It is almost impossible to speak with fund managers and not address the economy or monetary policy. Why is that so? This blog entry will try to answer the question on the basis of data from the US equity market from 1950 onwards.
The IFO business climate index calculated by the Munich-based IFO Institute is regarded as the most important German economic indicator. At 115.1, the value released for June last week was the highest since the launch in January 1991. It was also clearly above the value that had been expected by the financial analysts on average. The signs for substantial economic growth in Germany seem favourable.
The US central bank Fed increased the Fed funds rate last Wednesday. The risky asset markets reacted to the move with an increase. At the same time, the US dollar depreciated. How can that be explained?
Equities have recovered from their beginning-of-year slump, and bonds, especially corporate and emerging markets, have recorded impressive gains. The loosening of the monetary environment in China and the continuation of the loose monetary policy in the USA have reduced the risk aversion of investors. In terms of asset allocation, we generally prefer default risk. Equities remain underweighted.
The US central bank signalled the continuation of its loose monetary policy at its FOMC meeting on 27 April. This is remarkable given that along with the short-term stabilisation of the Chinese economy, this Fed policy is one of the most important reasons for the price rises of risky assets since February.
We are almost approaching the end of the summer but it looks like we are back to April 2015 in Turkey. The election outcome and aftermath did not work as politicians had desired and the efforts to form a government have failed so far.
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.
Summary: The economic recovery in the developed economies is supported by the very expansive monetary policies, lower austerity pressure on the government front and among banks, and the fallen oil price. Growth rates remain moderate. In the emerging markets we can see signs of low-level stabilisation at best. The possible default of Greece, excessive interest rate hikes in the USA, a further decline of productivity, and continued economic weakening in the emerging markets are the main risks the markets are faced with.
The new normal
The importance of China for the global economic and financial system continues to grow at a rapid pace. Last year the country set a new milestone by becoming the world’s biggest economy. The total value of goods and services produced in a year exceeds that of the United States. Thus, at 30% China accounts for the largest contribution to global economic growth.
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.