Earlier this week, we convened the last Investment Committee of 2017. The general risk appetite of the team has not changed vis-à-vis the previous month (from 78.85 percent to 79 percent on our 0 – 100 percent scale). The team continues to see the future optimistically, with a resulting “risk on” stance.
The global economy is growing moderately, inflation is low, and the monetary policy is loose. This environment supports many asset classes from bonds to equities. The political uncertainty has been absorbed rather well so far too. Will this situation last?
We have talked to the ESG analyst team of Erste AM about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord in a roundtable discussion: Dominik Benedikt, Alexander Osojnik, Stefanie Schock, and Walter Hatak.
Author: Felix Dornaus
Senior Fund Manager
The spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund was held in Washington from 20th to 23rd April. This event was the reason for an investor conference that I attended in order to get an idea of the status quo of the global economy as well as of risks and opportunities.
The United States are currently in the spotlight, given the primary elections for the US presidential election in November. But what does the US economy look like at the moment?
The dynamics of the economy and the markets have declined. Global economic growth is down on a quarter-on-quarter basis, the two most important trends of the past months (appreciation of the US dollar and falling oil price) have come to a halt, inflation is not falling anymore, and the US Fed has put a damper on the expectations of interest hikes. One important exception: the Eurozone has been picking up speed.
The US central bank, the Fed, is very likely – almost 90%, according to Fed funds futures – to raise the Fed funds rate this year. The expected rate hike has been one of the dominating topics on the financial markets for a year. The bursting of a mega bubble, rising pressure on fragile emerging markets, and the end of years of a share market rally in the USA are the most commonly mentioned worries in this context. None of which is overly far fetched, as we have indeed seen all of these scenarios before. Still – history prompts the conclusion that there is no need to panic, at least not when it comes to equities.
The most important central bank in the world, i.e. the US Fed, made an announcement yesterday that attracted a large deal of attention from investors. The bank withdrew its assurance to remain “patient” before the Fed funds rate would be increased. This paved the way for a possible abandonment of the zero interest rate policy, if economic need be. The new formula goes like this: the Fed funds rate will be raised once the labour market has improved more and the FOMC is optimistic about inflation rising towards the medium-term target of two percent.
The US dollar has appreciated significantly vis-à-vis the euro in the past months. For this trend to continue, at least two developments would have to be in place. Firstly, the US Fed would have to abandon its zero interest rate policy; and secondly, the ECB would have to remain on its path of negative interest rate policy and bond purchases.
We have seen European equities outperform their American peers in the year to date, both in local currency and in euro. Not even the increase of the US dollar relative to the euro of 8% made a difference to that. What is this pro-European optimism based on? After all, the US economy has seen a significantly better development than the Eurozone. The same is true for US companies, which have been recording profit growth, as opposed to Europe, where profits have generally been falling recently. The uncertainties in Greece and Ukraine only add to this scenario.