What’s happened in markets?

FTSE All Share 1.9 -1.0 12.1 1.0 -8.0 1.0 6.8
Euro Stoxx 50 5.1 3.2 14.1 3.2 -0.5 5.0 8.5
S&P500 4.7 4.4 11.2 3.6 18.7 15.8 17.9
Japan Topix 4.5 5.6 14.8 4.8 13.8 3.6 9.1
MSCI Asia Pac. 5.0 6.3 19.9 9.2 40.0 10.2 18.0
MSCI Emerg. Mkts. 5.0 5.7 20.1 8.1 31.3 7.8 16.6
Jo’burg All Shares 2.9 5.6 16.7 8.3 15.2 7.4 8.5
UK Gov’t Bonds -2.2 -3.4 -2.9 -3.8 1.5 4.7 3.9
US Gov’t Bonds -0.6 -1.3 -2.0 -1.6 4.6 5.2 2.9
Global Corp. Bonds -0.3 -0.8 0.4 -1.1 5.3 6.4 5.9
Emerg. Mkt. Local 0.1 -1.3 4.3 -1.2 3.2 2.6 6.2

Figures as of end of trading on 05/2/2021

As cases begin to drop in the US and in Europe – although death rates remain relatively high due to the lag from infection and hospitalisation cases – AstraZenica/Oxford University’s results to prove the efficacy of their vaccines against the South African variant proved disappointing. And while work has begun on re-engineering their vaccine to defeat the new variant, Oxford University has begun a trial to test the results with patients given a combination of the Pfizer/BioNTech and its vaccine with AstraZenica.

Meanwhile, there was favourable news that the decision by the UK government to delay the second jab of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was vindicated as protection does not wane during the current three-month gap between doses, and those receiving a second jab after this delay are even more protected than those who only wait three weeks.

Also in the UK, the Bank of England struck a more hawkish tone at its monetary policy meeting with a view that higher interest rates may be needed sooner than anticipated to keep inflation in check. While the central bank forecast that the UK economy will contract by around -4% in Q1 2021, they project the economy could bounce back strongly after that, and inflation could step over the 2% target by Q1 2022. Meanwhile, although negative interest rates were ruled out for anytime soon, the committee was keen to never say never.

In the US, the US Senate started voting on a budget resolution for 2021, after the House of Representatives passed its version on Wednesday evening. If this budget process is successful, it would allow President Biden’s virus relief package to pass with a simple party line vote, which would help the economy given the US payrolls number, published on Friday 5 February, came in at 49,000, and well below the 105,000 expected by the market. And although the unemployment rate fell to 6.3% (from 6.7%), this was mainly because a number of people decided to leave the workforce or stop looking for work. This is news that could push Congress to vote a billl through quickly.

Equity markets ended the week of 1 February in positive territory. This was partly because the Reddit-fuelled retail trades took more of a back seat, while investors’ positive sentiments were supported by continued progress on the vaccine rollouts, company earnings results, and hopes for further US fiscal stimulus. The strongest regions were Asia ex Japan (+4.79%) and the US (+4.67%) and the weakest was the UK (+0.82%). The week saw growth stocks (+4.63%) outperform value (+3.60%), while small capitalisation stocks (+5.22%) were stronger than their largest peers (+4.06%). Among the sectors, communication services (+6.79%), consumer discretionary (+5.98%) and financial services (+5.32%) provided the best returns, while healthcare was the worst (+0.92%), although all sectors ended the week in the black.

Latest Consensus Forecast
UK GDP (QoQ) 16.0 0.3
UK PMI 41.2
UK CPI (YoY) 0.6
EU GDP (QoQ) -0.7
EU PMI 47.8
EU CPI (YoY) 0.9
US GDP (QoQ) 4 4.3
US PMI 58.0
US CPI (YoY) 1.4 1.5

What’s happened in portfolios?

In many ways, the week of 1 February was a microcosm for 2021 to date, as the reflation trade regained momentum. Overall, our aggregate equity portfolio is ahead of the MSCI AC World Index so far this year, with the biggest factor being our Emerging Market overweight.

Developments in fixed income also aligned with the risk-on theme, with a concerted steepening of yield curves leading to losses in safe haven government bonds, especially longer dated maturities. That meant a lot of bond portfolios will have lost money during the week of 1 February (as they have year-to-date), but our short duration bias protected portfolios against the worst of this.

And while the property investments saw mixed to slightly negative performance for no specific reasons, the other alternative investment trusts were pretty solid amid a week of relatively quiet news flow. The renewables share prices, meanwhile, continue to benefit from investors realising that higher electricity prices (due to a combination of colder weather and higher oil and gas prices) will help near-term revenues and cashflows.

What’s happening this week?

10 Feb • US Consumer Price Index | 11 Feb • US Jobless Claims | 12 Feb • UK Industrial Production