What’s happened in markets?

FTSE All Share -1.23 2.71 1.74 0.44 1.50 3.86 3.74
Euro Stoxx 50 -0.80 6.02 10.93 -5.08 -3.05 5.38 5.16
S&P 500 -3.35 5.16 -2.85 -16.18 -14.36 9.59 10.11
Japan Topix 0.39 0.62 0.88 0.94 1.16 6.96 4.12
MSCI Asia Pac. 1.66 13.05 2.46 -17.48 -18.75 1.57 0.80
MSCI Emerg. Mkts. 0.48 8.87 1.31 -18.18 -18.99 0.32 0.23
Jo’burg All Shares 0.36 7.17 10.17 6.04 8.30 14.92 9.11
UK Gov’t Bonds -0.28 1.12 0.12 -21.12 -23.68 -6.97 -2.52
US Gov’t Bonds -0.41 3.73 -0.64 -11.31 -11.27 -2.29 0.18
Global Corp. Bonds -0.14 5.36 0.94 -12.59 -12.64 -2.00 0.95
Emerg. Mkt. Local 0.04 5.99 2.23 -10.97 -10.88 -4.29 -1.23
Figures in the respective local currencies as at the end of trading on 9/12/2022.

The week of 5 December was a relatively quiet week but mixed in terms of economic data. The good news on the US economy proved bad news for equity markets.

In the US, the producer price index (PPI), a measure of wholesale inflation, came in higher than expected at 0.3% for November and 7.4% on a year-on-year basis. The services sector also saw an upswing in activity in November with the Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) index rising to 56.5, against expectations for a decrease. Readings over 50 are a sign of economic expansion. US consumer sentiment also improved more than expected in early December. While this strong economic data is positive for the growth outlook, it is not helpful for the Federal Reserve (Fed) in its battle to control inflation. Hopes that the Fed might soon start to ease its interest rate rises were set back again.  Although, the labour market showed tentative signs of cooling as the weekly figure for continuing jobless claims increased to its highest level since early February.

In the euro area growth was revised higher in Q3 as gross domestic product (GDP) data showed the economy had expanded 0.3%, up from a previous estimate of 0.2%. Although the expectation is for slower growth over the next two quarters as higher energy prices and interest rates bite and impact both companies and consumers.

The UK saw a continued downturn in its services sector as the purchasing managers’ index came in at 48.8 in November, unchanged from October, and indicating an increasing likelihood of recession.

In other news, the Bank of Canada hiked its interest rates by 50 basis points despite plenty of speculation it would downshift the pace to 25 basis points, but it continues to monitor how tighter monetary policy is working to slow demand.

Corporate news was light over the week, but the Federal Trade Commission sued to block Microsoft’s US$69 billion acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard over competition concerns. Apple scaled back its self-driving electric vehicle plans and postponed the car’s target launch date by about a year to 2026.

The week of 5 December saw equity markets down sharply following the gains of the previous two weeks. Emerging market equities (+8.9%) continued to do well on news from China of further easing in its COVID-19 restrictions and its subdued inflation, which remains at 1.6% year on year, allowing policymakers more space to stimulate the economy. Developed market equities (+6.3%) lagged. With growing concerns over a potential global recession, growth stocks (+8.1%) outperformed value (+5.2%), while large capitalisation stocks (+6.6%) led the way over small capitalisation stocks (+5.1%) over the last 30 days. Consumer discretionary (+9.2%) was the best performing sector, while energy (-3.8%) was the worst, as international oil prices (-16.1%) fell to their lowest level of the year at the prospect of weakening global demand.

In fixed income, there were positive returns for safe haven government bonds as yields continued to fall and the US 2s/10s Treasury curve closed at its most inverted of this cycle. This occurs when the 2-year Treasury note yield rises above the benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield, which is viewed by many as a sign of imminent recession. Investment grade bonds (+5.2%) continued to perform strongly.

Latest Consensus Forecast
UK GDP (QoQ) -0.2
UK PMI 48.2 48.0
UK CPI (YoY) 11.1 10.9
EU GDP (QoQ) 0.3
EU PMI 47.8 47.9
EU CPI (YoY) 10.0 10.0
US GDP (QoQ) 2.9 2.9
US PMI 56.5
US CPI (YoY) 7.7 7.3

What’s happened in portfolios?

In equities, our quality focused managers have outperformed the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) over the last 30 days. Morgan Stanley Global Brands and Fundsmith Equity were the standout funds, helped by their bias to bellwether defensive sectors, such as consumer staples and healthcare stocks.

In fixed Income, yields have been falling as investors had priced in a slowdown in the pace of interest rate rises. The week of 5 December saw the 10-year yield fall to its lowest level over the past three months. This has been very supportive of bonds, particularly longer duration funds, as when yields fall, prices rise which makes the longer duration assets more attractive given they were secured at a higher yield. Our longer duration funds both in investment grade credit and government bonds have outperformed their shorter duration counterparts.

Real assets remain an attractive alternative to fixed income with some inflation protection. A highlight was our recent investment in gold via the WisdomTree Core Physical Gold ETC, which performed well over the month on the back of a weaker US dollar and given its safe haven status. The opportunity cost of holding gold, which doesn’t produce a yield, has also fallen as yields have come down.

Alternative strategies continue to provide a credible diversifier. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, our song royalty holding, released it six-month net asset value (NAV) total return which was up 0.7% to the end of September – showing people are continuing to pay for music despite the cost-of-living crisis. This makes a total NAV return of 60% since the company was launched in July 2018. The investment trust has some strong tailwinds and continues to benefit from the structured growth in paid music streaming subscriptions. It has recently been boosted by UK retailer John Lewis using one of its songs in its latest Christmas advertising campaign and, of course, its ownership of Mariah Carey’s No. 1 hit ‘All I want for Christmas is You’!

What’s happening this week?

14 December • US Federal Reserve Interest Rate Decision | 15 December • UK BoE Interest Rate Decision | 15 December • EU ECB Interest Rate Decision