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Brooks MacDonald Daily Investment Bulletin: 22/09/2021

Please see below the Brooks MacDonald Daily Investment Bulletin received by us yesterday, 22/09/2021:

What has happened

European indices posted strong gains yesterday, offsetting much of Monday’s weakness, however US bourses performed less well remaining mostly flat from Monday’s close.

Evergrande

Whilst Evergrande has been at the centre of the financial world this week, Chinese markets have been on holiday. When the equity markets opened for trading this morning shares dipped however the People’s Bank of China injected CNY 90bn of liquidity into the system to steady investor nerves. Reports are suggesting that Evergrande will make the domestic coupon payment due tomorrow however there has been no word yet as to payments on the foreign dollar denominated bond. The interest payments due on bank loans at the start of the week are reportedly yet to be paid so plenty of moving parts to this story. Expectations are pointing to a restructuring orchestrated by Chinese authorities and for the government to allow Evergrande itself to default but to take steps to ensure there isn’t extensive contagion into either Chinese property prices or the property investment sector.

US Infrastructure

The bipartisan $500bn physical infrastructure bill that passed the Senate vote but was held up in the House is now said to be moving to a House vote on Monday. This has less to do with any movement on the broader ‘social infrastructure’ bill but more to do with the proximity of the debt ceiling which is now demanding the focus of Democrats and the White House. Should the Republicans not support the government funding bills the White House will be forced to use budget reconciliation to pass the bills. Given there are procedural limits on the number of reconciliation bills in a Congress year, this risks Democrats having to hastily incorporate the least contentious parts of the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill, effectively watering down the size and scope quite considerably.

What does Brooks Macdonald think At 7pm UK time we will receive the latest policy statement from the Federal Reserve followed by a press conference by the Fed Chair. Expectations are for the bank to continue to guide to tapering this year but with the caveat that the economy must remain on track for the central bank to pull the taper trigger. This optionality will be important for market sentiment as if the Fed leaves a delay of taper on the table, even if it’s likely they won’t use it, this will provide a release valve for market concerns over the coming months.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well

Paul Green DipFA

23/09/2021

Team No Comments

Powell reassures markets that the Fed wont rush rate hikes

Please find below an update from Invesco, received late on Friday, reassuring markets that the Fed won’t rush rate hikes.

Kristina Hooper, Chief Global Market Strategist, Invesco Ltd

Key takeaways

Some Fed officials took a hawkish tone

At Jackson Hole, several Federal Reserve officials were emphatic that tapering needs to begin – and soon.

Powell’s remarks calmed markets

But Powell offered a kinder, gentler view of tapering, declining to establish a timeline.

No rush on rate hikes

Powell also noted that rate hikes have a more stringent set of conditions and are uncoupled from tapering plans.

Last week — in the dead of August — the Kansas City Fed held its annual Jackson Hole Symposium. In a true sign of the times, the symposium was not actually held in Jackson Hole this year, as had been originally planned; instead, it was held virtually. This underscored the reality that things are not back to normal.

Some Fed officials took a hawkish tone

In the run-up to Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell’s speech, several Fed officials were emphatic that tapering needs to begin soon. Kansas City Fed President Esther George said she expects the Fed to start tapering shortly. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan called for tapering to be announced by September and to begin by October or soon thereafter. Perhaps most surprising — and most hawkish — were the words of St. Louis Fed President James Bullard.

Bullard worried that the Fed’s balance sheet expansion is creating a housing bubble. He said that the tapering process should be finished by the end of the first quarter. What’s more, he articulated serious concerns about inflation; he seems sceptical that inflation is actually transitory and argued that by March 2022, the Fed would be able to assess whether inflation had moderated. He suggested that if inflation hadn’t moderated, the Fed would have to get “more aggressive,” which I would presume to mean rate hikes, and that would be sooner than expected. Not surprisingly, these hawkish comments rattled markets.

Powell’s remarks calmed markets

But then came Powell’s speech, and markets breathed a sigh of relief.  It’s true that things are certainly not back to normal, and Powell made that clear. He recognized that the pace of the recovery has exceeded expectations — and has been far swifter than the recovery from the Great Recession, with even employment gains having come faster than expected. However, he underscored the unusual nature of the recovery – he described it as “historically anomalous” — with personal income actually having risen. He said that while labour conditions had improved significantly, they were still “turbulent.” And of course, he pointed out that the economic recovery is being threatened by the resurgence of the pandemic.

Powell also underscored the unevenness of the economic recovery, that the Americans least able to carry the burden are the ones who have had to do just that. He emphasized that the services sector has been disproportionately affected, noting that total employment “is now 6 million below its February 2020 level, and 5 million of that shortfall is in the still-depressed service sector.”1

A kinder, gentler tapering

While George, Kaplan and Bullard took a more hawkish stance on tapering, Powell offered a kinder, gentler view. He recognized that the “substantial further progress” test for inflation had been met, but did not announce the start of tapering, or even call for it to be announced by September. He acknowledged that at the July Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, most participants believed it would be appropriate to taper this year. And he recognized that in the month since the last FOMC meeting, there has been more progress on the economic front — but that there has also been further spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. My read on this is that tapering is likely to be announced soon, but that Powell would like to maintain some flexibility given the uncertainties presented by COVID.

Powell seemed more certain in his assessment that inflation is largely transitory. He offered up compelling arguments to support that view, especially pointing to longer-term inflation expectations remaining anchored. I found this gave credibility to his more dovish stance.

The key takeaway: A ‘conscious uncoupling’

Powell channelled his inner Gwyneth Paltrow in asserting that rate hikes are uncoupled from tapering. In other words, he suggested that we shouldn’t expect rate hikes to begin just because tapering has ended. He asserted that rate hikes have a different and far more stringent test: “until the economy reaches conditions consistent with maximum employment and the economy is on track to reach 2% inflation on a sustainable basis.”1 This was perhaps the most important takeaway from the speech, given that markets seem far more concerned with when rate hikes will begin rather than when tapering will begin.

Looking ahead

All eyes will be on the August jobs report, due out at the end of this week. There are whispers that this could be a blowout with more than 1 million non-farm payrolls created. If that happens, I believe the Fed would be even more comfortable announcing tapering in September and starting to taper in October.

Further off into the distance, questions are swirling about whether Powell will be re-nominated as Fed Chair. While I suspect there may be a little grumbling from the extremes on both aisles of Congress, my money is on his re-nomination. However, speculation about this — and the future of the vice chairs (the vice chair and the vice chair for supervision) — will certainly occupy some markets watchers’ time in the coming months.

Please check in with us soon for further relevant content and market news.

David

6th September 2021

Team No Comments

A unique event on Prudential’s ‘smoothed’ funds – a Unit Price Reset

Please see below details relating to the unique event impacting Prudential’s ‘smoothed’ funds.

The Pru PruFund ‘smoothed’ range of funds have been in existence since 2004 in an investment product.  Late yesterday afternoon, for the first time in c 17 years, Prudential announced a Unit Price Reset (UPR).  This is an increase in fund value in this case.

It looks similar to a Unit Price Adjustment (UPA) and is also a part of the ‘smoothing’ mechanism for PruFund funds.  If you look in their guide to the smoothing process, you can see it mentioned on the bottom of page 3;

https://www.pruadviser.co.uk/pdf/PRUF1098101.pdf?utm_term=PruFund%20Quarterly%20EGR%20&utm_campaign=PruFund%20&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-email-_-Latest%20EGRs%20and%20UPRs%20for%20the%20PruFund%20range%20of%20funds-_-guide%20to%20the%20smoothing%20process

Why is this happening now?

We have been through an unprecedented time in 2020 with the sharpest and quickest falls in markets and then subsequent recoveries.  The underlying fund performance has been strong since March 2020 and this UFR ensures that this is fully delivered to you.  To quote the Pru ‘It’s being done because it’s the right thing to do for all policyholders.’

It’s about treating customers fairly, in this case for clients like you in the Pru’s ‘smoothed’ funds.  Unusual circumstances can require unfamiliar solutions – all subject to a rigorous framework and governance and overseen by a specialist actuary, a specialist committee and signed off by the Prudential Assurance Company board.

How does impact on me?  The following UPRs have been announced:

ProductFundUnit Price Reset
Flexible Retirement PlanPruFund Growth+5.66%
Flexible Retirement PlanPruFund Risk Managed 4+4.56%
Trustee Investment PlanPruFund Growth+5.66%
Prudential ISAPruFund Growth+5.66%
Retirement AccountPruFund Growth Series D+5.66%
Retirement AccountPruFund Risk Managed 4 Series D+4.56%
Retirement AccountPruFund Growth Series E+3.63%
Retirement AccountPruFund Risk Managed 4 Series E+3.69%
Retirement AccountPruFund Risk Managed 5 Series E+5.02%

The difference in the UPRs is based on the current position, for example, if UPAs have been applied more frequently, as is the case with Series E funds.  It is also based on your risk profile, different funds such as the Risk Managed 4 and 5 funds have a different risk profile.

The only funds that have not been affected by this UPR is the brand-new range of smoothed funds, the five funds that are PruFund Planet.  I’ve outlined the main funds in the table above that affect our clients. It’s nice to get some good news at the moment, hopefully this will add to your enjoyment of the Bank Holiday weekend!

Steve Speed

26/08/2021

Team No Comments

AJ Bell: Why Chinese stocks are still not partying

Please see below for one of AJ Bell’s latest articles, received by us yesterday afternoon 22/07/2021:

Tomorrow (23 July) heralds the one-hundredth anniversary of the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s leadership continues to mark its birthday with a series of high-profile events, speeches and actions

Whether the centenary is anything that investors can mark with pleasure remains more of a moot point, even if the benchmark Shanghai Composite index trades some 15% above the levels reached just before the news of the pandemic seeped out of the Middle Kingdom in early 2020. These doubts persist for three reasons:

First, the president and general secretary of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, marked the anniversary of the party’s foundation on 1 July with what many in the West saw as an aggressive speech as he warned any foes would be met with a ‘wall of steel’.

Second, China continues to intervene in financial markets, often in not-so-subtle ways. The crackdown on internet giants such as Alibaba and Meituan, and cybersecurity investigation into ride-hailing app Didi immediately after its stock market flotation in the US looked like expressions of displeasure with a trend toward overseas listings and a reminder to entrepreneurs of who was really boss.

Finally, China’s second-quarter GDP growth figure of 6.7% year-on-year undershot economists’ forecasts. This perhaps serves as a reminder that China is trying to combat the economic fall-out of the pandemic and keep the economy going on one hand, yet seeking to avoid letting financial markets, asset prices and debt get out of hand on the other.

Beijing and president Xi are hardly on their own in this respect – the UK, US, the EU, New Zealand, Australia and Canada are also members of what is a hardly exclusive club – but political legitimacy perhaps rests most fundamentally upon economic progress, employment and increasing prosperity than it does in China than anywhere else, not least because the authorities really have no-one else to blame if anything goes wrong.

DEBT DILEMMA

The last point is perhaps the easiest to tackle. Granted, China has a relatively low government debt-to-GDP ratio of 67% but that number is rising quickly. Moreover, the opaque structure of Chinese State-Owned Enterprises, let alone the so-called shadow banking system, mean the overall national debt-to-GDP figure is a less healthy 270%, according to China’s own National Institution for Finance and Development.

China may therefore be generating growth, but the quality of that growth looks questionable, given its reliance on fiscal stimulus and cheap debt. This perhaps explains why the Shanghai Composite index is trading well below its 2007 and 2015 highs even as the economy keeps expanding. A timely reminder that investors should never use macroeconomic data alone when it comes to selecting stocks, indices and funds (be they active or passive) to research and follow.

In the interests of balance, it must be noted that China’s currency is trading relatively strongly against to the dollar, after a six-year slide, so markets may not be too worried about the economic foundations (although again the US faces the same challenges).

POWER PLAY

Geopolitical risk is something which with all investors must live but there is little they can do about it, barring factor it into the risk premiums they demand when buying assets in certain countries – or in plainer English, pay lower valuations to compensate themselves for the potential dangers involved.

Sino-American relations remain strained, to say the least, as Beijing and Washington wrestle for supremacy in key industries, notably mobile telecommunications and semiconductors.

This is prompting talk of a new Cold War, a view perhaps supported by president Xi’s powerful speech on 1 July. Investors will be hoping it does not spill over into a hot war over Taiwan, for example, whose strategic importance is only heightened by the global semiconductor shortage.

But if investors can do little about geopolitics, they can do everything when it comes to corporate governance, either on their own or by paying a fund manager to do the donkey work for them. And perhaps the greatest concerns lie here, at least when it comes to Chinese equities.

Beijing’s indifference to the damage done to Didi Chuxing’s share price in the wake of the security investigation and assertion that US regulators cannot check Chinese audits of firms with listings in America is a big red flag (if you will pardon the expression). No-one, from a private individual to a trained fund manager, can invest in a firm if audited, verifiable and reliable accounts are not available.

This reminder that China has its own agenda – one that is designed to preserve the Communist Party’s hegemony well beyond the first hundred years – affirms that investors’ needs are secondary.

They are welcome to keep buying stakes in Chinese firms, or funds which track Chinese indices or own Chinese equities, if they wish. But they need to be sure they are paying suitably lowly valuations to accommodate the potential risks, which should also be in keeping with their overall tolerance levels.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well

Paul Green DipFA

23/07/2021

Team No Comments

PruFund range of funds – EGR and UPA announcement

Please see below for Prudential’s latest announcement regarding Unit Price Adjustments for the PruFund range of funds, received by us late yesterday 25/05/2021:

At this quarter’s review, we’ve announced no change to the Expected Growth Rates (EGR) and upward Unit Price Adjustments (UPA) to a number of the PruFund range of funds this quarter end.

PruFund UPA announcement 

Today we’ve announced there’s upward UPAs to the following PruFund funds:

FundUPA applied 
Prudential Investment Plan  
PruFund Growth Fund +3.56%
PruFund Risk Managed 4 Fund +5.33%
PruFund Risk Managed 5 Fund 
+3.67%
Trustee Investment Plan 
PruFund Cautious Pension/ISA Fund +2.00%
PruFund Growth Pension/ISA Fund+3.91%
PruFund Risk Managed 2 Pension/ISA Fund +2.09%
 PruFund Risk Managed 3 Pension/ISA Fund +3.22%
 PruFund Risk Managed 4 Pension/ISA Fund  +2.67%
Prudential ISA 
PruFund Cautious Pension/ISA Fund +2.00%
PruFund Growth Pension/ISA Fund +3.91%
PruFund Risk Managed 2 Pension/ISA Fund +2.09%
PruFund Risk Managed 3 Pension/ISA Fund +3.22%
 PruFund Risk Managed 4 Pension/ISA Fund  +2.67%
PruFund Risk Managed 5 Pension/ISA Fund +3.45%
Prudential Retirement Account – Series D 
PruFund Cautious Pension Fund – Series D+2.00%
 PruFund Growth Pension Fund – Series D+3.91%
PruFund Risk Managed 2 Pension Fund – Series D+2.09%
 PruFund Risk Managed 3 Pension Fund – Series D  +3.22%
PruFund Risk Managed 4 Pension Fund – Series D   +2.67%
Flexible Retirement Plan 
PruFund Cautious Pension/ISA Fund+2.00%
PruFund Growth Pension/ISA Fund +3.91%
PruFund Risk Managed 2 Pension/ISA Fund +2.09%
PruFund Risk Managed 3 Pension/ISA Fund +3.22%
PruFund Risk Managed 4 Pension/ISA Fund +2.67%
International Prudence Bond / Prudential International Investment Bond 
PruFund Cautious (Sterling) Fund +2.00%
PruFund Growth (Sterling) Fund+2.88%
PruFund Growth (Dollar) Fund+2.95%
PruFund Growth (Euro) Fund+2.68%

Please note UPAs also apply to the protected versions of the fund where applicable.

On the monthly PruFund Investment Date, a UPA is applied if the unsmoothed price is:

  • 4%, or more, higher than the smoothed price, for our PruFund Cautious, PruFund Risk Managed 1 or PruFund Risk Managed 2 funds, or
  • 5%, or more, higher than the smoothed price for our PruFund Growth, PruFund Risk Managed 3, PruFund Risk Managed 4 or PruFund Risk Managed 5 funds.

Growth rates aren’t guaranteed. The value of an investment can go down as well as up. Your client may get back less than they have paid in.

More information on the EGRs and UPAs for each product is available on PruAdviser.

Prudential have said that they have had a strong 6 month performance since the 25th November last year.  It’s important to note that PruFund funds lag both a rising and a falling market.  The increases or reductions in PruFund via UPAs are formulaic and non-discretionary.  They are based on the maths and the difference in fund value between the underlying assets and the ‘smoothed’ price.

M & G’s Treasury & Investment Office (TIO) who manage PruFund for Prudential are in the middle of a Strategic Asset Allocation review.  Within the next month or two we will find out how they change their assets focusing on long term returns.

The Expected Growth Rates (EGRs) have remained the same.  For example on PruFund Growth 5.70% gross per annum.  EGRs give you an indication of what the TIO think long term returns will be over 15 years plus.

These upwards Unit Price Adjustments are some very positive news and demonstrate the recovery in the markets as a whole. These UPAs combined with previous UPAs over the past 12 months have brought the majority of the PruFund range of funds back to positions similar to those before the drops caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Hopefully this trend of recovery and positive performance continues as we see mass vaccine rollouts worldwide and lockdown restrictions gradually eased. Although we may not be out of the woods yet and there are no guarantees, this increase in the UPAs is a reason for optimism.  

Take care.

Paul Green DipFA

26/05/2021

Team No Comments

AJ Bell: Why the FTSE 100 is warming to an economic upturn

Please see below for one of AJ Bell’s latest investment articles, received by us yesterday 18/04/2021:

As the UK starts to emerge from its latest (and hopefully final) lockdown, the FTSE 100 already trades above the levels reached just before the pandemic first made its presence felt in China and Southern Europe in early 2020.

There can be no finer example of how financial markets are forward-looking, discounting mechanisms which seek to price in future events before they happen. Yet they are not right all the time. No-one, but no-one, owns a crystal ball (or at least one that works) and if markets really were that prescient, then there would never be major sell-offs or upward surges, as no-one would ever be surprised by anything.

What the advisers and clients must therefore do, in order, is assess the facts as they are known, determine the current consensus about what will happen and – by looking at valuation – decide whether the risks are to the upside or downside. Therefore, they must look at the broad range of possibilities concerning what may happen, what could be the biggest surprises and their potential impact so they can decide whether the potential upside rewards outweigh the downside risks over their preferred time horizon.

In sum, the best fund managers are not necromancers or chancers trying to guess the future. They are experts at judging probabilities and act according to the cold maths of valuation, be that measured by earnings, cash flow or yield. It may not take much good news to boost a market that has fallen sharply to price in negative events (it may even just take the absence of fresh bad news), while it may not take much bad news to jolt a market if it has made big gains.

The FTSE 100 bottomed in late March 2020 at 4,994, long before the worst news about the pandemic and its toll on lives and the economy became known. After a near-40% gain in the UK’s headline index over the past year, advisers and clients must once more assess the balance of probabilities so they can decide whether the index has further to run or not and a good place to start is earnings forecasts.

New highs

At face value, it does seem odd that the FTSE 100 is trading above its pre-pandemic levels, even if the number of daily new COVID-19 cases is back to where it was last March and last September, and the vaccination programme continues apace. The economic outlook is still uncertain: the effects upon the behaviour of corporations and consumers alike are yet to reveal themselves and other parts of the globe are less advanced in their race to inoculate their populations.

But it does make sense if you think that the consensus earnings forecasts for the FTSE 100 are going to be accurate. An aggregate of the estimates made for each member of the index suggests that the FTSE 100’s total pre-tax profit will be £178 billion in 2021 and £205 billion in 2022.

FTSE 100 is forecast to make record pre-tax profit in 2022

Those figures exceed the £166 billion made in 2019, before the pandemic hit home. Moreover, if the 2022 forecast is attained, then that would represent a new all-time high for annual earnings, surpassing the £199 billion made in 2011.

In this context, it is not too hard to see why the FTSE 100 is trading where it is, or even make a case for further gains, since the index trades below its May 2018 zenith of 7,779 even though record profits are expected for 2022.

Advisers and clients must therefore decide whether the forecasts are reliable, too optimistic or too pessimistic and what must happen for analysts to be off-beam (which they usually are, owing to the absence of that crystal ball).

Heavy metal

To do this, advisers and clients need to parse the FTSE 100’s earnings mix. Roughly 60% of forecast profits come from just three sectors: mining (now the single biggest earner), financials, and oil and gas.

Just three sectors are expected to generate around 60% of FTSE 100 earnings in 2021 and 2022

In some ways, this makes it easy for advisers and clients to judge the upside and downside potential: in crude terms, the stronger the economic recovery the better, so far as the FTSE 100 is concerned as the index’s key industries offer huge gearing into GDP growth. The opposite also applies. A weak recovery (or heaven forbid an unexpected double-dip) would be potentially a nasty surprise.

A breakdown of forecast earnings growth makes this picture clearer still. Analysts think that the FTSE 100’s aggregate pre-tax profit will rise by £75.1 billion this year and by a further £27.1 billion in 2022. Miners and oils are expected to generate two thirds of that between them in 2021. Oils, consumer discretionary and financials are forecast to provide four fifths of the expected profit uplift in 2022.

Just three sectors are expected to generate more than 75% of forecast earnings growth in 2021 and 2022

Rising commodity prices and steepening yield curves would therefore be a good sign; falling and flattening ones would not. Those advisers and clients who buy into the narrative that inflation is coming, after being largely dormant for 40 years, will therefore feel right at home in the UK. Those who still fear debt-ridden deflation may be tempted to steer clear and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green DipFA

19/04/2021

Team No Comments

The Silicon Valley of Green Tech?

Please see the below article from Invesco:

The health crisis of 2020 created a synchronised economic depression requiring equally radical policy responses.

Europe’s response was the creation of a €750bn European Recovery Fund. However, rather than just deploy the capital, member states chose to focus on a Green Recovery and hence use the funds to address the existential threat of climate change. In practice this means the European Commission spending is being guided by the newly developed sustainable finance taxonomy. Promoting activities supportive of the environmental objectives of climate change mitigation and adaption:

  • Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
  • Transition to a circular economy
  • Pollution prevention and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems
  • It also contains criteria that ensure activities ‘do no significant harm’

European environmental legislation is not new. For years Europe has been a first mover in safety standards and best practices that become global standards, however, the European Green Deal marks a more dynamic approach. Taxonomy is the means by which the market will administer the carrot or the stick to companies. Winners will be those seen to solve the environmental crisis and losers will be those thought to be the cause.

This comes at a time of other changes to the investment landscape. Savers now demand their asset managers embed sustainability into allocation decisions. Fund regulation is playing its role too, through the deployment of SFDR this year, funds will be classified dependant on embedding ESG principles thereby making it easier for savers to pick compliant funds and avoid others. Lastly, the pandemic has created the political cover to deploy the significant European Recovery Fund to sustainable companies.

Combined these elements create the foundations for success. European companies that comply with taxonomy will see their cost of capital fall vs those that don’t.

The EU Recovery Plan is interlocked with the Commissions’ 2019-24 priorities that included the realisation that “Europe needs a new growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource efficient and competitive economy”. This is an inclusive plan with The Just Transmission Mechanism’s goal that ‘no person or place left behind’. At least E150bn is being made available to address socio-economic effects of the transition out to 2027 – a topic we discuss in greater detail in another piece (link to The Just Transition article). However, the real prize isn’t intra-Europe it’s global.

The goal of climate neutrality requires significant investment and innovation. If the transition is effective through taxonomy rewarding companies in the transition phase, we will grant our existing enterprises a competitive advantage though access to the cheapest capital. This will create more dynamism through more innovation and the creation of products, services and refreshed skilled jobs to achieve all the EU goals. Brown companies can become Green.

This idea of creating a pathway isn’t new. Europe has 2030 targets not just 2050, including transition plans for hybrid ahead of full electric vehicles, coal to gas electricity generation and developing blue hydrogen ahead of green hydrogen being viable. Through this approach we can incentivise European companies to allocate their existing cashflow towards green innovation as opposed to being forced into ever larger dividend yields.

Silicon Valley is perhaps the best example of the prize on offer. The birth of Silicon Valley was a confluence of skilled science-based research, education, venture capital and defence spending, particularly through the creation of NASA and the space race. The success and longevity of which is a function of being the first and with it a sustainable multiplier effect.

We are already starting to see the positive effects from this focus on transition. European oil companies lead the way in reallocating hydrocarbon cashflows towards greener alternatives (Total, Repsol, BP). In renewable energy, Europe is home to the leading wind turbine manufactures (Vestas, Nordex and Siemens Gamesa) and our power generators are world leaders in green production (Enel, EDP, Acciona). In technology, European semiconductor companies have leadership in Auto electrification (Infineon and STMicro). We also have expertise in building materials and renovation focused on reducing energy consumption (SaintGobain, Wienerberger, Kingspan). Europe’s paper companies are transitioning to sustainable packaging and biofuels (UPM) and Europe is home to worldwide leaders in the circular economy (Veolia and Suez). All are stocks that are held in portfolios across the team, to a varying degree.

Europe has grand ambitions and a once in a generational opportunity to steal a march on other continents through early adoption of regulation and technology. Through incentivising companies to innovate and embrace climate change Europe can become a global exporter of Greentech products and services to the rest of the world and enjoy the multiplier effect. Europe has the potential to achieve net zero and in doing so become the Silicon Valley of Green Tech including the vibrancy, jobs and sustainability that comes with it.

Please continue to check back for a range of blog content and regular updates from us.

09/04/2021

Andrew Lloyd

Team No Comments

Brewin Dolphin – Markets in a Minute

Please see below this weeks update on markets from Brewin Dolphin. This update was received late yesterday afternoon:

Please continue to check our Blog content for advice and planning issues and the latest investment, markets and economic updates from leading investment houses.

Please keep safe and healthy.

Carl Mitchell – Dip PFS

IFA and Paraplanner

08/04/2021

Team No Comments

Invesco – Why investors both love and fear the Fed

Please see article below from Invesco received this morning – 31/03/2021

Why investors both love and fear the Fed

Kristina Hooper – Chief Global Market Strategist, Invesco Ltd

Key takeaways

Investors fear the Fed
Stocks have been volatile due to fears about what the Fed would do if inflation rises.

But they also love its policies
While stock market investors fear the Fed, they also love its easy money policies.

If you had to quickly describe the relationship status between investors and the Federal Reserve, your best bet might simply be: “It’s complicated.”

Stocks are moving up and down, and leadership in the stock market is rotating, based on market fears of inflation — or, to put it more accurately, fears about what the Fed will do if inflation does rise. But while stock market investors fear the Fed, they also love all the good things it has done for them. After all, the great stock market rally that began in March 2009 can be largely attributed to the Fed’s extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy — especially its quantitative easing. And the year-long rally that began in March 2020 has the Fed’s easy money fingerprints all over it. In other words, investors have developed a powerful bond — some might say a dependency — with the central bank.

The Fed’s reassurances have fallen flat

Now the good news is that the Fed is trying to be sensitive to investors’ wariness about what it might do next. Fed Chair Jay Powell doesn’t want stock market investors to worry. At every turn, he has tried to reassure them that the Fed will maintain its easy money policies for some time to come and that any rise in inflation will be transitory. Last week, for example, Powell was on Capitol Hill, providing comfort and reassurance. He made it clear that he wasn’t concerned about the rise in long-term bond yields, suggesting that they reflect growing optimism: “It seems that rates have responded to news about vaccination and ultimately about growth.” 1 Powell stressed that it has been orderly and that the Fed would only react if it is disorderly.

Powell reiterated that he doesn’t believe long-term price trends will be changed by the most recent fiscal stimulus package, supply-chain bottlenecks, or a surge in consumer demand, which is widely expected to come later this year as the economy re-opens. Powell said that while the Fed expects upward pressure on prices, he expects it will be transitory. He was emphatic: “Long term, we think that the inflation dynamics that we’ve seen around the world for a quarter of a century are essentially intact. We’ve got a world that’s short of demand with very low inflation … and we think that those dynamics haven’t gone away overnight and won’t.” 1. But investors didn’t believe him, based on the stock market reaction that day — they’re still wary that inflation will go up and the Fed will be forced to tighten.

It seems that market participants want to believe the worst of the Fed. They don’t believe Powell when he utters dovish words, but they latch onto any comments that can be perceived as hawkish. On Thursday, Powell gave an interview to NPR. He reiterated many of the reassurances he provided on Capitol Hill earlier in the week. He also shared his optimistic economic outlook for 2021. However, he also tried to be honest and transparent by stating the obvious: “… as we make substantial further progress toward our goals, we will gradually roll back the amount of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities we’re buying.”2 He talked about raising interest rates in the longer run, but said that such tightening would be very gradual and transparent. However, that sent stock market investors into a panic. The NASDAQ Composite Index, S&P 500 Index, and Dow Jones Industrial Average all dropped significantly in just a few hours before investors regained their senses and started buying.

Investors have to wait and see how the Fed would respond to inflation

My best advice is that investors shouldn’t let the Fed — or any central bank — overly influence their long-term investment strategy. I believe the Fed will honor Powell’s pledges, but many market participants are clearly skeptical. These participants must come to terms with the fact that they won’t know if Powell will follow through on his assurances until inflation actually spikes and the Fed has the opportunity to insist it is transitory and sit on its hands. They won’t know if the Fed has really abandoned pre-emptive tightening until it proves to us that it has.

The silver lining of this environment — in which so many investors have allowed themselves to be dependent on the Fed — is that other investors can take advantage of “Fedspeak”-related sell-offs, which can create tactical buying opportunities for investors with a longer time horizon. And if markets actually become disorderly, I believe Powell will likely step in.

Is the Fed the only source of concern for investors? No, there are others. But the lesson is the same: Instead of parsing — and panicking about — every utterance from Powell and others, I believe investors’ time would be better spent focusing on fundamentals and long-term goals.

Looking ahead

In the coming week, I’ll be paying close attention to COVID-19 infections in Europe. The region is in the throes of a third wave of infections, which threatens to be the worst of the waves. This is not dissimilar to the third wave that the US experienced several months ago, which was its worst wave. Unfortunately, Europe’s vaccine rollout has been disappointing to say the least, and more infectious strains of the virus are spreading quickly. Lockdowns are being extended and could become more stringent as government officials warn that hospitals are being overwhelmed. This could further delay the eurozone’s economic recovery, which has already been delayed by the slow vaccine rollout. The ability to control infections in the eurozone is critical.

I’ll also be paying attention to China’s economy, with the government’s manufacturing and non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMI) and the Caixin manufacturing PMI being released this week. China’s economic recovery has been strong thus far this year, and I want to make sure there are no negative surprises in the offing.

I’ll also be following the volatility in stocks created by the fallout from the Archegos hedge fund unwinding. I think this is not dissimilar to the volatility created by Reddit-related stocks such as GameStop that we experienced earlier this year: I don’t see this as a source of widespread contagion, although it will likely weigh down some specific stocks over the shorter term. 

And finally, I will be paying attention to Friday’s US jobs report. I suspect non-farm payrolls will be very strong for the month of March, beating expectations, but could trigger a rise in the 10-year yield and concerns about inflation — and therefore stock market jitters — as investors are likely to worry again about whether the Fed will really sit on its hands …  

Please continue to check back for our regular blog posts including market updates and insights like this article.

Charlotte Ennis

31/03/2021

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Small caps can tell us a lot about the market mood

Please see below for one of AJ Bell’s latest Investment Insight articles, received by us yesterday 28/03/2021:

Small cap stocks are perceived to be riskier than their large cap counterparts and with good reason. As such, they can be used to judge wider market risk appetite – if small caps are rolling higher, we are likely to be in a bull market. If they are falling, we could be shifting to a bear market.

In general, small caps tend to be younger firms that are still developing. They are potentially more dependent upon certain key products or services, a narrower range of clients and even key executives.

Their finances might not be as robust as large caps and they are more exposed to an economic downturn, especially as they are less likely to have a global presence and be more reliant on domestic markets.

The UK’s FTSE Small Cap index currently trades at record highs, while the FTSE AIM All-Share stands near 20-year peaks. The latter is still well below its technology-crazed highs of 1999-2000. Equally, they are more geared into any local economic upturn.

America’s Russell 2000 index, the main small cap benchmark in the US, is up 16% this year and by 116% over the past 12 months. That beats the Dow Jones Industrials, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite hands down on both counts.

In fact, the Russell 2000 now trades near its all-time highs, having gone bananas since last March’s low. Such a strong performance suggests that investors are in ‘risk-on’ mode and pricing in a strong economic recovery for good measure.

Rising Prices

One data point which does not sit so easily with the US small cap surge is the slight pullback in America’s monthly NFIB smaller businesses sentiment survey, which still stands 12 percentage points below its peak of summer 2018.

This indicator must be watched in case it does not pick up speed as America’s vaccination programme continues and lockdowns are eased. Further weakness could suggest the recovery might not be everything markets currently expect.

Equally, inflation-watchers will be intrigued by the NFIB’s sub-indices on prices. In particular, the balance between firms that are reporting higher rather than lower prices for their goods and services, and especially the shift in mix towards smaller companies that are planning price rises rather than price cuts.

If both trends continue, then bond markets could just be right in fearing that an inflationary boom is upon us.

Interest rates on the move

The number of interest rate rises continues to gather pace on a global basis. Last month there had already been five hikes this year in borrowing costs, in Zambia, Venezuela, Mozambique, Tajikistan and Armenia. There have now been six more – Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Ukraine, Brazil, Russia and Turkey.

The 11 rate increases we’ve seen year to date is already two more than in the whole of 2020.

In contrast, the US Federal Reserve is content to sit on its hands despite what is happening elsewhere. Chair Jerome Powell continues to reaffirm the American central bank’s commitment to running its quantitative easing scheme at $120 billion a month, while any plans to increase interest rates from their record lows seem to be on hold until 2024.

Powell does not seem concerned about inflation and is seemingly willing to risk its resurgence to ensure that the economy gets back on track in the wake of the pandemic.

Yet financial markets are still taking the view that a strong upturn is coming, because US government bond prices are currently going down, and yields are going up, regardless of what the Fed says. That is a huge change from the last decade or so, when bond and stock markets have been happy to slavishly take their lead from central bank policy announcements.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green DipFA

29/03/2021