Markets show signs of optimism, but all eyes are on central banks.
Despite a mixed third-quarter earnings season and stubbornly high inflation, October results saw a comeback in most global sharemarkets. All eyes are now on central banks, as price pressures start showing signs of cooling. Read on to learn more.
A good month for most markets
2022 is quickly winding down, and it’s safe to say it has been an intense year for the investment markets. The headline news largely revolved around inflation, but according to economists, October provided some reprieve and sound returns over the month.
In their latest Market Commentary, AMP reported that the US sharemarket gained 8.1% in October, European markets were up 6.2%, and Australia and New Zealand saw increases of 6.0% and 2.5% respectively. But while most markets experienced a good month, emerging markets continued to struggle and the Chinese sharemarket was down 9.6% for the month, with the strict zero-Covid policy dampening consumer confidence and the economy at large.
Is the fight against inflation at a crossroads?
Over the past quarter, central banks across the world continued to try and tackle inflation with aggressive interest rate hikes, including our Reserve Bank. This has left many investors concerned about the extent of the impact on the economy, and the far-from-unlikely possibility that monetary policies may tip the global economy into a recession.
But more recently, there have been signs of economic cooling, supply chain pressures are easing, and the oil price is stabilising. As Kiwi Wealth highlighted in their Market Commentary for October 2022, markets seem to have shifted expectations regarding the trajectory of interest rate hikes. And in this respect, the US Consumer Price Index released in early November was promising.
At 7.7% in the year through October, the US inflation index was rosier than the 7.9% that analysts had forecast and down from 8.2% in the year through September – welcome news for the Federal Reserve, for American consumers, and of course for global markets. However, Federal Reserve officials said that it’s too early to celebrate, noting that more rate increases are likely to come, albeit at a slower pace. “Just like October, inflation will remain the primary investor narrative in November and likely till year-end,” Kiwi Wealth’s report concluded.
A closer look at the New Zealand market
Here in New Zealand, we’ll have to wait until 25 January 2023 for the next inflation index update. The latest data (September 2022) saw yearly inflation at 7.2% – higher than expected and down only slightly from the 7.3% reported in the second quarter.
This prompted the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to increase the official cash rate (OCR) by another 0.5% in October to 3.5%, the fifth consecutive 50 point basis hike since February 2022. And there are some predictions that the RBNZ may now front-foot inflation with an even more aggressive rate hike later this month. It remains to be seen how things will evolve in the coming weeks.
Mixed quarterly corporate earnings
It was a mixed Q3 earnings season. On the one hand, bank shares performed relatively well. On the other, the subdued earnings delivered by large tech firms seem to point to a slowdown in the global economy.
These include the likes of Microsoft, Facebook’s parent company Meta, Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet. Interestingly, Alphabet reported its weakest quarterly growth in nearly ten years, and Microsoft saw its slowest quarterly revenue growth in five years.
On the upside, 73% of the reporting companies in the S&P500 (the benchmark index for the US economy) experienced earnings above analysts’ expectations, compared to the long-term average of 66%. This goes to show that many companies are still managing through challenging conditions, though some have downgraded their growth expectations.
What happened in the rest of the world?
It’s been another eventful quarter overseas, marked by growing tensions around the Ukraine war, the UK’s shortest-ever Prime Minister tenure, and the start of a precedent-breaking third term for China’s president Xi Jinping. But let’s proceed with order.
Europe & Russia: A quiet confidence is emerging amid the gloom of the European energy crisis. A warmer-than-usual autumn has given EU countries extra time to ramp up their winter gas supply, but according to The Economist, it’s premature to declare an end to the crisis. Faced with military setbacks, Putin may increase the pressure further by stopping all gas deliveries or vandalising infrastructure.
The UK: Following Liz Truss’s resignation after just 45 days on the job, the new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is looking to calm investment markets. Truss had come under pressure when her Government’s announced tax cuts prompted a sell-off in UK bonds and caused the British pound to fall significantly. Meanwhile, driven by rising food costs, UK inflation was recently back up to a 40-year high at 10.1%.
The US: The mid-term elections were on this month, and things didn’t go as many had predicted. The shift in the balance of power in Congress between Democrats and Republicans – which could have a deep impact on the economy – didn’t happen. For the foreseeable future, market swings will likely be determined by the next interest rate movements.
China: After the National Party Congress, the Chinese economy remains in a tough spot. There seems to be no end in sight for the country’s strict zero-Covid policy, and investors fear that with the new leadership team, China will isolate itself even further from the rest of the world.
Where to from here?
With so many different factors at work, it’s nearly impossible to predict the direction of the markets. All the economists and analysts that we have looked at agree that the ongoing challenges we’ve seen all year will likely persist. So, markets are expected to be unsettled for the foreseeable future.
That said, as AMP economists put it, “October has demonstrated that not all volatility is bad, and it goes both ways. Market ups and downs are a natural, and an inevitable part of investing. This is why it’s important to remain with your investment and savings strategy, and to focus on the big picture, so you don’t miss out on the market rebounds like we saw in October.”
In the meantime, here are some key local factors to watch, according to ANZ:
Wage growth momentum – If the wage-price spiral keeps surprising, the RBNZ may need to increase the OCR beyond 5%.
Net visitor arrivals – Migration flows are expected to recover, but they have a long way to go before returning to normal.
Labour market – To overcome the ‘sticky’ domestic inflation, it’s crucial that the unemployment rate increases from the current 3.3%.
House prices – To date, national house prices have fallen between 12% and 8%, depending on the analysis. How low they might go is anyone’s guess.
Sources and further reading:
ANZ Research – Quarterly Economic Outlook – November 2022
AMP New Zealand – Market Commentary – October 2022
Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.
IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ: This material is provided for information only. It is not personal financial advice. No account has been taken of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Accordingly, to the extent this material constitutes general financial product advice, you should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your investment objectives, financial situation and needs. If you need to speak with an adviser, please contact Miles on 021 645 000 or email@example.com.
I’ve fielded a number of calls in recent weeks from clients who are concerned about the current market turmoil. There’s no doubt that 2022 from an investment perspective has not gone well – with double-digit negative returns since the start of the year. With an almost incessant barrage of negative economic news and increasing geopolitical turmoil and unrest, its hard to see any positives on the horizon. The thing is – the markets have reacted accordingly and the downturn reflects the market’s assessment of the current outlook. Does that mean that it will get better from hear on in? No – but, neither does it mean it will get worse – the markets will do what the the markets do – respond to price signals.
What does that mean for your KiwiSaver or other investments? Should you make any changes?
Our advice is always to consider the goals you have for your KiwiSaver/Investment and ask yourself two questions –
have the goals for your KiwiSaver or Investment changed since the beginning of the year? and,
Have your time horizons changed?
If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes” (or “possibly) – please get in touch so we can help you determine whether any changes are appropriate. If you answered No to both questions – then sit tight – it could be a bit of a bumpy ride but by focussing on the long term (signal) as opposed to current market turmoil (noise), you will be able to take advantage of the recovery when it comes around.
The conflict in Ukraine has added to the increased level of uncertainty prevailing in financial markets this year, which were already grappling with concerns over high inflation and the expectation of higher interest rates. However, until yesterday it was unknown whether an all out war would occur. Consequently when it was announced that Russia had invaded Ukraine, share markets fell sharply and commodity prices including oil rose. Even the New Zealand market was impacted with the S&P NZX50 index falling 3.3% and the Australian share market falling 2.2%.
A fall in share values has been the markets’ historical response to the threat of war. Yet perversely once the campaign has started, the focus of markets moves on to other issues and share markets have typically rebounded. This theme occurred last night when the S&P 500 was initially down 2.6% only to end the day up 1.5%.
Clearly there will be some longer lasting economic and political impacts of the conflict. The extent of the economic sanctions and the removal of financial linkages with Russia are designed to punish Russian aggression and will likely draw a commensurate response from Russia. The imposition of sanctions will likely persist over the long-term. However, the economic impact is likely to be more punitive on Russia than on western economies.
From a New Zealand perspective, the extent of trade with both Russia and Ukraine is limited. Russian exports to New Zealand during 2020 were approximately US$252 million, overwhelmingly mineral fuels and oil. New Zealand exports to Russia consist primarily of dairy products and are of a similar order of magnitude in terms of value. Trade with Ukraine is insignificant.
Wider implications might be drawn in terms of the price of globally traded commodities most notably oil. The oil price has already surged with Brent crude trading at over US$100 per barrel. Given Germany’s dependency on Russian natural gas, continued elevated electricity prices are likely in Europe. However, natural gas is not yet an internationally traded commodity so this impact should be limited to just Europe.
A rise in the price of energy is a two-edge sword from a monetary policy setting perspective. While it feeds through into a higher inflation rate, it also depresses discretionary spending. This means that central banks may not have to increase interest rates as rapidly or as high given the increased cost of oil will reduce demand for other goods and services.
Other commodities that could be impacted include grain – Ukraine is the bread basket of Europe – aluminium and nickel. Russian based Rusal is one of the largest global aluminium producers, while Norilsk Nickel is the world’s largest Nickel miner. The conflict may therefore have second round effects and some unexpected consequences.
Importantly, there are many companies that will not be impacted by the conflict. Exactly why both the New Zealand and Australian share markets should fall so sharply is perplexing. The impact on both economies is likely to be limited with the direction of interest rates and the return to normality post COVID much more important. Similarly, the United States, the largest global share market, will only be marginally impacted. Again, the direction of inflation and interest rates will be more important in the long term to this market.
In summary, outside the significant human cost and the possibility for further increases in the price of petrol, the impact on the global economy is likely to be minimal. This implies the long-term impact on client’s portfolios is also likely to be minor. Share markets experienced a similar fall in 2014 when there was unrest in the Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea. Yet after the initial decline, share markets rebounded and largely forgot about the ongoing conflict. Therefore, we believe the prudent course of action is to look through any immediate tendency to over react and focus on core investment drivers such as what is happening to inflation and interest rates and how are companies reacting to the economic environment.
– Source: Select Wealth Management
Information and Disclaimer:
Source: JMI (previously JMIS), the investment consultant to the Select Wealth Management service.
This report is for information purposes only. It does not take into account your investment needs or personal circumstances and so is not intended to be viewed as investment or financial advice. Should you require financial advice you should contact Miles Flower on 021 645 000.
Interest rates fell over the month of September and for the ﬁrst time in New Zealand some market rates went negative. Into the tail end of the month government bonds with maturities out to 5 years were providing negative yields. This implies that a purchaser of these bonds, if they held them to maturity, would receive a negative return on their investment. The negative yields are a direct result of monetary policy in New Zealand and signal the expected direction and level of interest rates under the current policy settings. The RBNZ has advised ﬁnancial institutions to prepare for the possibility of a negative Oﬃcial Cash Rate (OCR) in terms of their systems. This is important as the OCR has an inﬂuence over the short- term interest rates retail investors receive from banks. The RBNZ has also continued to aggressively buy bonds issued to the market reducing the level of interest rates generally. Messaging from the RBNZ and Minister of Finance has been that interest rates will remain low, and potentially negative in some instances, for as long as required to lift the New Zealand economy back to full employment and a ‘healthy’ inﬂation rate. This suggests that the time period over which interest rates are at near zero levels will persist potentially for a number of years.
deposit rates have followed bond rates down. Bank term deposit rates are now
below 2% on all terms out to 5 years. Despite the low current rates there is
still some potential for interest rates to decline further given central
government objectives and it is conceivable that term deposit and bond yields
decline in interest rates has been prolonged and this has impacted on the
income available from ﬁxed interest investments. As interest rates continue to
fall into 2021 clients who require a regular income from their investment
portfolio, and have an allocation to ﬁxed interest, will ﬁnd the return from
this asset class will be near zero. These low interest rates may continue over
the next few years, requiring those investors to re-evaluate their objectives
and expectations. Allocating more investments to shares can increase the income
as well as the return for investors over the long-term, but this will come with
additional risk of the capital value of their portfolio rising and falling.
Portfolio Impact of Low Interest Rates on Debt Securities
Interest rates approaching zero, and potentially below, will result in the potential for capital gain but this is not on an open-ended basis. If eventually the current trend reverses and rates begin to rise in the future, then there is potential for capital losses to be incurred and given the low level of rates the magnitude of losses is ampliﬁed. An investor is faced with an investment class that after tax may generate an income for investors of close to zero but if interest rates rise, which may be some years away, a potential capital loss. We expect that in 2021 the risk and reward equation of investing and receiving nothing with the potential for a capital loss will test many investors’ patience. As an example of what an investor could expect from ﬁxed interest is the recent new issue by Mercury Energy of a 7-year bond at 1.56% p.a.
Portfolio Impact of Low Interest Rates on Shares
The fundamental driver of share values is cash ﬂow generation into the future, discounted to obtain a present value. Lower interest rates decrease the discount rate and increase
theoretical value of the shares. Likewise, the relative attractiveness of
dividends to investors improves as interest rates fall and provides a further
driver to capital growth in share values. In this scenario both growth
companies and yield companies are beneﬁciaries of the underlying monetary
short-term the translation of these market drivers is not always evident as
other factors inﬂuence the direction and magnitude of price changes in speciﬁc
securities. In the last month the S&P/NZX Gross index fell 1.6%. In
contrast the S&P/NZX All Real Estate Gross index rose by 2.6%. The broader
market index weakened as the previous market leaders A2 Milk and Fisher &
Paykel Healthcare share prices fell over the month 17.5% and 9.7%
respectively. These two companies are
growth businesses with no and minimal distribution yield respectively. With the
knowledge that low interest rates may be something we will need to live with
for some time, property emerged from a period of underperformance as yields
from property companies once again became compelling with an income return to
investors of approximately 5% p.a.
share markets also lost traction in local and New Zealand dollar terms. The US
market as measured by the S&P 500 lost the most ground. High ﬂying stocks
such as Amazon slipped (-8.9%) and investment ﬂowed to value companies e.g.
building materials (Martin Marietta +9%) and traditional delivery company FedEX
(+15%). Initial public oﬀerings of technology companies continued to be well
received e.g. Snowﬂake and Unit Software listing at large premiums to issue
The current interest rate settings are confronting conservative investors with a stark choice. If investors place greater weight on capital preservation, then the status quo in terms of asset allocation continues but this will be at a cost of minimal income. In order to generate some income from portfolios investors will need to consider increasing the risk within ﬁxed income assets or move from ﬁxed interest to other ‘stable’ assets that generate reliable cash ﬂows, such as selected forms of property and infrastructure companies. Investing in these assets is not without hazard and is always subject to the characteristics of quality and price. There is a popular saying ‘TINA’. (There Is No Alternative). It looks like we might be in a low interest environment for some years and the hunt for income will put pressure on assets that oﬀer an investor an income.
Information and Disclaimer:
Source: JMI (previously JMIS), the investment consultant to the Select Wealth Management service.
This report is for information purposes only. It does not take
into account your investment needs or personal circumstances and so is not intended to be viewed as investment or financial advice. Should you require financial advice you should contact Miles Flower on 021 645 000.
Investors continue to face two contrasting scenarios:
A) Global economies remain subdued and markets decline from elevated levels;or
B)Central bank stimulus continues to prime the pump and markets continue to climb in value.
As a result, investors are fine-tuned to market signals as to whether to retreat to safety or continue to pursue returns from more risky positioning. Investor returns in October were driven by sentiment relating to the immediate impact of interest rate policy decisions and trade negotiations. Consensus outlook improved over the month as the new calendar year approaches. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its projections for 2020 and expects 2020 to be a better year than 2019 in terms of economic growth. However the IMF, as usual, makes its projections with significant caveats.
United States Key to Global Trends
The United States share market is being buffeted by the trade dispute with China but has remained remarkably resilient. The S&P500 rose over the month, recovering early losses. Third quarter earnings reporting occurred over the month with 74% of companies delivering earnings in excess of admittedly muted market expectations. This is despite most of the S&P 500 earning substantial revenues offshore and the US industrial sector showing definite signs of deceleration. Supporting the equity market is resilient US consumer demand which comprises 70% of US GDP and the effect of the Federal Reserve’s prior interest rate reductions. Where the central bank makes a change to the benchmark interest rate it typically takes several months for the effect to translate to the real economy. US GDP’s latest print was 1.9% per annum. This exceeded market expectations of 1.6%. The better result was driven by higher consumer and government expenditure. In contrast investment and trade segments of the US economy were weaker.
The US Federal Reserve has continued to cut short-term interest rates as ‘insurance’ against a slowing economy. The Federal Reserve reduced the Federal Funds rate to a range of 1.5% to 1.75% at the end of the month, down 0.25%. It appears that the Federal Reserve will not increase the Federal Funds rate while inflation remains dull.
Australasia not Isolated
The local economy and share market are affected by offshore developments in terms of externally facing companies’ revenues and capital flows into and out of the New Zealand fixed interest and equity markets. The New Zealand share market slipped in the month with some intra-month volatility. This volatility reflected the circumstances of particular companies and positioning in relation to changes to the MSCI index as it relates to New Zealand’s largest companies. The composition of the MSCI was reviewed with market speculation that Fletcher Building would be removed, and Mercury enter the index. These changes drive passive offshore investment flows into and out of shares.
In addition, both Fletcher Building and the electricity companies which represent a substantial proportion of the market index were impacted by company specific events. Fletcher Building’s convention centre project for Sky City suffered a fire which will delay completion of the project. As the insurance position of the respective companies is unknown the financial impact of the fire remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the issue will likely impact sentiment for a lengthy period of time as the parties’ dispute liability for the actual and consequential costs of the fire.
The electricity companies have been impacted by a reopening of negotiations by Rio Tinto over the price of electricity supplied to their aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point in Bluff. The smelter is a sufficiently large electricity consumer that if the smelter closes it will result in a fall in power prices for several years. All power companies are impacted by a market wide fall in electricity prices. Although closure is thought to be a low probability outcome, ongoing uncertainty will hang over company share prices until resolution.
Long-term interest rates in New Zealand and the United States rose slightly over the month. Longer term interest rates globally are impacted by US rates although the strength of the correlation fluctuates over time. Investors in fixed interest became less pessimistic as to the outlook for growth (trade negotiations between the US and China appeared to make progress) and the supply of bonds continued to expand. New Zealand interest rates reached a six-week high with the government 10-yearbond at 1.27% on 29 October. This is a large move in interest rates in a short time period but is still outweighed by falls earlier in the year. Bond fund returns were adversely impacted as a result. Market pricing in relation to a further cut in the Official Cash Rate moderated over the month but an overall expectation of a further cut remains.
Like New Zealand,the Australian share market was flat over the month. The Australian economy is providing mixed signals. There are a number of positive signs. Residential housing prices in the major Australian cities appear to have bottomed, but building consents declined 23% last month relative to the previous comparable period.
The Australian business outlook per Reuters forecast poll is for GDP to print at 1.9% for 2019 and for the Australian economy to pick up in 2020 to 2.5%. Positively, investors in Australian equities are paying a much lower average price earnings multiple than New Zealand although this is distorted by the preponderance of banking and resources stocks.
Performance of the Australian share market was held back by the major Australian banks taking further substantial customer remediation charges, and a further inquiry into bank’s mortgage pricing. Uncertainty over the Australian bank’s capital positions in response to changing regulatory requirements is also impacting bank share prices. The major mining companies, BHP and Rio, continue to be affected by a weakening iron ore price. Rio also owns aluminium smelters (including Tiwai Point) and clearly weak aluminium profitability is also a drag.
A feature of the month in Australia was the withdrawal of six company listings, including Latitude, a consumer finance business. The current biggest uncertainty in Australia is the Australian consumer who remains subdued, impacting consumer finance demand and discretionary retailers. To combat the absence of strong consumer demand, below target inflation and higher level of unemployment compared to New Zealand, the Reserve Bank of Australia reduced the cash rate to 0.75% at the beginning of the month. The withdrawal of the floats is being interpreted as exhibiting healthy tension between investors and promoters rather than symptomatic of inherently weak demand for new issues.
New Zealand Property
The returns from New Zealand commercial property in the last year have been exceptional, at over 30% including dividends. The domestic property market is not homogeneous, and returns can vary depending on geography and property type. Although high returns have been achieved rental growth has not kept pace and yields have fallen. While there appears to be strong demand for industrial property, extra supply of office property in the major centres may result in higher vacancy and minimal near-term rental growth in this market segment. While property may remain attractive to yield investors relative to fixed interest, continued gains of the past magnitude are unlikely.
International Interest Rates
International interest rates outside of the US look likely to remain at low levels in the year ahead with minimal signs that central banks will pull back from quantitative easing. The outlook appears to be asymmetric in terms of investor risk from a yield and capital appreciation perspective. The ECB kept rates unchanged at Governor Draghi’s last meeting on 25 October. One example of the extremes now occurring are interest rates in Greece. Greek 3-month Treasury Bills were issued at an average negative yield during the month. This contrasts starkly with the situation several years ago when Greek rates surged, and it was feared a Greek default would lead to a widespread collapse.
Despite the caution arising from the subdued industrial outlook and lower prevailing business confidence ,share values could be justifiable. The immediate outlook for short-term interest rates is for them to remain anchored at current levels due to central bank actions attempting to lift prevailing inflation rates. There is some scope for longer term interest rates to rise as markets re-assess the growth outlook and conclude that it is not as bleak as pre-supposed. A steepening of the yield curve is not to be discounted but any increase in interest rates is unlikely to be large. Equally, interest rates may continue to remain around present levels. Less likely is a scenario where rates diminish materially from current levels. That being the case it is unlikely that investors will experience the same level of capital return from yield sensitive stocks. In particular given the high rate of capital appreciation from property that is unlikely to be repeated, client portfolios that have been overweight property might bank some of these gains. Given the better potential returns from equities and what appears to be a benign forward outlook a higher allocation to equities appears to provide greater scope for portfolio accretion.
In an environment where GDP growth and general earnings growth is likely to be more subdued, that is all boats will not be lifted to the same extent by the economic tide, selective share positioning will be increasingly important to optimise portfolio returns. We increasingly believe an active rather than a passive approach is desirable.
Information and Disclaimer:
Source:JMI (previously JMIS), the investment consultant to the Select Wealth Management service.
This report is for information purposes only. It does not take
into account your investment needs or personal circumstances and so is
not intended to be viewed as investment or financial advice. Should you
require financial advice you should contact Miles Flower on 021 645 000.