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Month: November 2020

Market Update 22/11/20

Last week saw the equity markets performing a balancing act between incoming positive vaccine news and ever-growing economic restrictions aimed at curbing the recent spike in virus cases and hospitalisations. The rotation out of the technology sector and into more cyclicals stocks continued, as the vaccine developments improved investor sentiment and confidence about next year’s outlook.Rather unexpectedly, the US government on Thursday started to remove some of the emergency support measures previously provided to the Federal Reserve (Fed), reducing the Feds ability to act with immediacy should there be further stresses in financial markets.

US equities over the week fell 0.1%, whilst US technology stocks recorded a gain of 0.6%. European stocks rose 1.0%, as the rotation into more economically sensitive companies continued, albeit at a reduced pace versus last week. UK equities gained 0.9%, with mid cap stocks increasing by 2.0%. The Japanese stock market rose by 1.4%, benefitting from the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement ten years in the making covering fifteen countries in Asia including China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia. Third quarter Japanese GDP also surprised to the upside having increased by 5.0% versus expectations of 4.4%. The Australian stock market rose by 2.0%, whilst the Emerging Markets were up 1.0%.

Despite the positive vaccine news, haven government bonds rallied over the week, responding to rising coronavirus cases and the news that the Fed had had some of its emergency lending measures removed. 10-year US Treasuries are currently yielding 0.84%, German Bunds -0.58% and UK Gilts 0.31%. However, gold sold off slightly, now trading at $1,865 an ounce, whilst the gold mining equity sector lost over 6%.

Copper, considered a good gauge for global GDP growth, carried on its steady ascent, climbing a further 2.5%, having risen by over 50% since its low point in March. Crude oil also rallied over the week, with both Brent and US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) rising by over 4%, trading at $44.5 a barrel and $42.0 respectively.

With news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%, which was followed by Modernas having both an efficacy rate of 94.5% and the ability to be store for 30 days at refrigeration temperature, there are strong hopes for these vaccines to be approved very soon, perhaps even this side of Christmas. Whilst this is good news, it is still unknown how quickly the roll-out programme will take, with the manufacture of these vaccines a likely bottleneck.

Additionally, infectious disease experts tell us that to achieve herd immunity, at least 60% of the population needs to be immune. This would require 63% of the population to be vaccinated assuming an efficacy rate of 95%. Although these vaccines are likely to be authorised for use in a much shorter time period than normal, they still come with known side effects including fever and fatigue. Preliminary surveys suggest a similar proportion of the population will be open to the vaccines as to the flu jab i.e. closer to 51%.

Important data being released this week include personal income and spending breakdowns, FOMC minutes, and building permits.

Market Update 13/11/2020

The S&P 500 closed at a new record high and global equities posted a second week of gains following news of progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Stocks surged on Monday after Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine had 90% effectiveness in their large study, triggering a wave of hope and optimism that a medical solution will address the health crisis and accelerate the economic recovery.

Cyclical sectors that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and are more sensitive to the reopening of the economy outperformed last week, while sectors that have benefited from the pandemic underperformed. A similar rotation occurred across asset classes, with small-cap and international stocks outpacing U.S. large-caps. 

US equities had risen 0.8% for the week, whilst US technology stocks, up until now the big beneficiaries of the pandemic, fell 1.6%. Whilst European indices, which are much more cyclical in their makeup, rose 5.1%, with European smaller companies rising a massive 7.1%. UK indices, which have a relatively high weighting to both the financial sector and energy, rose 6.9%, with mid-cap stocks rising 8.8%. Japanese equities rose 2.7%, whilst Australian stocks gained 3.5%. The wider Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan, rose a modest 0.7%, having already been one of the better-performing regions year to date.

The news on the vaccine led Government bonds and gold to sell-off. US Treasury yields, which move inversely to price, rose as high as 0.98%, although they have since retreated and are trading at 0.88%. Both German bund and UK gilt yields also rose over the week, now trading at -0.55% and 0.34% respectively. Whilst gold fell by 3.8%, now trading at $1,878 an ounce. The gold mining sector, which is a geared play on the precious metal, fell by 9.3% over the week, making it one of the hardest-hit sectors.

The headline moves in equity indices masked the huge dispersion in returns at stock level. Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of jet engines for commercial aeroplanes, rose by 44% on Monday, its biggest ever one day gain. Whilst stocks that have benefitted from work at home lockdowns such as Zoom, the video conferencing technology company and Ocado, the online supermarket, suffered sharp share price falls, both losing close to 15% in value on Monday at their most extreme moment. Some of these moves unwound later in the week, but nonetheless, cyclical stocks remained very much ahead by the end of the week.

Energy stocks were also a big winner over the week as crude oil jumped in price, with Brent crude rising 9.4%, now trading at $43.1 a barrel and US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) $40.6. Similarly, the energy equity sector rose by over 12% for the week.

Important economic data being released this week include retail sales and industrial production on Tuesday, building permits on Wednesday, and the leading index on Friday.

Market Update – 6/11/2020

U.S. equities logged their best weekly gain since early April as investors reacted to the increased possibility of a divided government, including a potential Biden win and continued Republican control in the Senate. However, the market began to price in the scenario of a split government that potentially reduces the likelihood of immediate tax hikes and increased regulations, while not removing the potential for an agreement on some form of fiscal-aid package.

Shares in Europe rallied in sympathy with U.S. equities while also receiving a lift from the generally strong quarterly earnings reported by European corporations and the additional stimulus measures announced in the UK. In local currency terms, the pan-European STOXX Europe 600 Index ended the week 7.02% higher, while Germany’s DAX Index rallied 7.99%, France’s CAC 40 gained 7.98%, and Italy’s FTSE MIB climbed 9.69%. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index advanced 5.97%.

Economic news largely took a back seat over the week, however, Purchasing Managers Indices, considered lead indicators as to the outlook for companies, were unambiguously positive. The US Manufacturing PMI came in at 53.4, slightly higher than forecast, with any number above 50 indicating expansion. Whilst the US Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index came in at 59.3, smashing expectations, with the new orders subcomponent coming in at 67.9 versus forecasts of 62.

Even in Europe, the Markit Manufacturing PMI came in at 54.8, ahead of forecasts, although the service sector PMI remained below 50, indicating contraction, at 46.9. In the UK, the manufacturing PMI came in at 53.7 and 51.4 for the service sector. This was mirrored in China, with the Caixin composite PMI for both manufacturing and service sector companies coming in at 55.7, higher than the previous month.

On Thursday, faced with the beginning of a second lockdown, the Bank of England announced a massive additional £150 billion quantitative easing program. This was followed up shortly after by an announcement from the UK’s Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, that the government’s furlough scheme would be extended until March of next year.

Despite the US election yet to have been decided, with the possibility that the result gets dragged through the courts, in the coming weeks there may be other news that begins to dominate investors thinking. The announcement of Covid19 vaccine trials should start to come through, with high hopes for a credible breakthrough, which will inevitably take centre stage for markets.

Important economic data being released this upcoming week include the Unemployment Rate, the Fed’s upper bound key interest rate, and various PMI series.

Weekly Market Update – 30/10/20

Last week marked the 11th time this year that the S&P 500 has closed more than 2% lower than where it started the week, compared with a yearly average of around six times since 2010. The sell-off was largely driven by news that daily coronavirus cases have hit new record highs, and by less certainty that we will see another round of fiscal stimulus this year. Notably, the technology sector, which has been a leader for much of this bear-market rally, was down 6.5%, making it one of the leaders in the decline this week. Some good news was the strong third-quarter GDP growth, a labor market that is continuing to recover, and consumer spending that is continuing to exceed expectations.

It has become increasingly clear that the restrictive social measures taken by European countries in recent months have failed to slow the virus, pointing towards an increased likelihood of a return to national lockdowns. Italy and Spain announced further restrictions at the beginning of the week, followed by France and then the UK on Saturday evening. Even Germany, which has managed to contain the virus relatively well within the context of Europe, announced tighter restrictions.

In the US, record case numbers have largely been ignored by the Trump administration, and once more, Republicans and Democrats failed to agree a new financial support package for those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. China, the country at the centre of the outbreak, having largely controlled the virus, was able instead to focus on its fifth five-year economic plan, and it still on track to achieve a ‘V’ shaped recovery.

European equities, very much at the epicentre of the latest escalation in Covid19 cases and with governments increasingly looking to implement economically costly lockdowns, fell 5.7% over the week. This was despite third quarter GDP surpassing expectations, increasing by a massive 12.7% for the Eurozone in aggregate, as economies reopened post the second quarter lockdown. UK equities fell 5.0%, with more domestically orientated mid cap stocks falling by 5.8%.

US equities had fallen 4.5% over the week, whilst technology stocks once again proved to be relatively defensive, dropping 3.1% as Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple and Facebook all revealed third quarter earnings this week that surpassed expectations. US GDP growth for the third quarter came in at 7.4%, higher than forecast, following the contraction of 9% in the second quarter. Initial jobless claims also came in lower than expectations, with 751,000 new applications versus forecasts of 775,000.

Japanese stocks fell by 2.8%, whilst the Australian equity market dropped by 3.9%. Japan’s incidence of coronavirus cases lies somewhere in between the experience of Western developed nations and that of China, whilst the city of Melbourne in Australia this week emerged from one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.

Despite the selloff in equity markets, government bond markets offered little upside as yields (which move inversely to price) are trading at such low levels already. 10-year US Treasuries are currently trading at 0.82%, German Bunds minus 0.63% and UK Gilts 0.23%. Bond markets are waiting to see the outcome of the US election, with the possibility that the Democratic party could achieve a clean sweep of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, which would enable them to enact much more radical fiscal policy.

Crude oil fell sharply this week, as traders priced in a fall in demand as social restrictions were tightened across Europe. Brent crude fell by 10%, now trading at $37.6 a barrel, and US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) fell by 9.4%, currently priced at $36.0 a barrel.

Important economic data being released this upcoming week include the Unemployment Rate, the Fed’s upper bound key interest rate, and various PMI series.

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