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Viewpoint – February 2022

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Lenin

The quote is attributed to Lenin shortly before the Russian revolution. The week which started on February 24th, when Russia invaded Ukraine, is one of those weeks. Russia’s aggression and the unfolding humanitarian disaster have shaken the West to its core. The self-indulgent complacency spanning three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union has hit the brick wall of an existential threat to the liberal order of the democratic free World.

Viewpoint – January 2022

Markets suffered a severe jolt in the early weeks of the new year. Bond yields rose sharply, and Wall Street suffered its steepest drop since the pandemic crash of March 2020. The S&P 500 fell by close to 10% from its all-time high recorded on 3rd January before a late rally reduced the loss for the month to 5.2%. Most other equity markets were dragged down with similarly large declines, but there were notable exceptions; some emerging markets benefitted from strength in commodity markets, notably oil, up +17% in January, while the UK market delivered a positive return, up +1.6% in GBP terms. UK equities have underperformed substantially in recent years, held back by an especially steep drop in economic activity during the pandemic, and by a high weighting in energy, commodity and financial stocks, representing 40% of the index, and seen by many investors as long term laggards. January saw a sharp reversal in these trends, with the UK emerging from the pandemic earlier and more robustly than other major economies, oil and mining shares enjoying a strong tail wind from commodity price rises, and financials responding to the prospect of higher interest rates, leading to improved margins and earnings.

Viewpoint – November 2021

The buoyant markets of October continued through most of November, taking several equity indices to new all-time highs, until news of the new Covid variant, Omicron, at the end of the month reverberated globally and sent equity markets into their sharpest one-day falls of 2021, pushing all major markets into negative territory for the month.

Viewpoint – October 2021

The abrupt fall in markets in September was equally abruptly reversed in October, with Wall Street enjoying its best month of the year, the S&P 500 returning 7.0% and closing the month at an all-time high. Other markets generally made progress, but could not keep pace with the US; the only major market to fall was Japan, down 1.4% in local currency terms (-3.8% in USD terms), reversing some of its strong outperformance of September in the face of uncertainty ahead of the general election on 31 October. Emerging markets continued their run of underperformance, returning 1.0% in USD terms in October compared with 5.7% from developed markets, leaving their year-to-date returns at -0.3% and 19.4% respectively. However, stripping out the top performer of the major markets, the US, from the MSCI World index, and China, the weakest of the large markets, from the MSCI Emerging Markets index, paints a rather different picture, with returns much closer together. China stabilised in October but has fallen by 14.0% so far this year as its problems, some self-inflicted, mounted.

Viewpoint – May 2021

Confidence in economic recovery continued to mount in May, with most data and forward indicators pointing to a period of exceptional growth underway. Confirmation from data releases and empirical evidence that this is being accompanied by a sharp rise in inflation caused some investor nervousness during the month, but dovish signals from the Federal Reserve assuaged those concerns and underpinned a continuation of the reflation trade in markets while, somewhat surprisingly, holding bond yields in check.

Viewpoint – April 2021

The pandemic continued to dominate discourse in April as case numbers globally reached record daily levels, but the impact became increasingly differentiated between the developed world, where the vaccine roll-out is bringing herd immunity and the end of lockdowns and movement restrictions into sight, and developing nations, notably India and Brazil, where second waves have spread rapidly with devastating effect and vaccine roll-out is trailing badly. However, the global dominance in both GDP and stock market capitalisation of the developed world together with China, which was the earliest economy to rebound from the pandemic, has underpinned growing confidence in recovery and the prospects for equity markets. The US and global equity market indices reached new all-time highs in April, with the S&P 500 up 5.3% and MSCI World +4.7%. Emerging markets were more constrained by the pandemic news, and by further evidence of China’s widening clampdown on its internet giants as both Tencent and Meituan were hit with anti-trust investigations following a similar move on Alibaba. The MSCI Emerging Markets index returned 2.5% in the month, with China +1.4%.