A panoply of investors hope that the Fed’s dovish policy guidance could successfully affect a soft landing and PM Theresa May’s newest plan would eliminate the risk of a near-term no-deal Brexit. Also, a January spike in Chinese credit would cause growth to inflect and President Trump’s direct involvement in China talks would lead to a trade agreement combined to facilitate a continuation of January’s positive momentum for risk assets.
Category: Market Perspectives
Markets staged a rare broad-based, V-shaped recovery from the deep December sell-off. Following a remarkably strong employment report and Fed guidance that surpassed even the most dovish expectations, equity investors quickly reversed their assessment of the risks U.S. recession and a Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) tightening overshoot. The hard data of moderating U.S. growth in the face of deteriorating conditions overseas merely confirmed pre-existing trends. Optimism that worst-case outcomes would be avoided with respect to Brexit and the U.S./China trade war contributed to the risk-on sentiment. Credit markets were the natural beneficiary of the renewed optimism: an 18% bounce in crude oil prices, and stable benchmark-Treasury yields with the high-yield market having its best month since 2011.
Global equity markets experienced their worst December in more than 50 years, with losses of more than 7%. Investors lost confidence that U.S. growth would remain resilient in the face of the continued slowdown in the rest of the global economy.
In the aftermath of October’s equity collapse, a nearly-two standard deviation outcome, November produced modestly positive equity returns of 1.5% after a late-month rally. The rally was spurred by dovish Federal Reserve Board (Fed) commentary on November 28, benign U.S. economic news and hopes for a temporary U.S./China trade truce. Despite the positive returns, risk assets failed to stabilize, with volatility remaining at elevated levels.
The realization that the Fed was serious about maintaining its path of ongoing rate hikes amidst increasing concerns over growth that was peaking in the U.S. and slowing overseas proved deadly for both equities and Treasuries in October.
Global equities finished the month modestly higher at +0.2%. Unexpectedly strong U.S. growth numbers (but without growing inflation pressures) allowed U.S. equities to hold their value despite a sharp pick-up in interest rates.
August featured a more nuanced and collectivized Goldilocks story—investors judged the porridge on offer in emerging markets and Europe not to their liking, but not so distasteful as to go on a general hunger strike. Instead, as a group, they just ate more of their favorite brand.
Investors successfully compartmentalized favorable US economic and earnings reports from a seemingly growing list of macro-risks, while a thaw in European Union (EU)/US trade talks provided hope that trade wars would not go global, producing a modest bounce in international equities.
June market action was very much a function of geography, with US markets little changed, but less benign results seen elsewhere depending on the proximity to increasing trade tensions. China and other emerging markets were at the epicenter. While giving the appearance that the US is “winning” the trade war, the strength in the dollar and US asset prices was primarily due to exceptionally strong second quarter growth. Commodities were a real wild card, depending on the mix of double-digit West Texas Intermediate oil gains or trade-war-inflicted losses in grains and industrial metals. While central bank actions were not unimportant, they were overshadowed by geopolitical developments.
Despite starting with the worst first day of the second quarter since the Great Depression, global equities ended the volatile month modestly higher. The combination of plateauing overseas growth and higher Treasury rates contributed to dollar strength that boosted European equities, but not emerging markets. Overseas developed markets outperformed the US by nearly 2%, but emerging market equities finished modestly in the red. News flow over the month included increasing Russia sanctions, US labor costs, tariff threat uncertainty, as well as airstrikes in Syria and potential new Iran sanctions (which fueled a 6% rally in crude oil).