What’s happened in markets?

FTSE All Share -0.61 2.66 6.81 5.93 3.90 4.70 5.71
Euro Stoxx 50 -1.29 3.66 9.88 10.98 3.80 6.49 8.16
S&P 500 -1.07 4.48 3.82 6.70 -7.69 8.58 11.24
Japan Topix 0.85 5.65 2.78 5.04 3.97 7.48 5.25
MSCI Asia Pac. -2.21 0.59 19.27 6.89 -14.37 1.54 1.43
MSCI Emerg. Mkts. -2.40 0.00 14.49 6.05 -16.31 0.37 0.36
Jo’burg All Shares -1.56 1.33 12.00 8.22 8.24 16.05 11.20
UK Gov’t Bonds -2.42 1.06 -2.31 1.77 -17.73 -8.28 -2.57
US Gov’t Bonds -1.25 -0.45 1.79 1.00 -8.10 -3.05 0.49
Global Corp. Bonds -1.44 0.67 4.16 2.38 -7.81 -2.60 1.34
Emerg. Mkt. Local -2.21 0.76 9.52 3.32 -8.17 -3.52 -1.06
Figures in the respective local currencies as at the end of trading on 10/2/2023.

In the US, weekly jobless claims came in slightly higher than anticipated for the first time this year at 196,000 (6,000 more than expected), but the underlying job market remains tight after the surprisingly strong US jobs data for January. Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Jerome Powell said the “extraordinarily strong” labour market had taken the Fed by surprise and affirmed that further hikes and more restrictive policy will be needed for some time in the fight against inflation.

The hawkish rhetoric from the European Central Bank (ECB) continued following the decision to raise rates by 0.5% in its February meeting. Executive Board member Isabel Schnabel said the ECB’s tightening monetary policy was having little effect in taming inflation so far and the underlying figure remained extraordinarily high. However, German inflation cooled more than expected as consumer price index (CPI) figures for January came in at a five-month low of 9.2%. Economists had expected an increase to 10.0%, according to Reuters.

The UK sidestepped a technical recession for now as gross domestic product (GDP) data for the last three months of the year showed zero growth, narrowly avoiding a second consecutive quarter of economic contraction. The ongoing strike disruption took its toll as a drop in services output was the biggest drag on growth, particularly in December which showed a 0.5% contraction in GDP.

In corporate news, state-controlled Saudi Aramco unexpectedly announced an increase in the price of fuel shipments to Asia from March, citing heightened demand. The move comes despite crude prices falling around 7% this year. Meanwhile, shares in Alphabet (the parent of Google) remained under pressure following a disappointing demonstration of its artificial intelligence chatbot, Bard. This raised investor concerns that rival chatbots, such as Microsoft’s ChatGPT, could threaten its dominance of the internet search market.

The main news story of the week was the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on the morning of Monday 6 February. Recent estimates suggest more than 33,000 lives lost, but tragically the real figure is likely to be considerably higher as rescue efforts continue. The Turkish stock market suspended trading on Wednesday for five days to try and prevent a steep sell-off following the disaster.

The recent rally in markets lost some steam in the week of 6 February as most benchmarks ended lower. Developed market equites (+3.2%) remained comfortably ahead of emerging markets (-0.3%), while growth (+5.0%) continued to outperform value (+0.7%) over the short term. Small capitalisation stocks (+3.5%) outperformed large capitalisation stocks (+2.8%) over the last 30 days. Information technology (+8.5%) remained the outstanding performer over the last 30 days, with communication services (+4.6%) and consumer discretionary (+4.3%) the next strongest sectors. The more defensive sectors, healthcare (-1.3%), consumer staples (-1.8%) and utilities (-4.8%) continued to lag.

After remaining fairly flat from the start of the month, yields were higher on the week as Powell’s comments on the labour market sparked alarm that another 0.5% hike may be on the cards at the next meeting. This led to a drop in bond prices, which always move in the opposite direction to yields.

The US Dollar appreciated slightly against most major currencies over the week.

  Latest Consensus Forecast
UK GDP (QoQ) 0.0
UK PMI 48.5
UK CPI (YoY) 10.5 10.3
EU GDP (QoQ) 0.1 0.1
EU PMI 50.3
EU CPI (YoY) 8.5
US GDP (QoQ) 2.9 2.9
US PMI 55.2
US CPI (YoY) 6.5 6.2

What’s happened in portfolios?

Within equities, our funds with an overweight to information technology, Fundsmith Equity and Morgan Stanley Global Brands, have outperformed during the first 10 days of February. While at the other end of the spectrum, our more cyclical holdings TT Emerging Markets Equity and Dodge and Cox Global Stock have given up some of their gains due to their emerging markets and value bias.

In fixed income,  the recent impressive US payrolls number caused yields to rise meaning our longer dated government bonds have lagged our shorter dated ones. Although PIMCO Global IG Credit continued to stand out given its 30% exposure to Europe, where yields have fallen as natural gas prices fell to a 17-month low. This is positive news for European consumers and should help to sustain the recent downturn in inflation in the EU area.

In our real assets holdings, the highlight was 3i Infrastructure which raised £100 million capital at an issue price of 330p over four days.

Finally, within our alternative strategies, there was some dampening of sentiment on the GCP Asset Backed Income Fund. A property provider of one of the loans in the portfolio has fallen behind on some rent payments to the properties’ owner. The loan is relatively small representing about 1.5% of net asset value (NAV) so is not material, but the manager is actively looking at options to move the properties to alternative housing providers. 

What’s happening this week?

14 February • EU Gross Domestic Product Growth Rate | 14 February • US Consumer Price Index | 15 February • UK Consumer Price Index