Fears of rising interest rates are back. Was the recent 9% correction in global equities just a market blip, amplified by technical factors related to the trading of volatility products? Or something more serious – a regime shift signalling the end of the equity bull market as many have argued?
2017 was an excellent year for stocks. Developed markets were up more than 16% in local currencies, emerging markets almost 28%. Read more
2017 has been another bumper year for global equities with the MSCI All Country Index gaining ca. 18% in the first ten months in dollar terms. November, however, has not started well for risky assets.
The seemingly unrelenting climb of US equities has stopped in August. Market volatility spiked, the decline of the US dollar ended, bond spreads widened, and macro risk-indicators surged. While there has been no major correction (yet), the fresh breeze of optimism that characterized equity markets in the first half of the year gave space to the somewhat stale atmosphere that typically takes over when the majority of investors switch into risk-off mode.
US interest rates are on the rise. It took the Federal Reserve Bank (“Fed”) twelve months, after the initial lift-off in December 2015, to make the second move, but for two reasons the odds of more frequent rate hikes over the next twelve months have increased. First, the Fed has turned more hawkish and second, inflation expectations have started ticking higher. Only recently, Chairwoman Yellen warned that “waiting too long to begin moving toward the neutral rate could risk a nasty surprise down the road–either too much inflation, financial instability, or both.”
The year 2016 was full of surprises. It was, for example, the year, when an outsider overcame odds of 5000 to 1 to win the Premier League. It was also the year, when the lyrics of three-minute pop songs were acknowledged to be an art form worth the Literature Nobel. Most importantly, however, politics in the Western hemisphere surprised big time with the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the next US president.
From a technical point of view, the concept of a “year-end rally” is a myth. At least, this is what empirical evidence is telling us. In the past 10 years, the S&P 500, for example, posted a December performance, on average, of 1.12%, making December only the 5th-best month of the year (Fig.1). Over the entire period – from 2006 to 2015 – there was not a single year, in which December was the best performing month.
The outcome of the US election last week, together with the Brexit-vote in June, was the second major political event this year that shook financial markets. In both cases the outcome was different to what pollsters, the media and investors anticipated. Unsurprisingly, markets – across asset-classes and geographies – reacted strongly and in some cases completely different to what was expected before the event. Donald Trump’s win is seen as game-changer, reflecting the next president’s pronounced views on free-trade and immigration, his geo-political positions and his domestic economic agenda including a massive fiscal boost to upgrade the country’s infrastructure, tax cuts and deregulation.
The Brexit-vote was a non-event, it seems. At least, that is what global equity markets are telling us. Since June 24 – the day after the referendum – US, European and Japanese indices all have gained around 10% in local currencies (up to August 19). Emerging Markets, on average, made a similar move as well. Whether the rally will continue depends on a number of factors, pointing in opposing directions. While the fundamental backdrop suggests remaining cautious and also valuation is not supportive, low bond yields and economic policy will likely continue to provide tailwinds for global equity markets.
Yesterday’s referendum in the UK surprised with a narrow majority in favour of Brexit. According to the latest results, 51.8% voted for the Brexit, i.e. the exit from the EU. Polls and betting odds had been suggesting a majority in favour of remaining (“Bremain”) in the EU.
As expected, Brexit is triggering a massive negative reaction in financial markets this morning, not the least since in the days leading up to the referendum the development of the British pound, of equity volatility, and of European and British equity indices had indicated that the majority of investors was anticipating a rejection of the Brexit.