Lawson Equity HQ, Rocomar Shops, 6 Portruman Street, Qawra, Malta
+356 2157 6666

Month: May 2022

Coping With Life-Changing Events

Plan for tomorrow, live for today

Change is the only constant in life. It inevitably involves twists and turns, with some that are expected while others may be entirely unplanned. When this happens, it’s important to feel secure with the knowledge that you have the right contingency plan in place.

None of us can predict exactly what a life-changing event will be or when it will occur, and many of them will take you by surprise, whether good or bad. Here, we consider some major life events you may wish to discuss with us.

Divorce and managing finances

Managing your finances after divorce can sometimes feel like an impossible task, especially if the amount of money coming into your household is much less than when you were married. For some people, divorce can mean financial devastation or hardship. You may lose half of what you have saved over the course of your adult life, and go into debt paying lawyer’s fees and other expenses.

Yet as messy and painful as divorce can be, it is often both necessary and ultimately a good thing – and it is possible to recover both financially and emotionally after a divorce. When you’re facing a divorce, you need to know where you stand financially. We can help you plan for a sound financial future, to give you security and peace of mind, allowing you to move forward with your life.

Thinking about financial planning for long-term care

More people in the UK are living for longer, which is good news. However, this longevity brings certain challenges, such as how we will fund any long-term care that may be needed in the future. If you are one of the many people faced with helping a parent or another loved one find long-term care, then you are probably grappling with a lot of questions.

Among them: How can I bring this up in a way that won’t upset them? How are they, or how are we, going to pay for this? What type of living situation is best? Ageing comes with many joys and challenges. We can discuss with you the options to help cover your loved ones’ care needs now and in the future.

Dealing with your finances in widowhood

Coping with the death of a loved one can be extremely hard. You may be dealing with lots of different emotions, finding it hard to process them and having difficulties moving on. Losing your loved one, whether expected or sudden, can prove almost too much to bear. But it’s surprising how uninformed some spouses can be about each other’s financial lives.

Even in marriages that consciously attempt to integrate finances (joint bank accounts, both names on the mortgage), a lot of financial activity is specific to one spouse, for example, a credit card, retirement planning, an ownership interest in a business, investments, a car with only one name on the finance agreement. After the death of a spouse, your financial situation will likely be a major concern. We will take the time to understand your needs and recommend solutions personally tailored to you.

What to do and not do with an inheritance

Losing someone you care about is one of the hardest experiences in life. Receiving an inheritance probably means coping with the death of a loved and cherished member of your family or a friend. The emotion associated with bereavement often makes taking decisions about both their estate, and what you stand to inherit, difficult.

Most estates are settled within six to nine months in the UK, but it depends on the complexity of the estate. If it isn’t handled appropriately, the pressure of the proceeds can be stressful, upset your relationships and complicate your finances. During this difficult time we can help you to consider your options, assess any tax implications and decide how this inheritance could be used to provide you with financial security in the years ahead.

The importance of financial planning

Financial planning helps you determine your short and long-term financial goals and create a balanced plan to meet those goals. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has demonstrated unequivocally that such unforeseen and unplanned-for events can wreak havoc on our personal finances. Establishing clarity around your finances is arguably one of the most critical things you can do for your overall financial success. It is important to understand your financial needs and then create a financial plan to meet them. Tax planning, prudent spending and careful budgeting will help you keep more of your hard-earned cash.

We know you’ll have different priorities for your wealth at different points in your life. Whatever your financial aims, we can help you achieve them for both you and your family.

Time to bring clarity to your financial affairs?

Everybody experiences life-changing events at some point, whether directly or through a loved one. To discuss how we can help you, please contact us.

Market Update May Monday 30th 2022

Bad news’ is ‘good news’ as slowing US economic data draws investors back

The US equity markets rose this week, following seven weeks of losses, as a number of economic data touch points signalled a softening in growth, whilst consumption continued to expand despite the high levels of inflation. This served to calm the markets’ view on rate increases, drawing investors back into equities.

As of Friday, London time, US equity markets rose 4.0% over the week, having fallen 18.7% from its all-time high. It was a similar story for the US technology sector which was up 3.4% over the week, having fallen by almost 30% since its peak, taking it deep into bear market territory. European equities increased by 2.4%, whilst the UK stock market rose by 2.5%. Japanese and Australian markets rose by 0.5%, whilst the emerging markets fell 1.2%, although the Latin American subset rose by 3.2%, helped by further near-term weakness in the US dollar and a strengthening oil price. Brent crude rose by 4.3% over the week, now trading at $117.4 a barrel.

First-quarter US GDP revised down to a fall of 1.5%, although consumption continues to rise

US stocks made gains this week, despite a wobble earlier on after the social media group Snap warned of a deteriorating profits outlook due to high inflation, rising rates and ongoing supply chain issues. However, given that the US Federal Reserve’s (Fed) policy of increasing rates is intended to cool the economy to calm inflationary pressures, a series of data releases provided some indication that economic growth is moderating. US home sales for the month of April fell 17%; purchasing managers indices (which measure the month on month change in the economic environment faced by companies) moderated for both the manufacturing and service sectors; and the growth in US capital goods orders, which are an important proxy for future manufacturing output, rose by 0.4% in April, having slowed down from 0.6% in March, whilst also missing economists’ forecasts. In a repeat of ‘bad news’ is ‘good news’, this helped to calm investors frayed nerves over the scale of future US rate increases, tempting investors back into both equity and bond markets.

US Treasuries continue to rally

In consequence, the 10-year US Treasury yield (which moves inversely to price) fell over the week, now trading at 2.73%, having been as high as 3.20% at the beginning of May. Similarly, US 2-year Treasury yields, which are considered a proxy as to the market’s view on future US interest rates, fell to 2.46%, having traded up to 2.82% a few weeks earlier, with US interest rates currently standing at 1.0% (Fed Funds range 0.75% to 1.00%). Whilst German and UK government bonds remained broadly flat over the week, with 10-year yields now trading at 0.97% and 1.92% respectively, both close to their near term high.

Chinese industrial profits for April record their steepest fall in two years, but largely already priced in

In China, news that industrial groups had reported their worst profit decline in two years in April, due to economic lockdowns to contain the spread of the Covid coronavirus, was largely looked through by investors. The Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong Hang Seng fell by 0.5% and 0.1% respectively over the week. Further to this, shares in Alibaba, the eCommerce company, rose by 12% on Friday, on news that its first-quarter earnings had beaten estimates, with revenues rising by 9% year on year.

US inflation data released later today

All eyes are now on the latest US Personal Consumption Expenditures indices due out later today, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. Economists have forecasted an increase in prices of 6.2% for the year to April, down from 6.6% in March. Excluding food and energy, prices are forecast to have increased by of 4.9%, also down from 5.2% for March.

Build your own financial plan

Easier to manage your money

Having a financial plan in place early on can make it easier to manage your money further down the line. It’s never too early to make a financial plan. The sooner you work out your goals and start following a plan to achieve them, the more likely you are to succeed.

Here are three key questions to ask yourself when building a financial plan.

1. What are my goals?

Building wealth takes time and a little effort. Like any activity, be it growing a business or learning a new skill, you need to decide early on what your long-term objectives are. It’s exactly the same when you are building wealth – it is important to set financial goals. Without a goal, your efforts can become disjointed and often confusing. Being able to keep track of your progress towards achieving a goal is only possible if you set one in the first place. Being able to measure progress is extremely rewarding and will help you maintain focus. Procrastination is something we all battle with from time to time. However, when you set goals in life, specific goals for what you want to achieve, it helps you understand that procrastination is dangerous. It is wasted time. It is another day you aren’t moving closer to that goal.

Setting financial goals is essential to financial success. Once you’ve set your goals you can then write and follow a roadmap to realise them. It helps you stay focused and confident that you’re on the right path.

Consider the SMART principle when setting your own goals:

Specific – Clearly define what each goal is and use details such as numbers where possible (quantify it).
Measurable – Think about a tangible way in which you can measure your progress.
Achievable – Are your ambitions realistic? With planning we are often capable of more than we realise but being pragmatic is important. Discussing your goals with us will help you to balance this.
Relevant – Are your goals in line with your own personal values? It is useful to chat this through with somebody else to clarify your values.
Timebound – Think about the timeframe you are working within and whether there is any flexibility needed.

Your goals are personal and unique to you. Perhaps you want to set up your own business and follow a lifelong passion, or maybe you want financial security and to ensure you can pass a legacy on to your loved ones. Once you’ve defined your goals and you’re clear on your current situation, it’s a good time to work out if you have enough to achieve your goals or if there’s a gap. This isn’t an easy task as there are often many variables to consider, such as inflation, tax and growth rates.

2. Where am i now?

Cash flow planning is a concept borrowed from business and every business owner or finance director will be familiar with the term. These same principles can be applied to your personal financial planning. As we’ve mentioned, the starting point is to identify each one of your personal goals. Cash flow planning is most effective when all likely future needs are taken into account too. Just focusing on immediate needs may seem more practical but focusing on one goal at a time can limit future options.

Make a list or a spreadsheet of what you have, specifying where and how much; this could include any assets such as property, cash balances, investments, pensions, protection policies and any debts such as mortgage, credit cards or loans. Look at your income and expenditure levels. Remember, the future is somewhere you have never been before. Cash flow planning guides and updates you on your journey. If there are delays on the way it can find another path. Combined with our professional advice, we can help you arrive at your destination more smoothly.

3. What do i need to do next?

As we’ve seen with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, things can change very quickly. It goes without saying that your financial plans should not be static objects, and that you should review your plans over time and on a regular basis to ensure that you remain on track towards your goals. You also need to adapt your financial plans as your circumstances change. Reviewing your arrangements regularly is a vital way of ensuring you meet your financial goals and ensures that all your plans are up to date in light of changes to your circumstances and the wider financial landscape.

Reviews can also prompt you to consider some of those things that sometimes get left undone – such as your Will, which might still need to be arranged or updated. Or perhaps there is a Lasting Power of Attorney that has not been progressed or a life assurance policy that should be placed under an appropriate trust. As we’ve all recently experienced, life has a habit of springing unpleasant surprises on us when least expected.

let’s get started
Financial planning is the key to improving your financial wellness. Your personal plan is a roadmap to your financial success. You’ll see exactly what you need to do now to make a significant difference for your future. Please get in touch to find out how we can help you reach your financial goals – we look forward to hearing from you.

Market Update May Monday 23rd 2022

US stocks continue to fall

US stocks continued their decline this week as results from two key grocery retailers, Walmart and Target, spooked investors, as inflationary pressures impacted their results, raising concerns that pricing pressures are taking their toll on the strength of the economy. The US stock market fell 4% on Wednesday, its biggest one-day loss since June of 2020. Unless there is a sharp bounce today, the US market will not have fallen for such a sustained period since 2001 when the dotcom bubble burst. However, outside of the US, where valuations are not so stretched, the picture was not so gloomy with many regions recording gains in equity markets over the week.

As of 12pm on Friday, London time, US stocks fell 3.1% over the week, with the US technology sector declining by 3.5%. European and UK equities rose 0.3%, Japanese stocks were up by 0.7% and the Australian market increased by 1.0%, helped by commodity prices which were on a firmer footing as the US dollar weakened. Emerging markets rose 1.0%, with Latin America in particular benefitting from both the fall in the US dollar and the bounce in commodity prices.

UK’s inflation hits 9%

US government bond yields, which move inversely to price, fell a little over the week, with the 10-year Treasury trading at 2.86%. German bunds were largely flat, with the 10-year currently trading at 0.98%. Whilst UK gilt yields rose, trading at 1.93% in a week that the UK’s inflation data hit 9% in the year to April, the highest level on record in over forty years, with three quarters of the increase coming from the increase in the energy price cap, which rose by 54% in April. However, price increases were also climbing in almost all categories of expenditure and inflation in the UK is forecast by the Bank of England to rise to 10% later this year.

Dollar weakens

The US dollar weakened earlier on in the week by 1.6% against a basket of internationally traded currencies, leading to a good week for commodity prices which often move inversely to the dollar. The gold price rose 1.8%, now trading at $1,848, copper was up 3.0%, now priced at $9,460 a tonne, and Brent crude oil gained 0.9%, now trading at $112.6 a barrel.

Retirement Options

What can you do with your pension pot?

When the time comes to access your pension, you’ll need to choose which method you use to do so, with options including: buying an annuity, taking income through (flexi-access) drawdown, withdrawing lump sums or a combination of all of them.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, and in some cases your decision is permanent, so it’s important to ensure that you obtain professional financial advice when considering your different options. This is a complex calculation that must take into account the growth rate your investments might achieve, the eroding effects of inflation on your savings, and how long your savings will need to last.

Annuities – Guaranteed Income for Life

Annuities enable you to exchange your pension pot for a guaranteed income for life. They were once the most common pension option to fund retirement. But changes to the pension freedom rules have given savers increased flexibility.

You can normally withdraw up to a quarter (25%) of your pot as a one-off tax-free lump sum, then convert the rest into a taxable income for life – an annuity. There are different lifetime annuity options and features to choose from that affect how much income you may receive. You can also choose to provide an income for life for a dependent or other beneficiary after you die.

Flexible Retirement Income – Pension Drawdown

When it comes to assessing pension options, flexibility is the main attraction offered by income drawdown plans, which allow you to access your money while leaving it invested, meaning your funds can continue to grow.

This option normally means you take up to 25% of your pension pot, or of the amount you allocate for drawdown, as a tax-free lump sum, then reinvest the rest into funds designed to provide you with a regular taxable income.

You set the income you want, though this might be adjusted periodically depending on the performance of your investments. You need to manage your investments carefully because, unlike a lifetime annuity, your income isn’t guaranteed for life.

Small Cash Sum Withdrawals – Tax-Free

This is an important consideration for those weighing up pension options at age 55, the earliest age at which you can take up to 25% of your pension pot tax-free. You should ask yourself whether you really need the money now. If you can afford to leave it invested until you need it then it has the opportunity to grow further.

For each cash withdrawal, the remaining counts as taxable income and there could be charges each time you make a cash withdrawal and/or limits on how many withdrawals you can make each year. With this option your pension pot isn’t re-invested into new funds specifically chosen to pay you a regular income and it won’t provide for a dependant after you die.

There are also more tax implications to consider than with the previous two options. So, if you can, it may make more sense to leave it to grow so you can enjoy a larger tax-free amount in years to come. Remember, you don’t have to take it all at once – you can take it in several smaller amounts if you prefer.

Combination – Mix and Match

Of all the pension options, if appropriate to your particular situation, it may suit you better to combine those mentioned above. You might want to use some of your savings to buy an annuity to cover the essentials (rent, mortgage or household bills), with the rest placed in an income drawdown scheme that allows you to decide how much you can afford to withdraw and when.

Alternatively, you might want more flexibility in the early years of retirement, and more security in the later years. If that is the case, this may be a good reason to delay buying an annuity until later in life.

The Value of Retirement Planning Advice

There will be a number of questions you will need answers to before deciding how to use your pension savings to provide you with an income. These include:

• How much income will each of my withdrawals provide me with over time?
• Which withdrawal option will best suit my specific needs?
• How much money can I safely withdraw if I choose flexi-access drawdown?
• How should my savings be invested to provide the income I need?
• How can I make sure I don’t end up with a large tax bill?

How much are you saving for your retirement?

We can advise on your retirement planning whether you are in the process of building your pension pot or getting ready to retire. Working closely with you, we will identify what you want from your pension and develop a structure that meets your requirements. To find out more, contact us to discuss your options.

A pension is a long-term investment not normally accessible until age 55 (57 from april 2028). The value of your investments (and any income from them) can go down as well as up which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation, and regulation which are subject to change in the future. You should seek advice to understand your options at retirement.

Accessing pension benefits early may impact on levels of retirement income and your entitlement to certain means-tested benefits and is not suitable for everyone. You should seek advice to understand your options at retirement.

Market Update May Monday 16th 2022

US inflation stays stubbornly high

A combination of slowing economic data and inflation took their toll on markets once again this week. On Monday, data released by China showed export growth had fallen to its lowest level in two years last month, whilst the latest US consumer price index remained stubbornly high, coming in at 8.3%, above forecasts of 8.1%. Whilst growth in the UK was up 0.8% for the first quarter, the data revealed a contraction in the economy for the months of February and March as the inflationary environment took its toll. Against this background, markets continued to reprice towards an environment of higher inflation, slowing growth and rising rates.

As of 12pm on Friday, London time, US equities fell 4.7% over the week whilst the US technology sector dropped 6.4%. European stocks, despite their proximity to the Ukraine Russia conflict, rose 0.1%. The UK stock market lost a relatively modest 0.6% with the large cap index suffering most of the pain in a broad-based selloff, triggered by fears of recession from central bank tightening. Japanese equities fell 2.7% and the Australian market dropped 1.8%, whilst the emerging markets lost 4.2% with the Asia Pacific region accounting for most of the pain.

Chinese export growth falls to a two-year low

Year-on-year Chinese export growth came in at 3.9% for the year to April, sharply down from 14.7% for the year to March. This data came hot the heels of a weakening picture in the US and European manufacturing sectors. Key commodity prices weakened in response with copper falling 3.3%, currently trading at $9,103, iron ore down 7.9% and Brent crude falling 2.7%, trading at $109.3 a barrel.

Haven government bonds rise

Government bond yields (which move inversely to price) fell, reflecting the risk that central bank action to combat inflation leads economies into recession. The yield on 10-year US Treasuries fell as low as 2.82% on Thursday, now trading at 2.90%, having touched a new high in this economic cycle at 3.20% on Monday. Similarly German bund yields traded down to 0.89% and UK gilts to 1.71% by Friday.

Whilst gold offers no protection

Gold on the other hand failed to provide any defence as it fell 3.5% to trade at $1,817 an ounce, suffering from a US Federal Reserve which seems intent on dragging inflation back down through rate increases.

Issues under discussion

Rebalancing in market

It has been a torrid start to the year, as inflationary pressures have led to a decisive pivot from central banks as they look to tighten monetary policy in an attempt to get the inflation genie back into the bottle. The picture has been compounded by the Ukrainian war and China’s ongoing zero Covid policy. This has led most major markets to be in negative territory year to date, with some recording losses over one year, including the US market with the technology sector particularly badly affected.

These falls reflect a rebalancing in market pricing with the most expensive stocks being hit commensurately harder, whilst some of the cheaper stocks in the market have made gains. Without wanting to call a bottom to this weakness, we are reminded by research from Man Group, that year-on-year falls are relatively rare, particularly over the past decade. Further to this, history suggests where markets have fallen over a year, the returns over the following twelve months are positive, with a tendency for those markets with a greater exposure to riskier stocks performing better. Small-cap indices have often outperformed large-cap and technology-heavy markets have often posted some of the strongest returns. This holds true even if the research goes back to the 1960s to understand the effects of unorthodox monetary policy which may have artificially boosted returns in recent years.

Grandparents, Grandchildren and Money

Sharing Your Wealth During Your Lifetime Can Make A Big Difference

With all of us leading longer lives, you might be considering how you can help your family when it matters most. Sharing your wealth during your lifetime can make a big difference and bring you a lot of joy, particularly when helping younger generations who are dealing with rising house prices and university fees.

After you’ve determined how much you can afford to give, there’s a simple starting point. What exactly do your grandchildren need, and when do they need it?

The right way to give presents for your grandchildren can vary depending on how old they are, and whether you’re concerned about turning over a sizeable amount of money to a child who may still be impressionable.

Younger Grandchildren

Junior Individual Savings Account (JISA)

If your grandchild is under the age of 18, you might put money into their JISA account. While you won’t be allowed to open one on their behalf, you will be able to donate up to their annual JISA limit, which is £9,000 for the 2021/22 tax year.

The benefit of the JISA is that they can’t touch the money until they turn 18 – after that, it’s theirs to use as they choose. The funds may be stored in cash, invested in securities, or a mixture of both. Investment growth is tax-efficient in a Stocks & Shares ISA, while a Cash ISA’s interest is tax-free. If you put money away for 18 years, it might grow into a sizeable amount, but the value of any investment will go up and down.

Child’s Bank Account

Alternatively, a child’s savings account is a convenient and easy place for families and friends to deposit money for smaller presents.

Keep in mind, though, that savers’ rates have been poor in recent years and over time, inflation can reduce the value of the savings, because prices typically go up in the future.

Older Grandchildren

Lifetime Individual Savings Account (Lisa)

If your grandchild is 18 or older, a LISA will be able to assist them in saving for their first home. If they turned 40 on or before 6 April 2017 they won’t be eligible. Only first-time buyers can use a LISA to buy property under age 60.

For every £4 saved, the government will add £1 (worth up to £1,000 every tax year until they turn 50 years old). Up to £4,000 a year is eligible for the 25% bonus (they can add more but it won’t receive a government contribution).

The bonus is paid every month, so they benefit from compound growth. They can invest in either cash or stocks and shares and this forms part of their overall annual ISA limit, which is £20,000 in tax year 2021/22.

Would you like the reassurance of some control?

It’s understandable to be concerned about giving too much money to grandchildren too young.

You might like to have a say in where your moneyis spent and where it is spread. Putting a gift into trust will alleviate concerns over giving substantial sums to grandchildren before they have reached financial maturity and it can provide grandparents with the leverage they want.

You maintain some control of the assets and to whom and where they are paid as a trustee, and gifts to the trust will lower the estate for IHT. Giving money to your grandchildren may eventually affect the way your estate is taxed, so it’s important to obtain professional advice before doing this.

Plan Ahead for a Brighter Future for All

There’s a lot grandparents can do today, with a little extra thinking and forward planning, to ensure that the money donated goes towards ensuring a brighter future for your loved ones – when you’re still alive to enjoy it.

Giving your Loved Ones Financial Gifts

If you’re unsure about the best approach, talk to us to discuss your options. Please contact us for more information.

Information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change. The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested.  Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Market Update May Monday 9th 2022

Central banks in unison move to regain control of inflation

It has been a volatile week for equities as markets fret over the potential for a policy error as central banks attempt to regain control over a sharp spike in inflation to levels not seen in forty years. On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve raised rates by 0.5%, a quantum not used in over twenty years, whilst communicating to the market that the same should be expected over the subsequent two rate-setting meetings. This led to a sharp rally in equities, as this seemingly ruled out a 0.75% increase, whilst also largely being priced in. However, all of this move and more was swiftly undone on Thursday, as markets rotated sharply by a level not seen since March 2020 when lockdowns were first introduced in response to the Covid pandemic. US Treasury yields, which move inversely to price, rose above 3% for the first time in more than three years. Investors are now waiting for the release of the US non-farm payrolls later today, with expectations that wage growth will have exceeded 5% year-on-year for the fourth month in a row.

As of 12pm on Friday, London time, US equities were up 0.4% over the week, whilst the US technology sector recorded a small loss of -0.1%, although futures markets are currently pricing in further falls when the market opens later today. European equities were down 4.2%, whilst the UK dropped 2.0%, although this masked a 4.7% fall in UK mid-cap stocks. Japanese equities rose 0.9%, whilst Australian stocks fell 3.1% and Emerging markets lost 1.6%.

US Treasury yields rise above 3% for the first time in three years

10-year US Treasury yields traded up to 3.08% by the end of the week and German bunds also sold off, with bund yields touching 1.08%, a level not seen in seven years. UK gilts were somewhat more stable, as the Bank of England acknowledged that simply raising interest rates may not solve the UK’s inflation problem whilst so much of it is imported in. 10-year gilts fell in value, now trading at 1.94%, having exceeded 2% earlier in the week. UK rates were raised rates by 0.25% on Thursday to reach 1%, the highest level since February 2009, with the bank forecasting inflation to top 10% in the fourth quarter. The Reserve Bank of Australia had set the tone earlier in the week, as it too raised rates by 0.25%. Australia’s 10-year bond traded up to just shy of 3.6% mid-week, a level not seen since 2014.

Crude oil rises as the EU steps closer to banning Russian imports

Gold fell 1.6%, now trading at $1,882 an ounce, as did copper, falling 3% to $9,512, whilst iron ore fell by 6% over the week. Crude oil bucked the trend as the EU stepped closer towards a plan to ban Russian oil imports, although Hungary looks set to vote against the policy. Brent crude traded up 3% to $112.6 a barrel, whilst US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) traded 5% higher at $110 a barrel.

Issues under discussion

Stimulus policies during Covid have supercharged demand whilst supply chain bottlenecks

It has been a difficult year for markets so far, as stimulus policies put in place during Covid have supercharged demand whilst supply chain bottlenecks and the Ukrainian war have only served to compound the rise in inflation. And now the siren of recession risk grows ever higher as central banks attempt to regain control of the narrative. However, if we take a step back and look dispassionately at markets, in reality, what has really happened is a rebalancing in valuations. Expensive stocks have become cheaper, whilst cheaper stocks have become more expensive. Valuation dispersions had become extreme and an increasing discount rate on the risk-free asset i.e. government bonds has led to the market reappraising prices.

Looking forward, how much further this readjustment has to run is always difficult to judge, however, what is unlikely in the immediate term is for the investment winners of the last decade simply to reassert themselves. The market is much more sensitive to valuations today and this is likely to endure, at least until the inflation genie has been put back into its bottle. Whilst the increasing risk of a recession due to a policy mistake by central banks means that we are increasingly looking to move up the quality spectrum in terms of the companies we invest in, rather than just focus on ‘value’ or ‘growth’. Companies with strong balance sheets, solid earnings, low gearing, and defendable competitive positions married with lower valuations are becoming much more attractive places, increasingly referred to as the ‘forgotten middle’.

Market Update May Monday 2nd 2022

Markets and key events

Markets struggled for direction this week, with investors very much focused on key company earnings results. It was a mixed picture for US equities, and particularly US technology stocks, although both indices finished the week respectively higher by just 0.37% and 0.25% as of 12pm London time. Despite the tumble in Netflix shares last week, shares in Microsoft and Facebook’s parent Meta surged after both companies reported a larger-than-expected profit on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Amazon shares tumbled about 10% in pre-market trading after the company forecasted current-quarter sales below estimates. In addition, Apple warned supply chain shortages could cost the company up to $8bn in the second quarter; Apple’s shares on Friday trended lower in pre-market trading.

With a clear focus on corporate news, US equity markets shrugged off poor economic data. US GDP unexpectedly dropped for the first quarter of 2022, down by 1.4% on an annualised basis against expectations of a 1% increase. This was primarily driven by a growing trade deficit as import volumes and prices surged. However, US households remain resilient with personal consumption growing over the first quarter.

Elsewhere European markets trended lower. As of 12pm London time, the UK market finished lower by just -0.23%, whilst the European main market traded into negative territory by -0.86%. This comes as the current quarterly earnings season approaches the halfway stage in Europe. According to Barclays nearly 75% of companies so far have beaten profit expectations.

Strict lockdowns persist in China

In Asia, equity markets declined over the week, primarily driven by the continuation of strict lockdowns due to the Covid wave in China. Panic buying ensued in Beijing at the start of the period as residents anticipated harsh social restrictions similar to those in Shanghai. On Friday, the Chinese government promised to provide fiscal support to “strengthen macro adjustments” and “achieve full-year economic and social development goals” in light of the lockdowns. The Shanghai Composite still finished down,1.29% over the week, but the messaging on Friday helped the Hong Kong index into positive territory, up 2.18% over the week. Elsewhere the Japanese index finished marginally lower by -0.29%.

Government bonds trade flat

After a poor start to the year, government bond prices faced a pause in selling. US 10-year treasury bond yields (which move inversely to their price) declined 4 basis points to trade at 2.85%. The equivalent 10-year UK Gilts yields also declined by 10 basis points, now trading at 1.86%. Meanwhile, 10-year German bund yields declined by 6 basis points to finish the week trading at 0.91%.

Russian Ukraine conflict continues to dominate commodity prices

European gas prices soared this week after Russia’s state-owned Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday. The wholesale gas price jumped as much as 20%, as EU leaders accused Moscow of blackmail. Oil prices settled higher on reports that Germany will join other European Union member states in an embargo on Russian oil, which could further tighten supplies in a bid to stop funding Russia. As of 12pm London time, Brent Crude rose 2.91% over the week, to $109 per barrel.

Scroll to top