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.