April proved to be a difficult month for markets following what was a challenging first quarter, as concerns over global growth surfaced. Markets started to question the ability of central banks to engineer a “soft landing” for economies given stubbornly high and increasing inflation. Especially against an increasingly complicated global backdrop of Chinese lockdowns, to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. While underlying economic fundamentals remained broadly healthy in April (especially with regards to employment). The impact of high inflation and rising interest rates are without doubt headwinds for confidence, consumer spending, and therefore growth going forward. Central banks face a testing time ahead!
Global equity markets (-6.5%) were down sharply on the month, with the more tech-heavy US market (-9.1%) falling the most, given concerns over high valuations with technology-related stocks and the impact on these of rising interest (discount) rates. The UK stock market (+1.0%) managed to buck the downward trend in April, as it has done so far this year, benefiting from its relatively high weight to materials/energy stocks. In terms of style, growth stocks (-11.2%) underperformed the more value/cyclically (-5.0%) oriented equities. This was also reflected in sector performance with higher valued communication services (-12.4%), information technology (-11.7%), and the more cyclically-exposed consumer discretionary (-11.0%) sectors falling the most. The defensive consumer staples (+0.6%) sector was the place to be during the month along with energy (-1.2%) and utilities (-3.0%) on a relative basis.
Within fixed income markets, despite increasing concerns over growth and falling equity markets, the expectation of increasing rate hikes from central banks due to high and persistent inflation meant there was, again, no place “to hide” in fixed income. Looking at the detail, global government bonds (-2.6%) and global investment grade credit (-4.0%) generated a negative return over the month, while at the riskier end of the spectrum global high yield (-3.2%) and emerging market hard currency debt (-5.5%) also declined as spreads widened.
In terms of real assets, property markets marginally outperformed equities over the month with the global REITs index down -5.4% over the period. Commodities (+4.1%) rose for yet another month (+30.7% year to date), led mainly by agriculture (+5.7%) and crude oil (+3.9%) as a result of continued supply concerns due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. Industrial metals (-6.3%) fell on the back of global demand concerns, while gold (-2.1%) was weak, despite the decline in risk appetite, due to a combination of higher interest rate expectations (greater opportunity cost) and a stronger US dollar.
|INDEX||END MARCH VALUE||END APRIL VALUE|
|DJ Ind. Average||34678.35||32977.21|
|£ Base Rate||0.75||0.75|
This month’s values quoted as at 31/04/2022. The above values are sourced from Bloomberg and are quoted in the relevant currency.
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