markets fell over the month, with the broader market brought lower by cyclical sectors including energy, consumer discretionary and IT. Second quarter GDP rose to 4.6% in its final estimate, mostly attributable to increasing business investment and exports. The US Federal Reserve announced further reductions to its quantitative easing program, reducing monthly purchases from $25bn to $15bn. Unemployment fell to 6.1% in August, in line with expectations. Retail sales rose to 0.6% in August, led by a sales increase in automobiles and building materials & garden supplies. US new home sales rose to 504,000 in August, highlighting the biggest one month jump since 1992.

European equity markets were marginally positive over the month. The European Central Bank announced an interest rate cut to 0.05% and further lowered its negative deposit rate. The bank added that it would initiate a private quantitative easing package to help boost lending and liquidity. The euro was adversely impacted by the news, having a favourable outcome for export companies. Eurozone industrial production surpassed expectations, rising to 2.2% in July, higher than the previous months’ figure of nil growth.

UK equity markets ended the month lower, following market nervousness ahead of the referendum vote. The Scottish referendum ended with a 55% majority voting against the country becoming an independent nation. The latest Bank of England minutes revealed that 2 members (out of 9) again voted for an increase in the interest rate, taking the view that wage inflation may rise soon. Unemployment fell to 6.2% in July, lower than 6.4% the previous month. CPI inflation fell to 1.5% in August, attributable to lower fuel and food & non-alcoholic drink prices. UK retail sales rose 3.9% in August, driven by a sales increase for household goods.

Asian equity markets experienced sharp falls over the month, following a period of poor macroeconomic data and lower commodity prices. Chinese industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment all fell short of expectations. In Hong Kong, thousands protested against planned changes to the country’s democratic elections system, causing stock market and currency weakness. The central bank later announced liquidity measures to support markets. The People’s Bank of China also reported it would be injecting 500bn yuan stimulus into the five biggest banks, in the form of low duration, low interest rate loans. Japanese equity markets gained with export companies benefitting from yen depreciation. No changes were announced at the Bank of Japan meeting.

Emerging market equities were negatively impacted by commodity losses and poor data in China, as well as a number of adverse market events. Brazilian markets suffered as a result of election opinion polls showing Dilma Rousseff gaining momentum as the country’s future President. In Russia, President Putin outlined plans for ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, although the Ukrainian Prime Minister dismissed the proposal. The US and EU later implemented a new round of sanctions targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defence sectors. Turkish markets suffered following weaker second quarter GDP and higher inflation.

Fixed income markets were initially hindered by investors bringing forward interest rate rise expectations, leading to higher government bond yields. The bond market was later supported by investors seeking safety from global events. Investment grade corporate bonds generally outperformed government bonds over the month.

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Cat: Market commentary
01 Dec

Market Commentary Q3 December 2014

Global equity markets ended the quarter with a mix of positive and negative returns, alongside an assortment of economic data.

US markets benefited from a sharp upward reversal in economic growth over the second quarter, alongside strong retail sales and housing data. In Europe, economic growth stagnated and the central bank surprised markets with a further reduction in interest rates to help boost growth. In the UK, investors were hesitant in the lead up to the Scottish referendum, which resulted in a majority vote to keep Scotland part of the Union. Asian markets were dragged lower towards the end of the quarter as protests across Hong Kong brought large parts of the city to a standstill. Emerging markets saw swinging sentiment from events between Russia and Ukraine, including multiple sanctions to and from Russia. Fixed income markets were broadly positive, given lower bond yields, particularly in Europe following central bank action.

US equity markets surpassed all-time highs over the quarter and ended marginally positive. Second quarter GDP was revised up to   4.6% in its final estimate, which was largely due to an increase in non-residential fixed investment and exports. The US Federal Reserve announced two further cuts to its quantitative easing program, reducing monthly bond purchases from $35bn to $15bn, as expected by the wider market. The central bank’s latest forecasts indicated the timing of rising interest rates, would be faster than initially anticipated. Retail sales were announced higher than expected in August, led by a sales increase in automobiles and building material/garden supplies. US unemployment fell to 6.1% in August, meeting expectations of a 0.1% fall over the month. The number of new home sales experienced their biggest monthly increase since 1992, with sales increasing to an annual rate of 504,000 in August.

European equity markets were flat over the quarter, recovering from a dip in early August. Equity markets tumbled as industrial production data in both France and Italy was announced significantly below expectations, as well as Portugal’s second largest bank missing debt repayments. Second quarter GDP remained at 0% in its second estimate, as rising household consumption was not high enough to offset lower investment and inventories. Italy entered technical recession following negative economic growth figures announced in the second quarter, severely impacting the Italian stock market. The European Central Bank announced a 0.10% cut in interest rates to 0.05% and deposit rates by 0.10% to -0.20%, taking market participants by surprise. President Mario Draghi added that the central bank would be initiating a ‘private quantitative easing package’ to help boost lending and liquidity. The announcement had a positive initial reaction within equity markets. The latest inflation figure was announced at 0.3% in September, well below the central bank’s target rate and the lowest level recorded in 5 years. Both manufacturing and services sector data came in lower than expectations in August. Unemployment was left unchanged at 11.5% in August.

UK equity markets were broadly flat over the quarter as markets were nervous approaching the results of the Scottish referendum, particularly following weekend poll results showing a majority in favour of a ‘yes vote’. The referendum ended with a 55% majority voting against the country becoming an independent nation. The result provided an instant boost to equity markets and the sterling currency. The Bank of England minutes showed that in two of the latest meetings, 2 out of 9 members voted for a 0.25% increase in interest rates. This marked the first time since July 2011 that all members did not vote unanimously. Second quarter GDP was revised up to 0.9% in its final estimate and CPI inflation fell to 1.5% in August, which was led by lower fuel and food & non-alcoholic drink prices. Unemployment fell to 6.2% in July, lower than the previous month’s figure and surpassing consensus expectations. Retail sales figures rose by 3.9% year-on-year in August, driven by a sales increase for household goods. Latest housing data provided by Nationwide revealed that UK house prices rose 11% over the year in August, surpassing consensus expectations.

Asian equity markets incurred marginal losses in broad terms, with some disparity of data across the region. The People’s Bank of China reported it would be injecting ¥500bn of stimulus into the five largest banks in China in order to boost growth. This was following announced foreign direct investment which came in at its lowest level in 4 years. Indian equity markets led the broader market higher following election results, where investors are expecting greater support for businesses from the Indian government. Conversely, in Hong Kong, thousands protested against planned changes to the democratic elections system, causing stock market and currency weakness. The central bank was forced to announce liquidity measures to support markets. In Japan, second quarter GDP fell to       -1.8% in its final reading. The data was misleading as consumers made significant purchases in the first quarter, ahead of the impending consumption tax increase, which negatively impacted second quarter data. Japanese unemployment fell to 3.5% in August, from 3.8% in the previous month.

Emerging markets were marginally lower, as continued geopolitical tensions weighed on markets. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine remained, with the uncertainty having an adverse impact on financial markets. The EU imposed further sanctions on Russian businesses including an arms embargo, restrictions on offshore energy exploration and curbs on Russian banks trading in European markets. President Putin reacted by announcing a ban on food imports coming from a number of countries for up to one year. It was feared the ban could have a relatively large impact, given that Russia is the 5th largest food importer in the world. The Bank of Russia raised interest rates from 7.5% to 8%, due to concerns around inflation, ongoing tensions and to protect the rouble.

President Obama sent air strikes to northern Iraq targeting ISIS terrorists, creating some aversion to risk-assets. Argentina defaulted on its debt after failing to make a $539m payment to a group of bond holders, marking the first default since 2001. Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s instantly downgraded the country’s rating to ‘selective default’.

In fixed interest markets, yields on government bonds fell, over a quarter of fairly rapid movements in either direction. The yield on the 10-year German bund fell below 1% for the first time on record, following the interest rate cut from the European Central Bank. Yields on the UK, German and US 10-year bond ended the quarter at 2.43%, 0.95% and 2.50% respectively. Yields across broader emerging market bonds (local currency) rose, following emerging market tensions and various rate rises.

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Cat: Market commentary
18 Nov

Market Commentary November 2014

 Global equity markets were mixed over the month. Earlier in the period markets reacted negatively to the IMF downgrading its global growth

forecast including sharp cuts in the Middle East, Russia and Japan, whilst sharply upgrading the US. Some markets came back to deliver positive returns for investors following a raft of more encouraging economic data and further stimulus measures announced by multiple central banks. Lower commodity prices adversely impacted selective emerging countries which are more reliant on revenues from materials and energy.

US equity markets provided strong relative returns over the month, as the market pulled back from an early dip. More defensive sectors including consumer staples and health care outperformed, while consumer discretionary and IT lagged the broader market. The US Federal Reserve announced it would be ending its stimulus program, which was widely anticipated by market participants. US unemployment fell to 5.9% in September, lower than expectations.

European equity markets ended the month lower, following worsening economic growth expectations. Industrial production in Germany experienced its greatest month-on-month decline since January 2009 in August. This was hindered by weak demand across Europe and China, as well as trade disruptions with Russia. Interest rates were left unchanged at the European Central Bank meeting. The bank however unveiled plans for its private quantitative easing package which included two years of asset purchases to stimulate the economy. The President later announced that the bank would consider additional stimulus measures if required. Eurozone inflation fell to 0.3% in September, the lowest level recorded in 5 years. 8 member states logged deflationary numbers. Unemployment was unchanged at 11.5% in August, in line with expectations.

UK equity markets suffered marginal losses over the month. UK third quarter GDP fell to 0.7% with the services sector showing the greatest contribution, slightly offset by decreases in mining and quarrying. UK CPI inflation fell to 1.2% in September, its lowest level in 5 years. The fall was largely attributable to lower transport costs and lower prices on recreational goods. Unemployment fell to 6% in August, falling lower than expected. Retail sales fell to -0.3% in September, largely impacted by significant falling clothing and footwear sales. The Bank of England announced no changes at its central bank meeting.

Asian equity markets performed well over the month, led by Hong Kong and Australian markets. Chinese third quarter GDP fell to 7.3%, driven by lower property investment, credit growth and industrial production. This marked the lowest annual growth rate in 5 years. CPI inflation fell to 1.6% in September, almost at a 5-year low. Chinese trade data surprised markets with import and export data much higher than expected. Japanese equity markets recovered early losses following the announcement of aggressive stimulus measures by the central bank. Japanese unemployment fell to 3.5% in August, lower than market expectations.

Emerging market equities ended marginally higher, led by the Emerging Asia region. Further falls in the oil price had a negative impact on more dependent countries, including Russia and UAE. The Russian central bank increased interest rates by 1.5% to 9.5%, in order to combat against currency falls. Poland cut rates by 0.5% to 2%, following more positive economic data. Dilma Rousseff narrowly won the Brazilian presidential election on behalf of the Workers’ Party. Equity markets suffered initially as Dilma was seen as less business orientated, compared to her opposition.

Fixed income markets delivered positive returns for investors, following lower bond yields, leading to higher prices in core government and corporate bonds. This came as central bank minutes generally supported a more hawkish view which pushed out expectations of an interest rate rise. The US central bank confirmed the end to its quantitative easing program, which will cease further bond purchases. Conversely, the Bank of Japan announced it would be buying more government bonds, as part of its additional stimulus program.

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