Global GDP growth has probably only increased marginally in Q2 after the very weak Q1. Economic activity has thus remained disappointingly weak on a global scale.
Paul Severin interviewed Heinz Bednar, CEO of Erste Asset Management on the importance of sustainable investments.
In searching for a perfect example of a sideways market one does not need to look further than at Central and Eastern European (CEE) equity markets. The CECE Composite, a Euro-based index of 23 Polish, Czech and Hungarian blue-chips (Bloomberg: CECEEUR), has been range bound for nearly four years, rarely trading outside a narrow range of ±8% from its mean over the period. A recent spike by 23% that started in January and lifted the index beyond this trading range was halted by the escalation of Greece-related risks. The only market in the region that has participated in the broader equity rally in Europe and the US in recent years has been the Romanian market.
The negotiations between Iran and the UN veto powers plus Germany were concluded successfully on Tuesday, 14 July. Iran will curtail its nuclear programme. In exchange, the international economic sanctions will be reduced.
The result is remarkable in so far as the interests of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and of Iran differ strongly in many areas. The sanctions apparently had a very serious impact on the Iranian economy, and the P5+1 no longer wanted to hamstring Iran as a political and economic power in the region.
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.
Last Sunday, the Greek people decided with a clear majority to follow the proposal of their government. With 61.3%, the No camp rejected the conditions of the expired adjustment program. Thereby, Greece is one step closer to an exit from the Eurozone and the European Union.
The bribery scandal at FIFA has shown what huge reputations risks companies may face if they do business with partners that do not care about environmental, social, and corporate governance standards (ESG). The discussion about ESG has therefore gained in importance over the past months. The investors play an important part in this context, as they can themselves nudge companies towards social responsibility and transparency. Gerold Permoser, Chief Investment Officer of Erste Asset Management (EAM) in Vienna explains why the so-called engagement is important.
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.
The breakdown of the negotiations between Greece and its creditors as well as the planned referendum on 5 July troubles capital markets. Greece itself is formally not insolvent. As long that this is not the case the European Central Bank (ECB) will do whatever it takes to contain spillover risks. After the referendum, the next key date will be 20 July, where bonds issued by the ECB will be payable. Until then a number of decisions has to be taken and a new financial package negotiated.