Equities got off to a terrible start into 2016. At the end of February, a short but intense sell-off was triggered by the emergence of concerns over a slump of the global economy in connection with China. However, since mid-February the international indices have been on the rise without any significant breaks. Not even the much-feared Brexit vote managed to dent the upswing. Although share prices were down in the immediate wake of the decision of the UK to leave the EU, they rebounded very swiftly. Read more
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.
The price declines on the equity markets at the beginning of the year suggest a decline in investor confidence. Is this justified? Please find a few hypotheses for 2016 in the following:
We have experienced an increased degree of jitters on the financial markets at the beginning of the new year. The triggers of this situation are based in China. Chinese equities have incurred a slump, and the Chinese currency has depreciated relative to the US dollar. Given that at 17% the share of the Chinese economy of the global GDP on the basis of purchase power parities had already exceeded that of the USA (16%) these developments of course come with global effects.
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.
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.
Based on earnings expectations emerging markets equities are currently valued 27% below the price/earnings ratio of developed markets equities. The long term average of this discount is 19%. Closing the gap is a question whether the confidence of the markets in the earnings expectations is solid enough to facilitate a re-(e)valuation.
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.
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.
The share price performance in emerging Europe, i.e. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and since most recently again, Greece, has not been overwhelming in the past years. Since the middle of 2011 the MSCI Emerging Europe, the most important index for the region, had been locked into a sideways movement, which was topped off by a correction at the end of 2014 as a result of the ongoing political crises. Along with (geo-) political factors, the weakening of the economic dynamics and a lack of reforms had been causing a subdued price performance.