The losses on the stock exchanges and in other risky asset classes unsettle investors. The additional expansive signals sent by the central bank support markets, albeit only by a minor degree. From an economic perspective there are no convincing signs for a trend reversal. The current correction is due to permanently low growth and to the risk of further deterioration.
Interview with Peter Szopo, equity strategist Erste Asset Management (EAM) and Andreas Rieger, fund manager of ESPA STOCK GLOBAL
ESPA STOCK GLOBAL is an actively managed equity fund that invests in selected single stocks from around the world. In the last year the fund gained 14.31%, over the last five years the annualized performance was 10.45% p.a. *). For equity investors, the new year started very turbulent. I have asked Peter Szopo, our equity strategist and Andreas Rieger, fund manager of the ESPA STOCK GLOBAL about the latest developments (esp. China, interest rate cycle, valuation etc.) and how they navigate the global equity portfolio in this environment.
With the current outcome, the uncertainties in Turkish economies are off the table. AKP (governing party Justice and Development) will now have 316 seats in the parliament. This is enough to form a single party government, still, it falls short of constitutional majority – the most market friendly outcome. There will be a positive sentiment as Turkey goes back to business. After a period of deepened political uncertainties, the election outcome leads to some relief on Turkish capital markets.
Turkish early elections to be held on 1 November, 2015; and once more, the market is waiting for a positive outcome. Neither the country nor the market has more tolerance to absorb any further political uncertainty; however, the election outcome may not be too different from the results back in June 2015. Nevertheless, this time Turkey is closer to a coalition government.
Only in a few months we will likely know, whether the bull market that started in mid-2009 really ended in the summer of 2015. What we know, however, is that the headwinds that have emerged in recent months will not recede anytime soon. Another challenging quarter, it seems, lies ahead of equity investors.
Equities, bonds affected by default risk, commodities, and emerging markets currencies are currently subject to corrections, which, noticeably, have now gone beyond the purview of emerging markets: while the emerging markets equity index declined by almost 6% (Performance-Data Source: Bloomberg, MSCI) last week, the index for developed markets lost 5.3% (Performance-Data Source: Bloomberg, MSCI). The fear that the economic weakening in the emerging markets might come with significant spill-over effects for the industrialised countries has increased. This prompts the question whether a phase of profound corrections is upon us in the risky asset classes. The question alone has caused the risk aversion of investors to rise. The liquidity is temporarily parked in safe havens such as US Treasury bonds, the euro, and the Japanese yen.
On 11 August China devalued its currency by 1.9% relative to the US Dollar and announced that in the future it would expose the exchange rate of the Renminbi to the forces of supply and demand on the foreign exchange market. In a press conference the Central Bank did say, however, that it would continue to intervene if the development of the Chinese currency were “volatile”, “irrational”, or “distorted”.
If you thought “quarterly” was a simple adverb characterizing a regularly recurring activity, you may need to reconsider. A new term is making the rounds: “quarterly capitalism” – and in this context, “quarterly” stands for “short-term, myopic, greedy and dysfunctional”. In fact, the term was already invented four years ago by Dominic Barton of McKinsey and was swiftly embraced by, among others, Al Gore and Prince Charles to call for a major overhaul of current business practices of listed companies and fund managers. Recently the term has reached a new level of prominence after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in a series of appearances, complained that the “tyranny of the next earnings report” resulted in companies’ paying “too little attention on the sources of long-term growth: research and development, physical capital and talent”. Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Clinton’s proposed remedy consists of a mixture of higher taxes and more regulation.
The stock exchanges have been moving sideways and down for weeks. There are of course enough uncertainty factors such as the Greek crisis, the correction on the Chinese stock exchange, and the expected interest rate increase in the USA that can serve as explanation. However, one factor that has (so far) been left out of the equation is the fact that company earnings are hardly growing. The increase on stock exchanges is fundamentally justified if the valuation levels are rising across the board without earnings growth (e.g. price rises due to the low interest rates) or if company earnings themselves are rising (thus justifying the valuations). The interest rates can actually not fall any further, which means that the stock exchanges cannot get any impulse from that end.
How does the other factor, earnings growth, look? There is no clear answer to that question. Some market participants are rather sceptical. In the following I will try to shed some light on these factors, company earnings and earnings momentum.
Developed equity markets are in the 6th year of a robust upward move. The MSCI Developed World Index rose by almost 18% per annum over the period (Mar 2009-June 2015) in Euro-terms. However, momentum has stalled in recent months. Stepan Mikolasek, new head of equity management of Erste Asset Management, names the main reasons: surprisingly weak US economic growth in the first quarter, concerns about China’s economy, the fear of a Fed rate hike and growing risk related to the Greek situation.