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AJ Bell: What is happening to the markets’ hotshots?

Please see below for one of AJ Bell’s latest Investment Insight articles, received by us yesterday 09/05/2021:

In many ways right now, it looks like business as usual for the financial markets. Blow-out quarterly numbers from Google’s parent Alphabet, Apple and Facebook are taking their share prices to new highs and carrying the NASDAQ index along with them; the FTSE 100 is having another crack at breaking through the 7,000 barrier; and central banks seem in no rush to switch off the hose of cheap liquidity with which they are dowsing markets (unintentionally or otherwise).

And yet, as discussed last week, bonds are trying to rally, as is gold. This move in haven assets seems at odds with the prevailing optimism regarding global vaccination programmes, an economic upturn and higher corporate profits and dividends.

It can be too easy to read too much into such short-term moves, as nothing goes up (or down) in a straight line. One way to test the market mood is to check out what is going on at the periphery, as that is where advisers and clients are probably taking the most risk and therefore the asset classes and holdings they are most likely to liquidate first in the event that bullish sentiment starts to ebb.

Another is to look at the market darlings: the areas that are doing (or have done) best and are garnering the most coverage from analysts, press and commentators alike. If they are keeping on running, then all may still be well. If not, this may be the first inkling of trouble ahead, or at least a shift in the market mood.

Cryptic message

Both the Archegos hedge fund and Greensill Capital went down in March, despite the bullish market backdrop and expectations that the global economy is on the mend (see Shares, 29 March 2021). That still feels odd. Markets have so far done a good job of shrugging off those failures, however advisers and clients will remember markets kept rising after the first two Bear Stearns property funds collapsed in June 2008, but it did not take long for deeper problems to appear – so everyone must remain vigilant, especially as there are some signs that some of the hottest areas are starting to cool.

This can, for example, be seen in the fortunes of both Bitcoin and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs), a phenomenon that has gripped the US market in particular. The Next Gen Defiance SPAC Derived Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF), which tracks a basket of over 200 SPACs, is down by more than a third from its high. This is perhaps less of a surprise when you consider the data from SPACinsider.com, which shows how 308 SPACs are looking for a target even though 263 have already floated. In the end, supply may be outstripping demand.

Setbacks in Bitcoin are nothing new and cryptocurrency supporters will be unperturbed, but the way the performance of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) is tailing off around the world is worthy of note. Perhaps the quality of deals is going down as the prices are going up, or, again, supply is starting to catch up with demand.

Electric shock

Advisers and clients are unlikely to have the time for, or interest in, the intricacies of stock-specific issues, but there can surely be no better proxy for the current bull market than Tesla. Yet even Elon Musk’s charge is, well, losing a bit of its power to impress and that is weighing on another momentum favourite, Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF, a $22 billion actively-managed tracker which aims to deliver the performance of 58 tech and growth stocks.

Even that classic gauge of both market sentiment and economic activity small-cap stocks are pausing for breath, although America’s Russell 2000 is yet to roll over.

All of this could be healthy. Again, nothing goes up in a straight line and some of these assets and securities were looking bubbly, at least in the eyes of some. A cooling-off may be no bad thing.

Equally, it could be just a sign that markets are moving on. Frontier and emerging equity markets still look to be showing upward momentum, a trend that would fit with the narrative of a global economic recovery and bullish investor sentiment – few areas are more peripheral than frontier arenas such as Vietnam, Morocco, Kenya and Romania.

As such, we could just be seeing the next leg of the switch from defensives and growth to cyclicals and value. And if the upturn does prove inflationary, then there is a further trend to watch, one to which this column will return. This final chart shows the relative performance of commodities, as benchmarked by the Bloomberg index, against the FTSE All-World Equities index. Maybe real assets are on the verge of ending a decade’s worth of underperformance relative to paper assets, or at least paper claims on them?

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

10/05/2021

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Brooks McDonald Daily Investment Bulletin

Please see below for the Daily Investment Bulletin from Brooks McDonald, received by us today 05/01/2021:

What has happened

Markets started the day positively but the New Year jubilance faded as the US COVID outlook worsened and a tight Georgia run-off today could go either way. The US index started the day in positive territory before falling as much as 2.5% then settling 1.5% down at the close.

COVID’s new variant and restrictions

The new COVID variant has been responsible for a large quantum of the surge in the South East of England and news that it had now been detected in New York, Colorado, California and Florida did little to help the mood. Whilst there is no evidence that the new strain is more deadly it does appear to be transmitting aggressively, causing strain on the healthcare system. It is this strain that led to UK PM Johnson announcing that England would move into its third Lockdown with the new stay at home rules far more reminiscent of March 2020’s with schools closed and only essential journeys allowed. UK Chancellor Sunak is expected to unveil a fresh support package for UK companies in light of these new tough restrictions which are expected to produce a similar economic impact to that seen in March and April last year.

Georgia run-off

The other event keeping New Year optimism in check is the Georgia Senate run-off. This is clearly key in determining which party has control of the Senate and therefore whether a blue sweep can be achieved. Back in November the market’s base case was that the Democrats would win every race and this would give them the flexibility to launch substantial stimulus in Q1 2021. Once this didn’t immediately materialise, investors warmed to the idea of a split Congress as this would curb the chances of tax rises, tougher regulation and other less economically positive reforms. As we approach today’s election, the Democrats are ahead in both seats, albeit it narrowly, and investors are not entirely sure which side of the coin they want the race to land.

What does Brooks Macdonald think

A Democrat clean sweep or a split Congress both have benefits and negatives but our instinct is that a split Congress would be more market friendly as it retains the status quo and financial assets will look through the positives of US Fiscal Stimulus quite quickly as compared to broader reforms. Even if the Democrats do take both seats, and VP-Elect Harris is left with the deciding vote in the Senate, the current filibuster rules will stop contentious legislation. If we do see a blue sweep, markets will look very closely at any suggestions from the Democrats that they would look to remove the Filibuster from the next Senate session.

Regular daily updates like these are a useful method of frequently updating your holistic view of the markets, especially given the way the world is rapidly changing by the day with Coronavirus.

Please continue to utilise these blogs to help inform your own views of the markets.

Stay safe and well

Paul Green

05/01/2021

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Markets in a Minute: Markets rise over the week, but mood is soured by virus worries and Brexit

Please see below for the latest Markets in a Minute update from Brewin Dolphin, received yesterday evening 22/12/2020:

Global equity markets moved mostly higher over the past week, as the vaccines programme boosted optimism and an agreement on the US stimulus package edged closer. Eternal hope of a Brexit deal helped the more UK-centric shares and European markets. The FTSE100 has been an underperformer, however, as the dollar has been weakening relative to sterling, squeezing the earnings of FTSE’S multinationals, which gather most of their revenue in dollars. The ongoing dollar slide helped push commodity prices higher, and bitcoin briefly hit a record $23,000 amid a flurry of speculation, although nobody can really gauge its true value.

Last week’s markets performance*

• FTSE100: -0.26%

• S&P500: +1.25%

• Dow: +0.44%

• Nasdaq: +3.05%

• Dax: +3.93%

• Hang Seng: -0.02%

• Shanghai Composite: +1.42%

• Nikkei: +0.41%

*Data for week to close of business on Friday 18 December

Equity markets pull back at start of week

News of the virus mutation in the UK, and resulting restrictions on the movement of people and goods to numerous countries led to a sell off in many markets around the world on Monday. The FTSE100 closed down by 1.73% at 6,416.32, and the FTSE250 ended 2.11% lower at 19,962.11. In Europe, the pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 2.3% after the UK announced its tougher restrictions in response to the vaccine, and the EU’s largest market, the German Dax, fell by 2.82%. Reaction was more muted in the US, where the S&P500 lost just 0.4%, while the Nasdaq lost 0.10%. The Dow closed up by 0.12%.

US stimulus bill passed

The long-awaited US stimulus package to extend unemployment benefits and fund a range of other pandemic-related expenditure was passed on Monday night after nearly six months of wrangling. The package, worth $900bn in total, will send one-off cheques worth $600 to households, with extra payments for children. It will also extend unemployment benefit payments worth $300 a week for those who are out of work due to Covid-19. These payments will last until March and give the vaccination programme time to take effect. However, President-elect Joe Biden has signalled he will look to pass a larger bill once he takes office in January.

Markets sensitive to risk

There is a lack of liquidity in the market at the moment, as many traders have started their Christmas breaks and there is less money flowing into shares and bonds. This can make markets quite volatile, and there is no denying that the newsflow right now is quite alarming. We heard of the new strain of Covid-19 emerging from the UK, prompting Tier 4 containment measures in London, the south east and parts of eastern England over the weekend. In Europe, there are concerns surrounding movement of people and goods which has led to travel constraints. This could have an impact on the economy – and our lives – unless some resolution is reached quite quickly.

This bad news linked with a lack of progress on Brexit, with travel restrictions making negotiations harder, led to weakness in UK and European markets at the start of the week. However, the pound has recovered its losses, indicating that investors are perhaps taking stock and realising that this is probably not as frightening as the headlines first seemed. There were hopeful headlines on Tuesday morning about a compromise on fishing quotas, but there is no firm news of progress. We must wait to see how this plays out in the coming days, but markets will be jittery until the end of the year at least; even if a deal is agreed, it needs to be cleared by the EU member states which will not happen until the new year. The US, meanwhile, was far calmer, with the Dow even closing with a small gain, as the US stimulus bill was passed.

Economic resilience Taking a broader view, the global economy is holding up better than expected given such challenging circumstances. Many UK businesses had reported activity improving in December. The IHS/Markit flash composite purchasing managers index, which measures business levels compared to the previous month, rose to 50.7 in December from 49 in November. A reading above 50 indicates business is expanding. The services element of the index, which covers leisure and hospitality, rose to 49.9 in December from 47.6 in the previous month, suggesting business levels are still falling. Yet the data was still better than anticipated and shows the economy holding up relatively well. PMIs in the US were even stronger, with the businesses saying that activity levels were improving, especially in the manufacturing sector.

All in all, there is a sense of confidence that the global economy will get through this very challenging period and emerge to recover next year, as things return to normal. On a 12-month view, we remain optimistic on equities, although it could be a bumpy ride until as sentiment rises and falls along with the headlines.

Brewin Dolphin regularly give us their insight of the markets. Updates in this efficient manner are a quick but well-informed way to update your consensus view of the global markets.

Please keep using these blogs to regularly update your knowledge of current market affairs from around the world.

Keep well and all the best

Paul Green

23/12/2020

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Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update

Please see below for the latest Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update received by us today 21/12/2020:

UK COMMENTARY

  • Talks continued in the hope of finding a solution in the Brexit negotiations.
  • Data showed redundancies hit a record 370,000 in the third quarter of the year, with the unemployment rate rising to 4.9%.
  • UK inflation slowed again in November, to 0.3% from 0.7%, with prices weighed down by retailers cutting prices during ‘Black Friday’ sales.
  • The Bank of England voted to leave interest rates on hold and revised its expectations for the decline in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, from 2.0% to a “little over 1%”.
  • UK retail sales fell 3.8% month on month in November, although economists had predicted a decline of more than 4%.

US COMMENTARY

  • Talks continued over a further stimulus package, with the deadline fast approaching.
  • The Electoral College ratified the November presidential election result, with each state voting in line with their electorate to confirm the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
  • US retail sales fell further than expected in December, declining 1.1% month on month.
  • The US Federal Reserve announced it will buy at least $120bn of bonds each month until substantial further progress is made towards its maximum employment and price stability goals.
  • First-time jobless claims data came in above expectations in the week to 12th December, climbing to 885,000.

ASIA COMMENTARY

  • The Bank of Japan extended its virus-related corporate lending programme by six months to September 2021, while making no changes to its monetary policy.

COVID-19 COMMENTARY

  • The US began its vaccination programme, with the first three million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine distributed for use across all states.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine developed by Moderna for emergency use.
  • News broke of a new variant strain of COVID-19 that has become prominent in London, the South East and Eastern England.

These articles provide concise well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green

21/12/2020

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Brooks McDonald Daily Investment Bulletin

Please see below for the Daily Investment Bulletin from Brooks McDonald, received by us today 17/12/2020:

What has happened

The Federal Reserve had their final rate setting meeting of the year and were eager to reassure markets that quantitative easing would remain until the economy had improved substantially. Whilst markets initially wavered over the lack of further measures they eventually settled largely unchanged.

Last Fed meeting of 2020

The Federal Reserve has been responsible for a large number of the blockbuster stimulus headlines over 2020 but those hoping for another round of accommodation were disappointed. The committee stressed that it would continue with the current pace of quantitative easing until ‘substantial further progress’ had been achieved towards their inflation and employment targets. There was some change to the 2023 interest rate expectations with one member showing a hike that year and also to the 2023 inflation level expectations where 4 members pointed to a small overshoot of the 2% target. Of course, a small overshoot would not pose a problem for the bank given it has unveiled average inflation rate targeting earlier in the year which will give them additional room if needed.

Update on unfinished business

The tone around Brexit talks improved again yesterday with sterling seeing further strength but remaining in the 1.09-1.11 band versus the Euro that it has been maintaining despite the high jinks of recent weeks. EC President von der Leyen said yesterday that ‘there is a path to an agreement now’ but reports suggest that fisheries remain a stumbling block. Rumours are circulating that Parliament is readying to return early next week to vote on a deal which is also supporting the UK currency. Meanwhile US Fiscal Stimulus talks continue amidst a positive tone, but the spectre of Christmas is nearing so there is a narrowing path to pass through Congress. The more contentious $160bn bill appears to have been predictably side-lined but the more substantial package seems to have the support of both sides.

What does Brooks Macdonald think

Economic data over the last few days has seen beats in Europe (specifically the compositive PMIs) and misses from the US on retail sales. This highlights how difficult it is for economists to calculate activity during periods where restrictions are gradually tightening, and consumer behaviour is shifting. The miss in US retail sales does provide further impetus for fiscal stimulus however and markets shrugging this off reflects hope that this may provide a catalyst for support rather than be a sign of things to come.

Regular daily updates like these are a useful method of frequently updating your holistic view of the markets, especially given the way the market is rapidly changing by the day with Coronavirus and Brexit.  

Please continue to utilise these blogs to help inform your own views of the markets.

Stay safe and well.

Paul Green

17/12/2020

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Legal and General Asset Allocation team’s key beliefs

Please see below for the latest key beliefs article from Legal and General’s Asset Allocation team, received by us late afternoon 07/12/2020:

Festive spirits

Markets don’t seem to be taking a holiday break yet. Last week, equities rose, the US dollar weakened, and rates and inflation climbed higher. It doesn’t look like we will be able to relax any time soon, either; the coming weeks could see the start of vaccine distributions, the Trump administration transferring power, the conclusion of Brexit’s game of ‘deal or no deal’, and potentially a fiscal deal in the US.

As with all Key Beliefs emails, this email represents solely the investment views of LGIM’s Asset Allocation team.

Could the last bull please switch off the lights?

Recent news on COVID-19 vaccines has generally been positive, but the immediate economic outlook remains challenging. Europe is already in a renewed contraction, following a significant increase in restrictions to get the virus under control. US economic data have held up well so far because restrictions had been relatively limited, but stricter measures are starting to be deployed amid a surge in cases.

Then there are the fading hopes for fiscal stimulus. US households are beginning to run out of savings from the income transfers received during the spring lockdown, while more unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of this month. There are signs Congress is beginning to recognise this danger, and Friday’s weaker payrolls report was a clear warning as talks have resumed on passing some targeted measures in the $500-900 billion range. It is not clear a compromise can be reached in time for Christmas; failure to achieve one risks an outright contraction in activity over the festive period and a negative GDP print for the first quarter.

Does it matter? The outlook for 2021 is bullish and markets might be able to look through any weakness as temporary. The main headwind for markets at the moment is the very broad positive sentiment. Next year’s consensus outlooks are bullish and our sentiment indicators are exuberant. What could possibly go wrong?

We remain cautiously bullish for the medium term but tactically neutral. We will not chase the rally at this point, preferring to take our risk in relative-value trades.

Every hero needs a crisis

Central banks had no choice in either 2008 or March this year. The world needed to be saved from a financial meltdown and so they flushed liquidity into the world.

However, today’s monetary policy can contribute to tomorrow’s meltdown. Keeping interest rates low to provide a safety net for markets can induce corporations and households to take on more debt and more risk. This dynamic has also tended to stoke inequality, as asset prices have been boosted even though unemployment has spiked. Managed stability creates instability.

Global leverage has increased significantly this year, undoing much if not all of the deleveraging of recent years. In a normal world, increased leverage is often resolved by a credit crisis, massive defaults, forced liquidations, or massive inflation. But apparently this isn’t a normal world.

Most of the increase in debt during the pandemic has been in the public sector, and a large part of this has been absorbed by central banks via quantitative easing. This debt sits with central banks and is perpetually rolled over, effectively debt monetisation. Central banks could commit to never selling it or just write it off, which would improve debt-to-GDP ratios. Cancelling public debt like this is prohibited in some countries, due to the moral hazard it could create for politicians. For others, the only constraint is ultimately inflation.

But ballooning debt is also a symptom of other problems like weak productivity and inequality (encompassing poor health, low wage growth, and poor education). This could result in further political tensions and anti-globalisation, similar to the experience of the 1930s.

Given the current economic output gaps, we don’t see runaway inflation as a likely scenario but our head of economics does expect mildly higher inflation in the years to come. This would change if we saw continued broad global fiscal support financed by central banks.

Do you feel lucky?

Bitcoin reached a new all-time high last week. The crypto-currency has mostly seemed a private-investor phenomenon, but we have seen increased interest from institutions. There are many things for them to like: past returns have been stellar (an annualised return above 100% over the past five years); it has offered some diversifying properties with only a slight positive correlation with risk; and, contrary to many currencies, it has the attraction of limited supply at a time when central banks are printing money.

However, there are also plenty of downsides. Bitcoins have no intrinsic value (at least tulip bulbs could yield a beautiful flower); they are not widely recognised or regulated; it takes the energy of a medium-sized nation to mine a bitcoin so it isn’t very environmentally friendly; and it is very expensive and slow to use in day-to-day transactions.

The first is perhaps the most existential risk: at some point bitcoins could become worthless if a more popular or efficient alternative is found. Central banks could well develop their own crypto-currencies, especially if bitcoins and others become too big and interfere with efficient monetary policy.

It could easily be years before the next bitcoin selloff but we know how this story is likely to end. At the peak of the 17th century tulip trade in Amsterdam, those paying fortunes for a single bulb were surely speculators who understood that tulip prices had no link to bulbs’ intrinsic value and just hoped to sell them to someone else at an even higher price. Many were successful in the year before the crash in 1637; their quick gains were what drew in others and excited pundits. Does that sound familiar?

These articles provide concise well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well,

Paul Green

08/12/2020

Team No Comments

Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update

Please see below for the latest Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update received by us today 30/11/2020:

UK COMMENTARY

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to the second national lockdown, with the country moving to a three-tier system after 2nd December. Additional rules governing the Christmas period were also announced, with three households allowed to form a ‘bubble’ between 23rd and 27th December.
  • The Composite UK Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a six-month low of 47.4 in November, from 52.1 in October, indicating a contraction in business activity. The services sector PMI contracted from 51.4 to 45.8, while there was expansion in manufacturing from 53.7 to 55.2.
  • Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s latest spending review. He confirmed that £55bn of COVID-related spending is in place for the next fiscal year, in addition to the £280bn allocated for 2020.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility released its forecasts, showing its central case. This is where vaccines are widely available from mid-2021, leading to the economy being approximately 3% smaller in 2024/25 than if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

US COMMENTARY

  • The General Services Administration announced that it would begin the formal transition process to the president-elect Joe Biden. This will allow Biden and his team access to both funding and government agency officials. It’s the first sign that a smooth transition of power may take place.
  • Initial jobless claims came in ahead of expectations at a five-week high of 778,000
  • The Federal Reserve meeting minutes from early November showed that policymakers will consider further stimulus via asset purchase mechanisms

ASIA COMMENTARY

  • China’s industrial profits rose for the sixth consecutive month, posting an increase of 28.2% year on year according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics

COVID-19 COMMENTARY

  • Results from clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine in joint development by Astrazeneca and Oxford University showed 70% effectiveness across all dosing regimens tested. One regimen showed efficacy of 90%.

These articles provide concise well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green

30/11/2020

Team No Comments

Brooks McDonald Daily Investment Bulletin 25/11/2020

Please see below for Brooks McDonald’s latest Daily Investment Bulletin, received by us this morning 25/11/2020:

What has happened

The US market hit another all-time high yesterday as the vaccine backdrop mixed with positive news around the US transition and expectations that Janet Yellen will be appointed Biden’s Treasury Secretary. The bias towards non-tech stocks continued with the equal weight US market outperforming the traditional index yet again.

Vaccine update

As more vaccines are revealed we expect the pace of news flow in this area to increase and yesterday Sinopharm submitted an application to bring its vaccine to the Chinese market. The Sinopharm vaccine has already been approved for emergency use and has been rolled out quite widely already. Official approval would also open the door to exports to the number of ASEAN countries that have bought the vaccine. This could be a meaningful step for countries without access, either due to economic or political factors, to the cheap Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. On the latter vaccine we saw information that the half dose followed by full dose combination which achieved 90% efficacy was only administered to those under 55. This may suggest the population wide efficacy of that strategy is far lower but that isn’t necessarily a problem. Higher cost (financially and logistically) vaccines with high efficacy can be used for those most vulnerable but the cheaper vaccines with equivalent efficacy only in younger cohorts, can be used for herd immunity.

UK Spending Review

Today will see the long-awaited announcement from the UK Chancellor on the state of the UK’s Public finances as well as detailing some short-term next steps. Importantly this is only a one-year review which has been scaled down given the uncertainties of COVID (and indeed Brexit). The tone of the announcement is likely to retain a focus on supporting the economy and jobs short term with the FT reporting that a £4.3bn employment plan will be revealed. That number is however relatively small compared to the numbers in March and this reflects the new context of a far tighter fiscal backdrop coming into 2021, something that will be outlined during the speech.

What does Brooks Macdonald think

The formal budget was deliberately pushed back as the UK economy simply couldn’t handle fiscal tightening when we are in a period of rolling lockdowns. Even next year the government will need to strike a cautious balance between getting public finances back on track and not derailing a delicate recovery which would ultimately generate a need for more fiscal support down the line.

These articles provide concise and well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well,

Paul Green

25/11/2020

Team No Comments

Jupiter Fund Management: Active Minds 19 November 2020

Please see below for Jupiter Fund Management’s latest Active Minds article, received by us this morning 20/11/2020:

Dermot Murphy

Fund Manager, Value Equities

Has Value started the long journey back from the brink?

There has been a pronounced rotation from Growth into Value in recent days, an event which Dermot Murphy, Fund Manager, Value Equities pointed out has been very rare in the last few years.

In the UK, the names which suffered most during lockdown rallied hardest on Monday last week, but in many cases that momentum faded as the week went on. It was notable, however, that a UK-listed cruise company took the opportunity presented by the higher share price to issue a $1.5bn new equity issuance. Dermot would expect other companies to do similar over the coming weeks and months.

The rally broadened out over the course of last week, as companies that have struggled during lockdown despite being relatively insulated from the crisis caught more of the market’s attention. It’s important to note, said Dermot, that this rally in Value is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the scale of the underperformance of Value seen in recent years. If this short rally is to turn into a longer-term trend, there is still a great deal of ground for Value to make up relative to Growth.

James Novotny

Credit Analyst

Rotation could get nasty over the tough winter

A divided US government following this month’s elections may accentuate the conflict between a difficult short-term outlook of rising Covid-19 cases and additional lockdowns in the US and Europe, and an optimistic medium-term view that includes the potential rollout of vaccines bringing  freedom of movement and the release of pent-up demand, said James Novotny, Macro Analyst, Fixed Income.

Two runoff elections in January will decide which party controls the Senate, but a divided US Congress is now the base case, in James’s view. This means a smaller fiscal stimulus package and a longer wait for it to be rolled out and is a potential problem given the challenging winter period, he added.

James said many year-ahead investment outlooks seem willing to look through these difficult few months, envisioning a smooth transition as investors shift out of US assets and from growth into value. He worries there could be a nasty rotation, however, not as pain-free as some investors believe. There needs to be a certain level of economic growth to support this rotation at a time of possibly higher corporate bond yields and potentially less fiscal and central bank stimulus, he said.

Last week’s market moves were illuminating because they were so stark, he said. Many people were caught wrong-footed, having positions that supported a ‘QE-forever’ trade, and the volatility, including in the foreign exchange markets, was concerning. So too was the fact that the US breakevens, a market measure of inflation expectations has failed to respond to the election and vaccine news, and have languished well below the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) inflation targets, he said. This signals a clear need for more stimulus at a time when President Trump seems to be trying to make the transition to a Biden White House difficult, James said.

The Fed needs to do more, but its next open market committee meeting is mid-December, and it may be a long month. Against this backdrop, the dollar should remain weak despite sporadic risk-off periods, given the record twin deficits, James said. Looking ahead, US assets bear close watching, especially the dollar and US break-evens, for any signs that the move out of US assets can be more painless, and to see that central bank policy is loose enough.

Matthew Pigott

Assistant Fund Manager, Emerging Markets

Chinese government draw a line in the sand with corporates

Interesting news in China, after the default of a flagship company in China’s drive for self-sufficiency in semiconductors, said Matthew Pigott, Assistant Fund Manager, Emerging Markets. This reminds us, in Matthew’s view, firstly that China’s attempts to pour money into its semiconductor industry will be a very long uphill battle.

Secondly it is a reminder that there are a lot of companies in China with a lot of debt and few prospects, so for the government to effectively say “even though you’re a tech company in a highly sensitive sector of strategic importance, we’re not going to stand behind you” has interesting implications for other corporates.

Matthew went on to talk about new competition regulation in the internet space, which is targeted at the e-commerce giants. The situation is complex, but the upshot is that the power of these tech mega caps will be checked. The biggest practical changes involved the banning of forced exclusivity arrangements and algorithm-based pricing. Shares in those stocks have been hit hard since the regulation was released, despite stellar 3Q results and record ‘Singles Day’ sales. Matthew said it is interesting that this regulation has come in at time when, as we’ve seen in other regions, the Growth/Value divergence in the market has shown signs of shifting.

Dan Carter

Fund Manager, Japanese Equities

Stage was already set for a shift in market leadership

Dan Carter, Fund Manager, also highlighted the stylistic rotation that has happened in the market, with Value stocks performing well in Japan as well. What has been driving the Japanese market in recent days has been the likes of banks, insurers, autos and transport stocks.

On the flipside, the those business giving up returns in the market have been asset light, higher valuation businesses – stocks that are common to many growth-focused Japanese active equity funds as there has been a lot of crowding into a relatively small number of names.

With hindsight, this shift shouldn’t have come as a surprise, said Dan. When he looked at the operational performance of business, he could see that the stage was set for a rotation. Operating profits across the market are down about 30% in the first half of the accounting year, but that is nevertheless well ahead of what had been a very bearish consensus. Upward revisions have generally been concentrated in manufacturers e.g. transportation equipment and electric appliances – expectations for these sectors were so low that we were due a turnaround.

Luca Evangelisti

Fund Manager and Head of Credit Research, Fixed Income

No ‘long Covid’ for European banks

The Q3 results for European financials were better than expected, said Luca Evangelisti, Fund Manager and Head of Credit Research, with lower provisions and rising capital ratios as most banks had already front-loaded their provisions for Covid-related loans in the second quarter. European banks also reported that more borrowers than expected had recommenced their loan repayments following the Covid-related payment holidays.

That’s all good, said Luca but banks are clearly still in an artificial situation where they have been helped by job support schemes, government guarantees and moratoria on loan repayments. Although the ending of these would be likely to have some effect on banks’ margins in the first couple of quarters of 2021, the prospect of viable vaccines and a return to more normal economic activity should limit the impact of the crisis on banks’ balance sheets. Luca therefore believes banks are in a fundamentally strong position.

As for the vaccine news, subordinated financials and senior level debt rallied strongly as did bank shares. That said, the decoupling of bank equity to bank debt, particularly CoCos (contingent convertible bonds) remains remarkable. For example, European bank shares are down around 30% year-to-date whereas Additional Tier 1 debt is up around 3% over the same period. And while the European Central Bank could have used the vaccine news to change its accommodative stance, Christine Lagarde made it clear that the Bank still intends to announce further measures in December which should provide support to credit spreads and the wider market in general.

These articles provide detailed and well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well,

Paul Green

20/11/2020

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Weekly Market Commentary: A key week ahead for Brexit talks amid significant Downing Street changes

Please see below for detailed economic and market news from Brooks McDonald’s in-house research team, received by us the evening of 16/11/2020:

Last week was dominated by a cyclical rotation caused by positive news around the Pfizer vaccine

Friday capped off a partial unwind of the sizeable rotation into cyclical stocks as last week’s newsflow was dominated by the Pfizer vaccine story. The next few weeks may see further efficacy data from other challengers such as Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, another Brexit deadline looms this week.

With changes at Number 10, markets are attempting to read the implications for policy

With a number of senior advisers leaving Downing Street at the end of last week, including Dominic Cummings, markets were scrambling to work out what this means for policy as well as Brexit. There are many theories abound but given the timing of Brexit talks this week, the exit of prominent Vote Leave figures seems less likely to be a coincidence. Prime Minister Johnson signalled that he was keen to shift to a levelling up policy agenda during meetings this week. This has taken a slight backseat as he was forced to self-isolate after being in contact with an MP who tested positive for coronavirus.

A key week for Brexit negotiations as talks continue ahead of Thursday’s EU Leaders conference

The government has been anxious to stress that these changes are not the harbinger of a softening of the UK’s Brexit stance. The UK’s Chief Negotiator David Frost said over the weekend that the UK’s negotiating position has been consistent, adding ‘I will not be changing it’1 . This week is important given the meeting of EU leaders on Thursday. While it is possible that talks drag on into early December, there is a growing sense of urgency on both sides that clarity for business needs to be achieved. The EU leaders meeting will likely disclose the current state of play within the negotiations and this could prove to be a pivotal week for a topic that seems to have had too many key weeks.

Sterling has remained largely rangebound coming into the negotiations this week. This is because the market knows that the current level is wrong. It is either too high (in the event of a no deal) or too low (in the case of a trade deal) and there are few solid signs of a shift one way or another. It is important to note that the blueprint for a trade deal is a ‘Canada style’ Free Trade Agreement rather than something akin to the Single Market. For this reason, even if we do see a deal over the coming weeks and a subsequent jump in Sterling, some economic risk is still likely to weigh on currency for the medium term.

Regular updates like these are a useful method of frequently updating your holistic view of the markets, especially given the way the market is rapidly changing by the day with recent news of multiple Coronavirus Vaccines.

Please continue to read these blogs to keep you informed.

Stay safe and well

Paul Green

17/11/2020