As the end of the investing year draws nearer, markets remain on edge, questioning everything that it thought it knew the answers to only very recently. But this week, central bank and government policy, inflation pressures from supply chain issues, and the latest developments from the virus that refuses to be defeated, threatened to leave investors in a state of puzzlement.
It’s been a Thanksgiving week of mixed news. The European COVID case surge was surpassed in negative impact by the fears of a new variant emanating from South Africa. US markets hit new highs just before the holiday, but Black Friday has felt a bit dark. In itself, a new variant is not surprising. New variants are always a risk, but each of the past ones has been dealt with by the vaccines.
Despite the negative news flow, be it COVID or politics, UK consumers are proving their resilience once again with both October retail demand and domestic consumer sentiment pointing up. Perhaps the buoyant jobs market is encouraging the UK public to be less concerned about inflationary pressures eating into their disposable incomes than some economists would expect, or it is equally possible that higher energy and food prices have not quite hit home yet.
We are in the middle of the biggest inflation bout in years as ubiquitous post lockdown supply issues are sending prices skyward. A recent report from the Bank of International Settlements suggests that this inflation has become self-reinforcing; Bottlenecks have caused suppliers to build buffers at multiple stages of the chain, exacerbating supply problems that drive prices...
Capital markets enjoyed another good week, although with one notable difference – this time bond investors were allowed to join in. Just as energy prices started stabilising, corporate earnings results proved less supportive than in the previous week, while macroeconomic data continued documenting the anticipated slowdown of the global economy.
Capital markets continued over the week to recover just as gradually from the September/early October downdraft as they declined then. Many commentators put it down to the continued strong Q3 corporate earnings announcements, which with 20%-40% year on year growth between Europe and the US has indeed provided a positive for stretched equity valuations.
By most measures, economic growth has been disappointing over the last few months. Economists started the year with high expectations for the post-pandemic recovery to become a sustained expansion – optimistic that vaccines and rebounding confidence would spur activity.
October has carried on where September left off, with quite a bit of daily up and down for markets, but with a slight downwards trend. For UK readers, the lack of positive vibe in stock markets is probably unsurprising, with petrol this week only slowly returning to being a commodity – rather than a scarcity...
The UK received worrying economic news on multiple fronts this week, with several utility companies going under and the prospect of steep rises in winter heating costs, petrol stations running out of fuel, gaps on supermarket shelves and the Bank of England signalling it may raise rates as early as December of this year.
We are halfway through September and investors have not experienced a continuation of the positive returns picture of the summer months. This is despite COVID restrictions gradually lifting (not only in the UK) and an on-track economic recovery resulting in record numbers of jobs and demand outstripping supply in many places.
Last week, we noted the increasing importance of fiscal policy, and sure enough this week the UK kicked-off the new school year with a big fiscal bang. National Insurance contributions are on the rise, along with a further tax charge on dividends to fund the NHS and social care over the next few years.
Last week felt a bit like the whole month of August. Equity markets (North America and Europe) were in the green over the past few days, and then on Friday expressed their disappointment over the weak US jobs report. Market participants discovered yet again their taste for cash-rich mega- caps in the US, especially after last week’s Jackson Hole symposium.
Questions over when and how the US Federal Reserve (Fed) would begin tapering its monthly securities purchases has been much talked about over the last few months. But ahead of Friday's keynote speech at the Jackson Hole symposium, questions have been shifting increasingly towards ‘how’ the Fed tapers, instead of ‘when’. On Friday we got an answer, of sorts.
Investors would be forgiven to think that this week’s downdraft in global stock markets was in reaction to the rapid unfolding of the tragic events in Kabul, Afghanistan. However, as long-time observers of risk asset markets will attest, unless human tragedies are likely to have a discernible impact on the global economy, stock markets do not show any empathy to present or foreseeable human suffering.
August continues to be what one would expect from the middle of the summer: quiet. Yet for investors, it is also pleasing that stock markets around the world are gradually nudging upwards, allowing them to remain relaxed wherever they have retreated to in these travel restricted times.
Three weeks since the long-awaited “Freedom Day”, Britons are enjoying a pleasant, if somewhat overcast and dull, summer. The surprise drop-off in virus cases seems to have levelled off, but while the fact that numbers are not increasing is an encouraging sign, it remains to be seen whether this will be sustained.
We wrote last week, that fortunes could be changing on the COVID front, with UK case numbers showing a decline from their (possibly temporary) peak. Since then, the 7-day average for daily cases has fallen for the first time since Britain started reopening. It is far too early to say whether this marks a sustained turn for the better, but it has certainly brought some much-needed optimism. The good mood has spread to markets too, with UK assets outperforming global peers and sterling gaining against other currencies.
It has been a week of ups and downs. Monday saw sunshine and relaxation as so-called ‘Freedom Day’ COVID restrictions were lifted in England. Investors did not join in the party, though, as major equity indices sold off around the world. Markets recovered most of those losses later into the week, but the episode marked an unwelcome return of volatility. Unfortunately, that market volatility has been matched by uncertainty in the underlying economy, as the spread of the virus continues to pose a threat to global activity.
Investors chase returns. That statement may seem too obvious to be interesting, but over the last decade it has had a special significance. For a year and a half now, central banks around the world have pinned interest rates down and poured historic amounts of liquidity into the global financial system. But the era of loose monetary policy long predates the pandemic
Global equities have been on a pretty rapid ascent since the start of the year. This week the world’s investors had a bout of looking down, and a mild attack of vertigo. This dizzyness has been prompted by some reasonable worries. Do we have enough food (earnings growth) to carry on? Is the strong tailwind (in the form of liquidity) about to turn into a headwind? Has one of our party (China) already started slipping back down?